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Mystery Theatre Unlimited in Drag

What Is “Drag?”

First, let’s agree on the definition of drag. You could argue that a male actor dressed in anything typically female counts as “drag.”

Tooth Fairy Tooth Fairy Tooth Fairy Tooth Fairy
In that case, you would have to consider the character of Tooth Fairy, who always wears a tutu. But this fairy is anything but feminine; he’s a cigar-chomping, boots-wearing man’s man – other than the required fairy wings and ballet skirt. Tooth Fairy first appeared in the original “Slay Ride” (show #3) in November 1996. The role was originally portrayed by Michael Moran, and later by P.D. Gregg, and most often by Bert Furioli. We think classifying Tooth Fairy as a drag character is an arguable point. At first, we considered it a drag character. But since it is so clearly a masculine character who happens to wear a tutu, we will not consider Tooth fairy a drag role.

Equal Drag Rights for Women

Prim Females as males in "I Killed Lucy"
The above definition seems to exclude the possibility of a female actor portraying a male character. That seems unfair, so we will consider that broadly as a drag character, too.

What If They Don’t Switch Clothes?

Stratford Springs, Oct. 8, 2009
Another challenge is presented in “Mind Over Murder" (show #45). In that story a mad scientist switches the brains of all the characters in the show, forcing all of the actors to switch characters they are portraying multiple times throughout the show. Naturally, there is some gender-crossing. But since none of the actors change clothes to portray gender switches, we will eliminate this from being considered drag.

Are They Actors or Characters Switching Gender?

Butch Maxwell as Ambassador Gefeltefish Elfish Olive Boyle Tooth Fairy Ambassador The "Women" of "The Capitil Hillbillies"
We will consider the definition of drag to include actors who portray characters who are the opposite sex as well as male characters who are presented as male, but who, at some time in the show, appear cross-dressed as females. We will do the same for female characters who try to appear as men, too.

Also, when tallying up the number of drag roles, we will count only once each unique character in a given show, but if that same character appears in a different show, we will count that as a separate appearance.

Where Else Do We Draw the Line?

Red Fox Agent U Renee Zelinski and Michael Moran Renee Zelinski as Calamity JoanVera Barton-Caro
Finally, gender-dubious characters can be noted, but we will disregard these as a consideration for drag. Notable characters in this category would include Dee McCorkle’s portrayal of the sheriff with a five o’clock shadow, Montana Marie, in “Shoot-Out at the Double-U Dude Ranch” (show #8) staged in 1997, the survivalist Red Fox in “DOA in the Y2k” (show #17) from 1999, and the gender-neutral Agent U in “E.a.T” (show #28), which played in 2002. Dee later played her first drag character as Congressman Beauregard Jackson in “Tales from the Script” (show #30), debuting in September 2003. In addition, Renee Zelinski played the bearded cowgirl Calamity Joan in "How the West Was Dumb" (show # 57), debuting in September 2014, and Vera Barton-Caro understudied the same role.

First Real Drag?

Original Pirate Show Cast
Although the company first began productions in July 1996, no one – other than the actors playing Tooth Fairy – appeared in drag until January 1999, in the original pirate show, “Avast Ye Murderous Swabs” (show # 14), when Gino Angelo appeared in Act 2 as Countess Estelle. Since Gino refused to shave his beard, the Countess appeared with a veil over her face. (Sorry, no photo available.) It would not be Gino’s only appearance in drag. He would later originate the role of Mata Hairy, the bearded lady, in “Murder Under the Big Top" (show # 35) in August 2005.

Most Often in Drag?

Mata hairy Elfish Jethreene Boveen Svetlana Mrs. Peacok Scene from "Who Killed the Top Chef?"
The clear winner is Ryan Sears with 13 drag appearances. Michael Moran is fairly far behind, with 8 drag roles (discounting his appearance as the original Tooth Fairy.) Bert Furioli takes third place, with 7 (since we disregarded his three appearances as Tooth Fairy).

Other Gender-Benders

Jane Haveaway Intergalactic pin-up girl May 17, 2013 - River City River City Jan. 25, 2013 Butcxh Maxwell as Elfish Jane HAveaway 2016
In fourth place is Butch Maxwell with six drag appearances.

