New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley said he was “deeply sorry” after making a joke at a transgender performer’s expense in a review of a new Broadway musical last week.
“Head Over Heels,” which opened July 26 at New York’s Hudson Theatre, puts a modern, whimsical spin on Sir Phillip Sidney’s 16th-century prose work, The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia, with songs provided by ’80s rockers The Go-Go’s.
Much of the advance buzz about the show, however, focused on its inclusive casting. “RuPaul’s Drag Race” veteran Peppermint is the first openly transgender woman to create a principal role in a Broadway musical. She plays Pythio the Oracle, a non-binary character, opposite Broadway veterans Andrew Durand, Tom Alan Robbins and Rachel York.
Brantley appeared to shrug off the history-making aspect of “Head Over Heels” in his July 27 review. The show establishes Pythio’s use of they/them pronouns, but the critic seemed dismissive of this, noting that the character of Dametas (Robbins) “found himself strangely drawn to her ― I mean them,” referring to Peppermint as Pythio.
Media professionals and Broadway performers quickly denounced Brantley for the transphobic remark.
Among those critical of the Times review was Bonnie Milligan, who is making her Broadway debut in “Head Over Heels” as Princess Pamela. The plus-size singer-actress expressed her support for Peppermint and pointed out that she’d been deemed “provocatively cast” in the same review.
By late morning Friday, however, the line in Brantley’s review had been edited to read: “Dametas (Tom Alan Robbins), the King’s viceroy and father of Mopsa, finds himself strangely drawn to Pythio.”
Noting that the review had “drawn significant feedback,” Times editors shared an apology from Brantley on Twitter.
The producers of “Head Over Heels” made it clear that they’d accepted Brantley’s apology Friday afternoon, stressing they were “thrilled to be celebrating ALL people” in the musical.