Written and performed by Droege, “Happy Birthday Doug” opened off-Broadway at the SoHo Playhouse in Manhattan on Feb. 13. In spite of positive reviews, the show’s planned six-week run ended abruptly in mid-March as Broadway and off-Broadway theaters closed to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Fortunately, theatergoers will soon get the chance to check out the show virtually. A filmed performance of “Happy Birthday Doug,” directed for the stage by Tom DeTrinis and on film by Jim Hansen, will premiere Thursday on the streaming service BroadwayHD. HuffPost got a sneak peek at the new version, which was performed and produced entirely in quarantine, via the clip above.
As in the stage production, Droege inhabits a total of nine roles ― each of which reflects a different faction of the gay community ― over the course of 60 minutes. The actor-comedian sees the show as a celebration of intergenerational friendships among LGBTQ people, even though several jokes reference the age gap between the titular character, who is turning 41, and his pals.
“We need to show LGBTQ people as human beings who aren’t perfect,” he told HuffPost in February. “You get all these different perspectives and points of view, but not all of my characters are redeemable. Why do we have to be likable? Likable’s so boring.”
Droege, a South Carolina native, first garnered a cult following a decade ago, thanks to his viral impressions of actor Chloë Sevigny. His acting career has hit a new stride as of late, with featured roles on “Bob’s Burgers” and “Search Party,” the latter of which aired on HBO in June. He’ll also be seen in the big-screen comedy “El Tonto,” starring Kate Beckingsale, John Malkovich and Jason Sudeikis.
In translating “Happy Birthday Doug” to film, Droege said he worked closely with his directors to make the piece “feel tighter and more intimate,” yet true to its roots as a theatrical experience.
“I had to play many moments differently,” he said. “There were conversations about setting the whole thing in a Zoom room, but I’m weary of watching things in that ‘Brady Bunch’ format, and it’s not really the play that I wrote pre-pandemic. For example, there’s a character who shows up to the party uninvited ― how would he get the Zoom link? Wouldn’t he just get kicked out, or at least put on mute?”
And Droege wants viewers to come away from “Happy Birthday Doug” with a renewed appreciation for their chosen family ― who are no doubt providing emotional support amid the COVID-19 crisis.
“It’s really a play about holding on to the people who matter to you in your life. I think we have so much to learn from the generation coming up behind us and, of course, the generation ahead of us.”