MCC’s Charm, Inspired by Trans Icon Miss Gloria Allen, Finds Its Cast

Off-Broadway News   MCC’s Charm, Inspired by Trans Icon Miss Gloria Allen, Finds Its Cast
Sandra Caldwell will bring to life a story inspired by the LGBTQ trailblazer and her life-changing work in Chicago.
Sandra Caldwell
Sandra Caldwell Da Ping Luo

MCC Theater has announced the complete cast for the New York premiere of Philip Dawkins’ Charm, a play inspired by the real-life story of Miss Gloria Allen, a black transgender woman who changed the lives of students at Chicago’s LGBTQ community center, Center on Halsted. Sandra Caldwell will play the role of Mama Darleena Andrews, the character based on Miss Gloria Allen.

“Sometimes it feels like I'm reading my own story. Charm is everything I could have possibly wanted at this moment. As an actor, it's a gift and it also gives me the opportunity to portray a person I call a real-life hero,” said Caldwell in a press statement. “I watch the world changing right in front of my eyes. But back in the day it was about don’t tell, don’t talk. I'm so glad my journey lasted long enough for me to see people realizing their freedoms and living authentically. The world may not be ready to accept 100%, but it is absolutely taking a turn for the best. Ironically, I was there when the historic Stonewall went down and I’m thrilled to be here when it is being celebrated once again.”

The role marks her first major production in New York City. Rounding out the cast will be Michael David Baldwin, Jojo Brown, Marky Irene Diven, Michael Lorz, Hailie Sahar, Emmy nominee Kelli Simpkins, Marquise Vilson, and Lauren F. Walker.

Will Davis will direct the New York premiere engagement, set to begin previews August 31 at the Lucille Lortel Theater. An official opening night is scheduled for September 18.

The production will feature scenic design by Arnulfo Maldonado, costume design by Oana Botez, lighting design by two-time Tony nominee Ben Stanton, and sound design by Palmer Hefferan. Casting is by Telsey + Company/Adam Caldwell, William Cantler, Karyn Casl.

“MCC is committed to telling stories that reflect the diversity of the American experience. With the extraordinary Charm, we took great care to cast actors whose own life experiences—and identities— can inform and enrich the characters they will portray,” commented MCC Co-Artistic Director Will Cantler in a press statement.

Here’s how MCC bills Charm: “When Mama Darleena Andrews—a 67-year-old, black, transgender woman—takes it upon herself to teach an etiquette class at Chicago’s LGBTQ community center, the idealistic teachings of Emily Post clash with the very real life challenges of identity, poverty and prejudice faced by her students. Inspired by the true story of Miss Gloria Allen and her work at Chicago’s Center on Halsted, Philip Dawkins' Charm asks: How do we lift each other up when the world wants to tear us down?”

Watch Playbill Pride’s roundtable with artists of trans experience:

For tickets and more information on Charm visit For more information, visit


Click Here to Shop for Theatre
Merchandise in the Playbill Store
Recommended Pride Stories: