Betty to drag queen to Bard

Michael Urie as camp assistant Marc St James, with Vanessa Williams as his Mode magazine editor boss, Wilhelmina Slater, in the television series, Ugly Betty. The show ran for four years from 2006.


WHAT does William Shakespeare’s troubled Hamlet have in common with a drag queen and the populer American television series, Ugly Betty? The answer is American Michael Urie, an actor who turns 37 today (August 8).

Urie, who spent four years, from 2006 to 2010, playing the high-camp Marc St James, assistant to Mode fashion magazine editor, Wilhelmina Slater (Vanessa Williams), in Ugly Betty, will soon be playing the drag queen Arnold Beckoff in an Off-Broadway revival of Harvey Fierstein’s amusing and poignant Torch Song Trilogy, now retitled Torch Song.

In addition, it has been announced that Urie has been signed up to fill the lead role in a production of Hamlet early next year. Playbill has reported that the play is being staged by the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, and will be directed by that company’s artistic director, Michael Kahn.

Hamlet is scheduled for a short season from January 16 to February 25 at the Sidney Harman Hall. Additional casting will be announced at a later date, reports Playbill.

Torch Song will also star Mercedes Ruehl  as drag queen Arnold’s mother, when it runs from September at New York’s Tony Kiser Theatre.

Michael Urie in Ugly Betty. He will soon play the lead in a stage production of Hamlet, after playing drag queen Arnold Beckoff in a revival of Harvey Fierstein’s hit Torch Song Trilogy.

According to Playbill, Fierstein – who wrote the play and originated the role of Arnold on stage and screen – has come up with newly edited text for the 35th anniversary production which will also feature Jack Difalco, Ward Horton, Roxanna Hope Radja and Michael Rosen.

Centred on a drag performer in a tempestuous relationship with his bisexual, closeted lover, a school teacher, Torch Song Trilogy won two of Broadway’s Tony Awards for Fierstein – collecting statuettes for Best Actor and Best Play.

It reached cinema screens, in a severely edited version, in 1988. Directed by Paul Bogart, the film’s cast included Fierstein, Anne Bancroft, Brian Kerwin and a young Matthew Broderick.

Urie, Texan-born and of Italian and Scottish descent, graduated from New York’s Julllard School in 1993, having been there from 1999, with film star Jessica Chastain as a classmate

Also seen as a guest judge on TV’s Rupaul’s Drag Race, Urie made his Broadway debut in January 2012, in the second revival of the musical How To Succed in Business Without Really Trying. He has also been seen Off-Broadway in Angels in America.

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