Can’t come to Mama? Mama will come to you.
Led by Glee star and recording artist Alex Newell in colorful Caribbean drag, the cast of Broadway’s Once on This Island performed the show-stopping number “Mama Will Provide” earlier this week on NBC’s Late Night with Seth Meyers.
Out director Michael Arden helms the first Broadway revival of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty’s 1990 musical about the star-crossed romance between a peasant girl and wealthy boy, set against the backdrop of a storm-threatened island ruled by four deities. Newell makes his Broadway debut as Asaka, Mother of the Earth.
Arden recently told NewNowNext about his decision to disregard gender constraints when casting his gods and goddesses, specifically Newell as Asaka.
“I thought, well, who am I to define gods by their genitalia?” he said. “And so many gay men do take on a motherly role, taking care of others, so why shouldn’t we depict that in an honest way?”
“We have a traditionally female goddess played without remark by a gay man, and our negligence to comment on it hopefully speaks volumes,” Arden continued. “It’s important that LGBT people see themselves portrayed in non-traumatic ways. Asaka’s not being persecuted or dying—he’s a role model, a god, just living his truth.”
Featuring newcomer Hailey Kilgore as Ti Moune, the current cast also includes Lea Salonga, Norm Lewis, and Tamyra Gray as the other three gods.
Watch the Late Night performance below.