AIDS benefit bends genders

  • by David-Elijah Nahmod
  • Tuesday January 24, 2017
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<i>Queer Eye for the Straight Guy</i><br>                       s<br>Jai Rodriguez will appear in <i>Broadway Backwards: An Evening of<br>Musical Role Reversals.</i> Photo: Courtesy<br>REAF
Queer Eye for the Straight Guy
Jai Rodriguez will appear in Broadway Backwards: An Evening of
Musical Role Reversals.
Photo: Courtesy

Queer Eye for the Straight Guy's Jai Rodriguez and queer funny man Bruce Vilanch will be joining the touring company of the musical Finding Neverland for Broadway Backwards: An Evening of Musical Role Reversals. Jazz singer Kim Nalley is also on board for the show, which is a production of the Richmond/Ermet Aid Foundation. Broadway Backwards will take place at the Brava Theater on Mon., Jan. 30 at 7:30 p.m.

"The minute anyone asks me to do an AIDS fundraiser, I do it," Rodriguez, who has starred on Broadway in Rent, told the B.A.R. "Health care is up in the air now. We're in a time when we need to start supporting AIDS organizations. These organizations are helping people."

AIDS is an issue that resonates personally with Rodriguez. "When I was 16, my aunt and cousin were diagnosed with HIV," he said. "AIDS drugs were still experimental then – we lost them both."

Rodriguez said it was his late aunt who first introduced him to the arts. He added that playing Angel, Rent's HIV-positive drag queen, meant a great deal to him.

Equality in health care remains an important issue to the actor/singer. "People who have their own health care provided to them don't realize how daunting it can be to get coverage," he said, noting that he had difficulty getting health coverage for himself, working as a freelance entertainer as he does. "The very people who voted for Trump will be hurt the most," he said.

In addition to performing at AIDS fundraisers, Rodriguez said, he intends to give his "fancy coffee money" to organizations like Richmond Ermet, which stages theatrical fundraisers throughout the year in order to raise funds for a variety of AIDS service charities. Broadway Backwards will benefit Broadway Cares: Equity Fights AIDS, a nonprofit that provides support services for people in the theater industry affected by HIV.

Rodriguez promises that Broadway Backwards will offer a lot of fun, laughs and good music for its audience. "We'll be singing songs we'd normally never be able to perform because it's associated with the opposite gender," he said. "Or it's a song that's out of type for us."

He didn't want to say anything more about what he'd be doing in the show because he wants the audience to be surprised, but he assured the B.A.R. that it would be the last song anyone would expect him to sing. He has no doubts that the audience will be amused. "It's a well-known song from a well-known musical," he said. "It's pretty outrageous."

Rodriguez hopes that his fans will also keep their Queer Eyes on alert for his upcoming television appearances. He recently filmed episodes for season 13 of Grey's Anatomy, as well as for The Magician, a Syfy Channel series that he describes as being "a lot like Harry Potter."

Looking to the future, Rodriguez plans to keep working and to continue promoting queer visibility. He said that if he could, he'd give the new president and his cabinet not a physical makeover, but a cultural one. "You need a come-to-Jesus moment" is Rodriguez' message for Trump.


Broadway Backwards ticket info: