Local comedian Drew Droege knows a thing or two about walking a mile in another woman's shoes. In The Unauthorized Musical Parody of The Devil Wears Prada, he slipped on Miranda Priestly's high-end Manolo Blahniks. He tried on Chloë Sevigny's trendy Jimmy Choos in his popular series of Chloe YouTube videos. And in the Cavern Club's The Golden Girlz Live! he took a stroll down memory lane in Rose Nylund's sensible flats.
On Feb. 17, Droege slipped into a new pair of stilettos when he assumed the mantle of aging actress Angela Arden in Celebration Theatre's revival of Charles Busch's camp classic Die, Mommie, Die! The queer cut-up took some time out of his hectic rehearsal schedule to gab with us about the show and his recent birthday, and harnessed his cinematic savvy to share some Oscar predictions.
Let’s start off by wishing you a happy birthday. You turned the big 4-0 [on Feb. 9]. Did you do anything fun to celebrate?
Drew Droege: Well, I’ve been in rehearsal, so I went to Akbar and had a couple drinks, but it was uneventful. I got to have final dress rehearsal for this play, so it was great!
You are starring in Die, Mommie, Die!, which was written by the legendary Charles Busch. How does it feel to be stepping into his six-inch heels?
Exciting and terrifying at the same time. I’ve known his work for a long time. This is the second play of his that I’ve done. I’ve seen both of his films, and I’ve seen him perform live, and I know him. I’ve gotten to talk to him a lot about it. I’m honored and I hope I do him right. At the same time, I have to make it my own.
What do you feel is the biggest difference between Busch's Die, Mommie, Die! and Drew’s version?
I haven’t seen the film since I’ve known I was going to do this. I saw the film when it came out in the theaters, but in the last year I have not watched the film. I made a point not to try and copy. There is so much in the play that comes out of the script, so you can’t go completely rogue with it, I don’t think. Maybe someone could and do it brilliantly. But a lot of it is trusting that it's a play and it's a character. I’m not playing Charles Busch, I’m playing Angela Arden. I treat it like a play versus [me] playing him doing the play.
Angela falls into this category of yet another "terrible person" character you’ve portrayed over the years. In real life, you're such a down-to-earth sweetheart. Where do you find these terrible people inside of you?
Oh, they all live inside of me. I feel lucky when I get to play terrible people, because they are more fun. They’re unafraid to unleash every nasty thought they have. They turn terrible into an art. It helps me deal with terrible people in the world. I get to put on a wig and be terrible. It becomes a really fun challenge as an actor, because you have to find that thing about them that you like. They think they are good. Like, Angela Arden thinks she is a star, that she’s a great mother, that she’s hiding this very obvious affair she’s having. She thinks that she’s winning. The comedy is that we know that she’s falling apart. But in her mind she is every inch of perfection.
Why do you think a story like this is so perfect for gay L.A. audiences?
No. 1, we love glamorous women in peril. Always. We have a really sexy cast and everyone is sleeping with everyone else.
Wait, is the cast sleeping with everyone else, or the characters?
No one to my knowledge in the cast is sleeping with each other. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen. That’s always a recipe for disaster. No, but the characters are really horny in this play, which is really fun. Plus, these old movies that we all love, Charles so deeply loves them, that they aren’t really a parody but an homage to Bette Davis and Susan Hayward and all those stars. Even if you’ve never seen one of these movies, you get it right away. Everyone is grand, nothing is thrown away. The play is so much fun, and exhilarating, and it's exhausting because everyone is a lunatic trying to kill each other or fuck each other ...
You're a movie buff — what have you seen this year that deserves an Oscar?
I think I’ve seen everything that’s nominated in the major categories. I haven’t seen all the documentaries and foreign films, but I’ve seen pretty much everything in the Best Picture, Actors and Director categories. Hands down Moonlight is my No. 1 pick. I also thought Manchester by the Sea was a masterpiece, and Hell or High Water was incredible. Those were the ones I liked the most of the Best Picture nominees. I was really excited to see that Isabelle Huppert was nominated for Best Actress for Elle. It's so disturbing and dark and cruel, and wickedly funny. That was the most surprised I was of the nominations. I also thought Annette Bening was completely robbed. She gave one of my favorite performances in 20th Century Women. The problem with Annette Bening is that she is too good. She’s so effortless that it never looks like she’s acting. It's not showy enough. The Academy loves to give awards to the people who do all the bells and whistles, or gain and lose weight, or give this big swing-for-the-rafters performance. She’s always so natural and real, which is my favorite performance. Anyway, I thought all the men and women in the supporting category deserved to win. It's a hard category to call. Naomie Harris in Moonlight was amazing. Viola Davis and Michelle Williams were amazing [in Fences and Manchester by the Sea, respectively]. It really is a year where everyone wins.
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There’s always a big difference between who should win and who actually wins.
Viola Davis really should have been nominated in the Best Actress category. It's really annoying that politically they thought they had to nominate her in Supporting so that she would win. Because she would absolutely win in the Best Actress category. And she will win in Supporting as well, because she is amazing in [Fences] and she’s earned it. My God, she’s been brilliant in everything. But that is a lead performance. She never leaves that movie. She’s in it as much, if not more, than Denzel.
A big component of the Academy Awards is the red carpet. Who do you foresee as being this year’s red carpet disaster?
I don’t know. I really hope someone like Meg Ryan shows up in a Tweety Bird costume. Or something insane like that. Someone from the '90s shows up dressed like a complete lunatic. I want to be asking questions like, “Why are they there?” “Why did they make that choice?” and above all “Thank you.”