Tuesday, 10 March 2015

PLAYING DRESS UP: David Tulloch dishes the story behind his Prayer Partner transformation

LIFE'S A DRAG: Tulloch (right), in character, sparring with costar Shana Wilson.

In preparing to breathe life into a pivotal, cross-dressing character in this season's remount of his hit play Prayer Partner, David Tulloch wanted to achieve many things, but caricature was not one of them. So no Madea impersonation.

"I don't rate Made at all! That's a character that just stays on one level," Tulloch declares, referring to Tyler Perry's pistol-packing and crowd-pleasing grandma alter ego, who has lit up such box-office features as Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Meet the Browns and Madea's Family Reunion. "I like to think that my Peter-Gaye is a character with many layers, and is actually motivated to do the things she does."

This Peter-Gaye he's referring to is the titular 'heroine' that we encounter at the crux of Prayer Partner who comes complete with a high-pitched voice, ample derriere and a generous bosom. Think Robin Williams as the beloved Mrs. Doubtfire. "I didn't want to impersonate or copy his work too much, but Robin Williams was definitely an inspiration," Tulloch recalls. "And a little bit of Steve Urkel [from Family Matters] and a little bit of me."

When Prayer Partner had its debut run on the local theatre scene back in 2006, the quadruple threat actor-director-producer-writer was cast in the more showy role of motormouth ladies' man Giovanni, currently being inhabited by Chris McFarlane. Tulloch never imagined that nearly a decade later he'd be donning a dress, a wig and body enhancers to play the motherly do-gooder whose pearls of wisdom and old-fashioned tough-love techniques help turn a conflict-ridden family toward the sunlight.

"I was very nervous about taking on the role, and it's my first time in a lead role since [2013's] Paternal Instinct," Tulloch confesses. And while the jury is divided over the conviction of his transformation, he's been getting positive feedback since the show opened on the eve of Valentine's Day. "Most people tell me I did a good job," says the actor, who earned his first Actor Boy now at age 17 for playing Scar in The Lion King, and is up for a couple of Thespies at the moment. "I started out acting then writing, so taking on this kind of acting challenge brings back a lot of memories."

> See David Tulloch and the cast of Prayer Partner heating up the stage on weekends through April at Green Gables. (See ad at right for details).

> Review: Prayer Partner earns a resounding Amen

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