On Stage

Fat & Juicy Ham

By Berto Fernández

Shakespeare’s classic tragedy Hamlet, gets a Queer makeover in James Ijames’s 2022 Pulitzer Prize winning play Fat Ham, currently playing at The Old Globe in the historic Balboa Park, San Diego. Now, I must admit, I’m not a Shakespeare connoisseur, my bread and butter is Musical Theatre, but nowadays we have more than enough tools to help answer any queries that come up. The original play takes place in Denmark, and follows Prince Hamlet, who is visited by his recently deceased father’s ghost, who reveals that his brother, uncle to the Prince, was responsible for his death. The murdered King, in spirit form, instructs Hamlet to take revenge on his uncle, who not only killed the King, but also quickly married the widowed Queen in order to take possession of the throne.

The cast of Fat Ham, 2024. Photo by Rich Soublet II.

Fat Ham brings a new adaptation of this timeless story, taking place at a Southern family cookout. Our main character Juicy, a young Queer Black man, experiences the exact events as our Shakespearean character with a twist. The brilliant play explores themes of self-discovery, identity, and family connection. All in just one act, unlike the classic play, which was Shakespeare’s longest, developing throughout five acts. Juicy as a character will surely move audience members of all ways of life, but particularly with our LGBTQ+ community. The exploration of self-worth and how to still feel like an important component of your family unit makes the show a must watch. 

The cast for Fat Ham features Felicia Boswell (Broadway’s Motown; Broadway and national tour of Memphis, Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Leading Actress) as Tedra, Yvettte Cason (Broadway’s Dreamgirls, original Broadway production; Broadway’s Play On!, original Broadway production) as Rabby, Ṣọla Fadiran (Broadway’s Camelot, Off Broadway’s Watch Night) as Juicy, m (Long Wharf Theatre’s Passing Strange, Collective Consciousness Theater’s The Mountaintop) as Opal, Xavier Pacheco (MCC Theater’s Bees & Honey; The Public Theater’s Richard III) as Tio, Tian Richards (CW’s “Tom Swift”; Netflix’s Dumplin’) as Larry, and Ethan Henry (Martin Luther King in The MeetingGenius:Aretha with Cynthia Erivo) as Rev and Pap.

Tian Richards as Larry in Fat Ham, 2024. Photo by Rich Soublet II.

It is also crucial to mention the exceptional creative team for the Globe’s production. Darrell Grand Moultrie (Choreography), Maruti Evans (Scenic Design), Dominique Fawn Hill (Costume Design), Bradley King (Lighting Design), Mikaal Sulaiman (Sound Design), Skylar Fox (Illusion Design), Earon Chew Nealey (Wig, Hair, and Makeup Design), Lisa Kopitsky (Fight Director), Caparelliotis Casting (Casting), Ryan Kane (Production Stage Manager), and Sam Allen (Production Stage Manager).

You don’t have to be a Shakespeare lover to enjoy this powerful play that will resonate with audiences on a deep level, while experiencing a joyous, boisterous, and emotional family BBQ. You’re invited! So, grab a plate, pick a good karaoke song, and get ready to spill some tea…and it’s piping hot.