If you have been to Hamburger Mary’s Orlando on a Sunday for its Broadway Brunch then you already know that no one does Broadway like drag queens do Broadway.
Each week for nearly the last seven years a team of drag queens, singers, dancers, actors and comedians—collectively known as the Broadway Brunch Bunch—put on one of Central Florida’s best shows all while their audiences “eat, drink and be Mary.” The Brunch Bunch are now taking their show from the Hamburger Mary’s dining room to the stage at Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center in Sanford March 30 with “Queens of Broadway: A Drag Queen Broadway Cabaret.”
“It is an expanded version of what we do every week at Hamburger Mary’s, but with a lot more room,” says Broadway Brunch creator Jimmi Rossi.
Rossi, along with local drag superstars Ginger Minj and The Minx, went to the owners of Hamburger Mary’s in Orlando with this idea of doing a show mixing drag, family-friendly comedy and big Broadway numbers.
“They didn’t know us, didn’t know anything about us, but told us ‘you can try on Sundays if you want, we have things going on other nights,’” Rossi recalls.
That first Sunday, Rossi showed up with the queens and a dozen dancers and put on a crowd-pleasing show that included numbers from “Hairspray” and “Mary Poppins.”
“The people went crazy for us,” Rossi says. “Then word of mouth started and now seven years later we are virtually sold out every week.”
From week-to-week, Rossi and his Broadway Brunch Bunch cast would razzle and dazzle audiences with big Broadway numbers in small confined spaces in between patrons brunching.
“It’s surprising, even to us, what we have done some weeks,” Rossi says.
Some things worked, like an entire “Wicked” show that required pullies in the ceiling and fans to extend the massive black costume of Elphaba during the song “Defying Gravity.”
Some things didn’t work as well. Don’t expect to see “Phantom of the Opera” preformed over your bottomless mimosas anytime soon.
Even with the not-so-successful numbers, the show is always a big hit with the audience, especially with one particular audience member.
“A little more than a year ago, this gentleman came up to us after brunch,” Rossi says. “You could tell he was very conservative and heterosexual. He shook my hand and said ‘Hi, my name’s Stan [Allen] from Allengang. Now I don’t know anything about drag queens, but this show is amazing and you need to be doing this on a big stage.’ So I said, ‘Ok, then put us on one.’”
Allen heads Allengang Entertainment, a family-owned and operated business that deals mostly with tribute bands. Allen saw something that day at brunch that he wanted to showcase on stages across Florida.
“About a month later, I get a call from Stan and he tells me that he has booked the Wayne Dentch Theatre in Sanford and he needs our dancers and drag queens,” Rossi says. “He tells me ‘I need you to come do what you do.’”
The Queens of Broadway, presented by Allengang Entertainment, was about to take the main stage for the first time.
“We got 12 dancers and three queens and went not knowing what to expect,” Rossi says. “I mean we put together a great show that we were really proud of but we definitely thought that there is a chance that this could bomb.”
The very first number of the first show was “9 to 5” from the musical of the same name. The Brunch Bunch did something that first number that they would never have been able to do at Hamburger Mary’s, they built seven large skyscraper cut-outs on wheels to move back-and-forth across the stage.
“So first show, first number the curtain opens up and dancers take their places, and it was like crickets” Rossi remembers. “Nothing from the audience, and I thought, ‘Oh, shit, we have to do two hours of this.’ Their first move was just bouncing in place and the crowd went crazy, they just started screaming. Then they start to move the buildings and the queens are hiding behind them and as they cross the queens are revealed and as every queen came out the crowd just got more and more excited.”
Just as with the first brunch show seven years ago, the Broadway Brunch Bunch’s theater show was an instant hit.
“We have done eight of these stage shows now, and this upcoming show in Sanford will be our third this year,” says Justin Shakeri, co-producer and a performer in the show. “Each show is different depending on the size theater we are in but we always feature three queens and as many dancers that we can get up there.”
Each show is about two hours long and contains 10-12 numbers, with big opening and closing numbers that feature the entire cast. The numbers in between are divided up among the performers.
“We have live vocalists, there’s a tap number. There’s a little bit of everything and we are so proud of the show,” Rossi says. “We pride ourselves on the fact that we are the only family-friendly drag show in America. You can bring your five-year-old kids and your grandmother who is 80 and you won’t be embarrassed.”
“Queens of Broadway: A Drag Queen Broadway Cabaret” takes the stage at the Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center in Sanford March 30. Tickets start at $23 and are available at Allengang.com.