Congressman Jackson Ethel and Lucy in drag Cranky the Clown Penny Loafer
Just behind, in fifth place is Cheryl Burke with four cross-dressed roles.

Dustin Heavilin Renee Zelenski
Tied with Cheryl is Dustin Heavilin who has appeared as a woman four times. The there's Renee Zelinski, who turned in three male characters all in one show. When that show was reprised in 2016, Meghan Ross assumed Renee's original roles, instantly bringing her tally up to three male characters. (Photos of both women below).

Gino Angelo, Dee McCorkle, and Arlene Merryman have each switched gender presentation twice.

The Drag Details

Mrs. Peacock-a-Doodle-Doo Elfish Barney in Drag Grandma Mata Hairy
Lovely Bowell Cinderhella Mrs. Dripdrysdale Snooty
Ryan Sears (13 unique characters or shows):

Mrs. Peacock-a-Doodle-Doo – “The Maltese Ferret” (show #34) – 2006 revival
Allen Woodly as Witch # 2 - "McDeath" (show #40) 2007 [and 2009, 2015 revivals]
Elfish – “Slay Ride 4: Revenge of the Claus” (show #31) – 2008 revival
Elfish – “Slay Ride 3: The Santa Sham Scam” (show #25) – 2009 revival
Mata Hairy – “Murder Under the Big Top” (show # 35) – 2010 revival
Barney Phife (as Clara) – “Mayberry R.I.P.” (show #46) 2010 [and 2013 revival]
Lord Culler Brecknell in a dress - "The Pirates of Poughkeepsie" - 2010 [and 2014 revival]
Grandma – “Once Upon a Crime” (show #24) – 2011 revival
Elfish – “Slay Ride 2: Fright Christmas” (show # 13) – 2012 revival
Lovely Bowell – “Survivor on Killigan's Island” (show # 26) – 2015 revival
Cinderhella – “Happily Never After” (show # 58) – 2015
Elfish – “Slay Ride 6: Santa's Last Christmas” (show # 48) – 2015 revival
Margaret Dripdrysdale – “The Capitol Hillbillies” (show # 33) – 2016 revival

Some of Ryan's credits were single scenes - not entire shows - in drag, such as Lord Brecknell, Allen Woodley and Barney Phife. His number of appearances as Elfish, Santa's female chief of staff, rivals Bert Furioli's numbers of appearances as Tooth Fairy.
He also understudied Mary "Snooty" Kerry – “My Big Fat Reality Wedding” (show # 62) - 2017

Mrs. Peacock-a-Doodle-Doo Svetlana Belle Emeril as Paula Deenie Aunt Bee Madame Mesmer Mrs. Shepherd-Boggs-Zane
Michael Moran (8 unique characters or shows):
Mrs. Peacock-a-Doodle-Doo – “The Maltese Ferret” (show #34) – 2005 & 2012 revivals
Svetlana Tickov – “Indiana Smith & the Restaurant of Doom” (show # 29) 2006 revival
Svetlana Tickov – “Indiana Smith & Raiders of the Lost Sequel” (show # 43) 2009 & 2012 revivals 
Belle – “A Deadly Christmas Carol” (show # 51) 2011
Emeril LaGrosse as Paula Deenie – “Who Killed the Top Chef?” (show # 52) – 2012
Aunt Bee – ““Mayberry R.I.P.” (show #46) 2013 revival
Madame Mesmer – “The Calmityville Horror” (show # 55) – 2013
Mrs. Shepherd-Boggs-Zane – “Overture for an Undertaker” (show # 56) – 2014

Michael has only repeated a drag character once in different shows - as Svetlana Tickov.

