This fall, JMU’s School of Theatre and Dance put on a production of James Magruder and Jeff Whitty’s Head Over Heels. The show has multiple themes of identity, gender expression and sexuality.

In addition to these themes, the show has several progressive characters. One of these characters, Pythio, is one of very few explicitly non-binary characters in the musical theatre industry. Since there are typically few roles for gender queer and non-binary people, some consider it important to cast a non-binary person in that role.

According to students and faculty regarding JMU’s production, this was not the case as Pythio is meant to be played by a transgender person. The role was originated by Peppermint from RuPaul’s drag race in 2018.

This is important to the musical’s impact as Peppermint was the first transgender woman to originate a lead role on Broadway. At JMU, Pythio was played by a cisgender man. This angered students who looked up to Pythio as being a non-binary icon in the show and an important part of modern theater history.

However, it comes down to faculty who picked the show without having the necessary cast to do so. Director Kate Arecchi spoke about her efforts of “identity-conscious casting” in the production. While many characters were cast with “identity-conscious casting,” the lack of a non-binary Pythio led some to believe it hurt the production and lessened the message of identity.