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Make Me Gorgeous!

Wade McCollum in Make Me Gorgeous! Photos by Maria Baranova.

Make Me Gorgeous! tells the true story of queer trailblazer Kate Marlowe. Kate Marlowe lived a wild rollercoaster ride of a life, working as a hairdresser, sex worker, writer and “female impersonator.” Born Kenneth Marlowe, Marlowe explored gender nonconformity for their whole life before transitioning and living as a woman for the last decade of her life.

Wade McCollum gives an incredibly magnetic performance as Marlowe. They build a beautiful connection with the audience from the moment they enter from the back of the house singing at the top of the play. This show plays on McCollum’s strengths in singing, dancing and improvisation. They are able to create little inside jokes with the audience to reference throughout the show. McCollum connects with the crowd personally, increasing their investment in the story. They have charisma and poses like Marlowe, which is hard to look away from. This comes through most strongly in the musical numbers. McCollum performs a handful of songs and dances from Marlowe’s performing career. These musical numbers feature decadent costume shifts and highlight McCollum’s ability to put on a hell of a show. In addition to providing moments of entertaining joy, McCollum’s performance is skillful in its diversity. McCollum plays a large swath of characters throughout the show. McCollum creates many distinct and fun voices and mannerisms for them, swiftly switching from one to another without causing any confusion. McCollum also does a great job of capturing the slow moments of Marlowe’s life. They give the character great emotional vulnerability and humanity at all times, painting a picture of a full and vibrant life.

The tech in this show is top-notch. The costuming by Jeffrey Hinshaw shines in the moments of drag performance. The reveals add even more fun to these already entertaining bits. The lighting design by Jamie Roderick serves the storytelling and builds out a more immersive experience for the audience. The sound design by Ien Denio elevates the emotions in the story and adds to the tone of the piece. For example, in a compelling scene, Marlowe captures the moment of her sexual assault while in the US military. The assault is told more metaphorically than literally, with colored lighting that shifts and a song that warps and grows more menacing as the scene progresses. The technical elements help portray the weight of this moment in Marlowe’s life without the show needing to create a graphic recreation of her trauma.

The show ends as Kate’s new life as a trans woman begins. Kate lives a very eventful life before realizing her true self. This show gives a glimpse of queer life in the 50s-70s and highlights a forgotten trailblazer in the community. The play reminds audiences queer and trans people have always been here. It reinforces that the rights and lives of drag performances and gender-nonconforming people are still important to fight for today in honor of those who came before.

“Make Me Gorgeous!”

Performed by Wade McCollum

Written and Directed by Donald “Donnie” Horn

November 10- February 24, 2024

Playhouse 46 (308 W 46th, NYC)


Carmen! is a trans-multimedia artist specializing in playwriting, acting and crochet. Originally from Jacksonville Beach, Florida, they are currently based in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, returning to their Atlantic Oceanic roots. Their play Taking the Plunge has been performed at the Tank and the Chain off-Broadway and in the 2023 Fresh Fruit Festival slated this June. Carmen has also worked in front-of-house and technical positions for prominent theater organizations including New Dramatists, Portland Playhouse, Emursive and Future Proof. Carmen’s mission is to use play to create meaningful representation by and for underrepresented communities. For more information on Carmen! Follow them on socials @carmenacetosociety or check out

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