Svetlana Jethrene Wicked Witch Fred Hurtz in drag Harvey as the Nurse Mrs. Cadaver Scary Godmother
Bert Furioli (7 unique characters or shows):

Svetlana Tickov – “Indiana Smith & the Restaurant of Doom” (show # 29) 2007 revival
Jethrene Bovine – “The Capitol Hillbillies” (show # 33) – 2004 [and 2007 revival]
Wicked Witch - "Wizard of Odds" (show # 38) - 2006 [and 2008 & 2010 revivals]
Fred Hurtz as Belly Dancer - "I Killed Lucy" (show # 39) - 2007 [and 2009 revival]
Harvey Brashman as the Nurse – “McDeath” (show # 40) 2007 [and 2009 revival]
Mrs. Cadaver – “The Calmityville Horror” (show # 55) – 2013
Scary Godmother – “Happily Never After” (show # 58) – 2015

Bert's placement would rate higher if we counted his three appearances as Tooth Fairy as drag.

Burgh Ambassador Butch Maxwell as Jane Haveaway Butch Maxwell as Witch #3 in "McDeath" Lady Speedstick Butch Maxwell as Elfish May 17, 2013 - River City
Butch Maxwell (6 unique characters):

Ambassador Gefeltefish – “Space Trek” (show # 22) – 2001 [and 2006 and 2017 revivals]
Jane Haveaway – “The Capitol Hillbillies” (show # 33) – 2004 [and 2007 and 2016 revivals]
David Boney as Witch # 3 – "McDeath" (show #40) 2007 [and 2009, 2015 revivals]
Collin Card as Lady Speed Stick – “Mission: Unpossible” (show # 53) – 2012-13
Elfish – "Slay Ride 5 - CSI: North Pole" (show # 36) - 2014 revival
Olive Boyle – “Dead of the Class" (show # 54) – 2013

Lex Luthor Congressman Jackson Cranky the Clown Lucy and Ethel in disguise
Cheryl Burke (4 unique characters):

Lex Luthor - "The Menace of the Super Duper Party Pooper" (show #23) - 2001 (understudy)
Congressman Jackson – “Tales from the Script” (show # 30) – 2004 and 2010 revivals
Cranky the Clown – “Murder Under the Big Top” (show # 35) – 2005 [& 2010 revival]
Ethel Hurtz as a chef – “I Killed Lucy” (show # 39) – 2007 [and 2009 revival]

Madame Mesmer Jethrene Belle Snooty
Dustin Heavilin (4 unique characters):

Madame Mesmer – “The Calmityville Horror” (show # 55) – 2013 [understudy]
Jethreene Bovine – “The Capitol Hillbillies” (show # 33) – 2016 revival
Belle – “A Deadly Christmas Carol” (show # 51) – 2016 revival
Mary "Snooty" Kerry – “My Big Fat Reality Wedding” (show # 62) - 2017

Gentelmen Callers Young Scrooge Ghost of Future
Renee Zelinski (3 unique characters in one show):

Larry, the Gentleman Caller – “A Deadly Christmas Carol” (show # 51) – 2011
Young Scrooge – “A Deadly Christmas Carol” (show # 51) – 2011
Ghost of Christmas Future – “A Deadly Christmas Carol” (show # 51) – 2011

December 15, 2016 - River City December 15, 2016 - River City December 15, 2016 - River City
Meghan Ross (3 unique characters in one show):

Larry, the Gentleman Caller – “A Deadly Christmas Carol” (show # 51) – 2016 revival
Young Scrooge – “A Deadly Christmas Carol” (show # 51) – 2016 revival
Ghost of Christmas Future – “A Deadly Christmas Carol” (show # 51) – 2016 revival

Lex luthor CCongressman Jackson
Dee McCorkle (2 unique characters):

Lex Luthor - "The Menace of the Super Duper Party Pooper" (show #23) - 2001
Congressman Beauregard Jackson – “Tales from the Script” (show #30) – 2003

Mata Hairy
Gino Angelo (2 unique characters)

Countess Estelle – “Avast Ye Murderous Swabes” (show # 14) – 1999
Mata Hairy – “Murder Under the Big Top” (show # 35) – 2005

Arlene Merryman as The Wizard of Odds Lucy in Disguise
Arlene Merryman (2 unique characters):

The Wizard (looking like Micahel Jackson) – “The Wizard of Odds” (show # 38) – 2006 [and 2008 & 2010 revivals]
Lucy Retardo as a waiter – “I Killed Lucy” (show # 39) – 2007 [and 2009 revival]


Video of Mystery Theatre Performers in Drag (30 miniutes)

Last updated: May 15, 2017