At the 11th annual Broadway Backwards, the best of Broadway were given the opportunity to perform musical numbers they’d never have the chance to otherwise. After Chita Rivera offered a show-stopping “All I Care About Is Love” from Chicago, host Julie White asked her what her dream gender-reversed role would be.
Brent Carver’s Molina in Kiss of the Spider Woman, the show that gave Rivera a Tony-winning turn in the title role, she answered. At the Backwards after party, we asked the rest of the cast the same question. Read their answers below.
“I have a few in my head, but maybe Joe Turner’s Come and Gone [in the role of] Jeremy. I just love that character. He has such a hopeful spirit that I would love to get to do and portray, so that would be the one for me.”
Jay Armstrong Johnson
“It would be Millie in Thoroughly Modern Millie. I saw it [from the] second row. It was one of the first Broadway shows I ever saw, and to watch Sutton Foster kill all three disciplines—singing, acting and dancing flawlessly—and then winning the Tony… It was this thing, so I guess it would be Millie.”
“I’ve done them! Chandler’s father [on Friends]—how could you forget? I think that was probably pretty top, although I will do [King] Lear one day.”
Kenita R. Miller
“That’s hard! Well, I would have to say—just out of inspiration from tonight—I think I’m going to have to steal from Ms. Chita Rivera as Billy Flynn. She rocked that. She had full-on swag as Billy Flynn. She had major swag, so I would have to rip from Chita, although I probably couldn’t do it as dapper as she. I just sat there, and I think my cheeks still hurt and my jawbones—from grinning so hard. And she’s so gracious. She’s the real deal.”
“Right now, I’d probably like to do King George in Hamilton. I think I could have a lot of fun with that, and you have a lot of offstage time, which I enjoy as well! I would say that [role] right now, although I think Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha would be amazing, Che in Evita I would love to do, Judas in Superstar! Those.”
“I’d love to play Sweeney Todd because it’s got everything that I could possibly do. It’s got humor and drama—those big, huge, gorgeous, over-the-top songs and then these beautiful, little ballads. That was one of the first productions I saw when I moved to New York, and I saw it quite a few times, and that whistle just freaked…me…out! I think it’s a great role. It’s a surprisingly sympathetic role.”
“If I could dance, it would probably be Kiss of the Spider Woman—Chita’s role—but I can’t dance, so that’s never going to happen… She gets to be such a badass. So sensual. She’s gorgeous, she’s alluring, she’s manipulative, and I always get to be funny and jovial, and I want to be a little sassafras, you know what I mean?!”
“Celie from The Color Purple, [which] is not only gender swap, but a race swap. I will never get to do that ever, but that is the role! I just remember seeing that show, the original—I’ve yet to see the revival—and being so moved by watching this character blossom in the way that she does and find herself and find love the way she does. I just thought it was such a beautiful journey of a role to take every night, eight times a week, and I was like, ‘Gosh! That is a killer part. That’s the kind of journey that I want to go through each and every night on stage.’ And, Brava to all those actresses who have gotten to do it—everybody from Whoopi [Goldberg] to LaChanze to Cynthia [Erivo], who is doing it right now. What a gift, that role. I’m sure those women would say it’s a gift because I’m watching it going, ‘Oh my gosh, this is a gift this role.’ Of course, [author] Alice Walker—it started from book, so that would be the dream role that I would never get to do. Maybe one day at a Broadway Backwards 27 or something I’ll get to do it.”