Betsy Wolfe & Tracie Thoms on Playing the 'Lesbians Next Door' in Falsettos, Looking Like Their Mothers & Not Crying During 'Unlikely Lovers'
By Kathy Henderson
Two of the most beloved supporting characters in modern-day musicals are “the lesbians next door,” kosher caterer Cordelia and internist Dr. Charlotte, in Falsettos. Introduced by composer William Finn in 1990’s Falsettoland (now the second act of the show), these strong and loving women serve as counterpoints to the angst surrounding lead couple Marvin and Whizzer. The brilliantly cast Broadway revival features Betsy Wolfe as Cordelia and Tracie Thoms as Charlotte, and the actresses seemed perfectly in sync during a recent chat about this ahead-of-its-time musical, keeping it together while singing the ballad “Unlikely Lovers” and connecting with fans on social media.
Q: By now, you’ve realized you’re playing a couple that musical fans know and love, right?
TRACIE: Yeah, they do. Falsettos is a phenomenon that I missed the first time around.
BETSY: I did, as well, but people on the street have literally stopped me and said, “You are going to say one of my favorite lines in musical theater.” People really love that line where she says, “You save lives and I save chicken fat. I can’t fucking deal with that.”
Q: And Tracie gets to sing about “saving lives and loving you.” What’s better than that?
TRACIE: Nothing! I mean, look at this stunner. What I love about [Cordelia and Charlotte] is that they’re so comfortable with who they are, at a time when a lot of queer people were not. They’re kind of trailblazers for their time period. And because they cast me in the role—lesbian and black and a doctor—it shouldn’t all work but it does.
BETSY: Some could say it’s one of the healthier [relationships] in the show. The first act is an examination of this immediate family, and the second act is a chance to see what [gay life in 1990] looked like for a community. We kind of represent the outer world.
Q: How did you two bond? Did you feel right away that you would make a good pair?
BETSY: I have to say, I’ve never had a more natural progression with someone I’m playing a love interest with. Most of the time I’ve met the people on photo shoots and you’re nuzzling and saying, “So, where are you from?” And, like, kissing them and saying, “Oh, one sibling? Great, OK!” Tracie and I met at a function a couple of years ago and then had dinner before we started, so it felt quite natural.
TRACIE: I came in late to the audition because I’m in L.A., so I flew in and had to sing all this stuff. Then Betsy came in, and I’m like, “Oh!”
BETSY: “Hey girl!”
TRACIE: “Hey girl! Oh, this is easy. We have a shorthand for this. It’s fine.”