LOS ANGELES — With their quick banter and improv comedy pedigree, it’s pretty obvious that theater — and specifically musical theater — is in the Soloways’ DNA.
“We used to listen to our parents’ soundtracks — “Hair," "Jesus Christ Superstar” — and sing them and pretend we were in musicals,” Faith Soloway recalled.
“I think we’ve lived our lives through the prism of musicals,” Joey Soloway added. “And we make up songs constantly, all day long throughout life.”
“A Transparent Musical” is very much inspired by their lives. Joey Soloway, who uses the pronoun they, created the TV show “Transparent,” based on their own parent who came out late in life as transgender woman. Since then, both of the siblings have been on their own gender journeys — “a journey of transness, non binary-ness” as Faith Soloway puts it.
Those journeys are reflected in every lyric.
“I knew very young that I wasn’t what I was seeing,” Faith Soloway explained. “I felt like I was a boy. And I never was able to really hold on to that. I think if I had that language, that medicine, that therapy, I might have taken that choice.”
“A Transparent Musical,” currently playing at the Mark Taper Forum, is not the TV series set to music. This version of the story focuses a lot on the youngest sibling Ali as they, too, come to better understand and accept themselves. Ali is played by Adina Verson, a nonbinary actor who is thrilled by how the show represents the entire scope of gender identity.
“I often don’t feel seen for who I feel I am on the inside,” Verson said. “And I’m really excited to portray a character who doesn’t necessarily fit into a black and white definition, or even the gray definition that we’ve kind of created for nonbinary.”
Daya Curley, who watched the Amazon series faithfully, portrays Maura, a character she loved before and who she is excited to be reinventing.
“I loved every minute of [the series]. And I was, like, just emotionally devastated by it every week,” she said. “It was an important touchstone early on in my transition for me, and I’m so honored, and I feel such a weight of responsibility to sort of carry her in a different incarnation into the future and to set something new in stone.”
There are several different relationships explored throughout the musical, each character experiencing highs and lows and taking the audience along for the ride.
“It’s an emotional carwash, sort of like Space Mountain, queer, Jewish, transformational experience,” Joey Soloway said.
But at the heart of it is joy — something that Verson feels is vitally important at this moment.
“I feel like right now we’re in this grand time of trans awareness, which is paired with transphobia,” they said. “I think the humanization and the joy of the story is maybe the best way to counteract the transphobia.”
Peppermint agrees. She made history in the musical “Head Over Heels” as the first trans woman to originate a principal role on Broadway. Growing up without many trans role models, she knows representation on stage is important, but she says it’s equally important for non LGBTQ+ audience members to see these stories as well.
“It can make life a lot easier,” she said emphatically. “The reason why it can make life easier, I believe, is because everyone else who isn’t queer or trans, really needs to see those people doing their thing in society, in life, being included, so they can have examples of how to treat us. And I think at this point in time, that’s more important.”
“It’s urgent. It’s an urgent cry,” Faith Soloway said of the current political and social climate. “And we feel the privilege of giving voice to it in this way. When we started this show, even the television show and a musical idea… there wasn’t this backlash that’s happening in the world right now. So it feels really important.”
“I think it really transforms people,” Joey Soloway added. “You could come in here not being quite sure where you stand on all of this, especially as a Jewish person, right? And you walk out and you can see how the cycle of fascism is coming back. And so it’s a Trojan horse of fun and joy and music, but it’s a real mathematical lesson.”
With a gender-diverse cast and crew, working on this musical in this space has been a dream for the Soloways.
“You spend your life waiting for a dream to come true, and then assuming it never really will,” Joey Soloway said, looking out the window at to see the show’s enormous banner hanging outside the theater. “And, yeah, it kind of is.”
The process has been healing for the siblings, and Faith hopes the musical will prove the same for those visiting the Taper turned JCC.
“Looking back to the little kid who was found solace at the piano writing about feelings never knowing that they could heal somebody else, you know, is healing,” Faith Soloway said. “People open up their hearts to musicals, so that’s where I feel the healing can begin.”