The Citiblog

Review: Make Haste to Make Me Gorgeous
February 13, 2024, 11:16.57 pm ET


Photo: Maria Baranova

By Brian Scott Lipton

In the overstuffed world of New York entertainment, sometimes you ignore good word-of mouth and, unfortunately, let something great pass you by. Which is almost what happened to me by putting off seeing "Make Me Gorgeous,” which is scheduled to conclude its months-long run at Playhouse 46 at St. Luke’s on February 25. I rarely say these three little words, but… DON’T BE ME.

Brilliantly written by Donnie (aka Donald Horn) this hilarious and moving 90-minute tale tells a story that should be better known, especially in the LGTBQ community, as it relates the life of Kenneth Marlowe. Comfortable in his own sexuality from an early life – even when others weren’t – Marlowe had a lot of ups and downs, yet found professional success as a female impersonator, hairdresser (to Hollywood stars and local whores), and an author of many books, including one mega-seller about his life as a male madam. (Yes, he was a pimp of sorts, just one who did all his business over the phone).

Eventually, he also followed in the footsteps of Christine Jorgensen and had sexual reassignment surgery in order to live a full life as a she (Kate Marlowe). How did no one dramatize this before?

Still, for all the fascination provided the subject matter, “Make Me Gorgeous” needed to find its own Mister Right. While I may have a small regret about not seeing the role’s originator, Wade McCollum, I can’t imagine anyone better than Darius Rose, a truly extraordinary performer also known in many circles as Jackie Cox (a well-known contestant from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and celebrated local drag performer).

Given Rose’s resume, one can hardly be surprised how well he pulls off the show’s few drag sequences, including a gorgeous re-creation of Sally Rand’s famed fan dance, set to the 1925 classic “Sleepy Time Gal,” or how comfortable he seems in high heels and shortish skirts. One may not even be slightly shocked how physical he is or that he’s both handsome and pretty (although I think he looks better as a man), often at the same time.

What one might not expect is what a terrific actor Rose is, expertly expressing Marlowe’s vulnerability, curiosity, pain (physical and emotional) and, finally, confidence. Standing on Walt Spangler’s beautifully detailed set, when not venturing out into the audience, Rose commands our attention for every one of these 90 minutes.

Hey, Mr. Producer… make this man a superstar!

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