Monday, August 15, 2016

Keep It Gay

Was it the fact that pushback was so strong that The Daily Beast was forced to take down an article in which its editor, Nico Hines, had outed several gay Olympians from extremely homophobic nations (carelessly putting their lives at risk)? Or the article by John Branch in the Fashion (rather than the Sports) section of The New York Times entitled Q: Why Do Gay Men Love the Olympics? A: Isn’t It Obvious?

For those of us old enough to remember when "the old gray lady" refused to use the word gay instead of homosexual, the coverage of the 2016 Summer Olympics offered audiences a chance to sit back and think "You've come a long way, baby!" But with transgender bathroom bills crowding the political landscape and so many openly gay people visible in mass media and social media (not to mention the fact that same-sex marriage has become the law of the land), all I could think of was Cole Porter's lead-in to his 1934 song, "Anything Goes."

Forget about Will & Grace. Let's talk about the collective impact on the media by folks like Anderson Cooper, Nate Silver, Rachel Maddow, Jonathan Capehart, Don Lemon, Ellen DeGeneres, Dan Savage, Andrew Sullivan, Frank Bruni, Robin Roberts, Adam Nagourney, Glenn Greenwald, Suze Orman, Steve Kornacki, Thomas Roberts, and Andy Cohen. Let's talk about Joe Biden officiating at a same-sex marriage in the Vice President's official residence. Times have changed.

While contemporary use of the word gay has become a synonym for LGBT people, there was a time (not so very long ago) when its primary meaning was happy. In 1953, Rodger and Hammerstein's musical about backstage life entitled Me and Juliet featured a song entitled "Keep It Gay." The 1961 musical, The Gay Life (which starred Barbara Cook) was adapted from a series of short stories about a notoriously heterosexual playboy named Anatol Von Huber.

Following the Stonewall riots and the spread of the gay rights movement, musicals took a decidedly more proactive approach toward showcasing gay characters and gay love stories. From 1973's The Rocky Horror Show, 1975's Boy Meets Boy and A Chorus Line, and 1983's La Cage aux Folles to 1991's Pageant, 1992's Falsettos, 1993's Kiss of the Spider Woman and Whoop-Dee-Doo! and 1995's Victor/Victoria, gay production numbers continued to dazzle audiences.

The trend continued with 1996's Rent and When Pigs Fly, 1998's Hedwig and the Angry Inch and A New Brain, and 2001's The Producers.

2003 brought Avenue Q, Zanna, Don't! and Road Show to the stage, followed by 2005's Yank! A WWII Love Story and 2006's Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. In 2009, The Big Gay Musical made its screen debut.

After Neil Patrick Harris's opening number at the 2011 Tony Awards, audiences were primed to embrace 2013's Fun Home and Kinky Boots.

* * * * * * * * *
A special genre of entertainment features cult movies and beloved television shows that have been given a gay makeover. Ranging from I Love Lucy, The Honeymooners and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? to The Golden Girls, Grey Gardens, and Christmas With The Crawfords, these shows have developed a loyal audience.

Over the years, Peaches Christ (Joshua Grannell) has been booking special screenings of movies like Sister Act, Drop Dead Gorgeous, Addams Family Values, She-Devil, and Spice World. Each screening follows a rowdy pre-show featuring local drag celebrities. Peaches makes no bones about the fact that her favorite movie of all time is 1995's Showgirls, a film that was raked over the coals for its bad acting, inane script, and general tastelessness.

The film won seven Razzie Awards including Worst Actress (Elizabeth Berkley), Worst Director (Paul Verhoeven), Worst Screenplay (Joe Eszterhas), and Worst Screen Couple. Some of its classic moments have been encapsulated into this video clip of "Showgirls-isms."

One need only watch the promo for Peaches Christ's 15th anniversary screening of Showgirls to get a sense of the kind of fun one can expect during the pre-show.

In 2013, a musical parody version of Verhoeven's unintentional camp classic had its world premiere off-off-Broadway. Written and directed by Bob and Tobly McSmith (Bayside! The Musical, Katdashians Break The Internet Musical), the original cast recording features such lewd, crude, and hysterically tacky numbers as "Don't Lick That Pole, Girl!" "You're A Whore, Darlin!" "Dead Hooker!" "Whorrior!" "Dancing Ain't Fucking," and the Act II opener, "Fucking Underwater."

With Peaches Christ producing (and co-starring as Cristal Connors), SHOWGIRLS! The Musical! recently received its West Coast premiere at the Victoria Theatre. The pre-show and intermission lap dances were emceed by Lady Bear, who warned the audience that they'd fucking well better behave themselves and not shout out any lines from the movie because they didn't buy tickets to see The Rocky Horror Show.

Cristal Connors (Peaches Christ) embraces Nomi Malone (April Kidwell)
in a scene from SHOWGIRLS! The Musical! (Photo by: Sloane Kanter) 

With April Kidwell (who starred in the New York production) in town to recreate her portrayal of Nomi Malone for the show's West Coast premiere, it didn't take long for the magic to erupt from a belching, glitter-encrusted breakaway volcano. Kidwell may have waited all of 10 minutes before taking off her bra so that her bouncing breasts could wildly roam the stage, perfectly in character with Nomi's desperation to become a star.

Tim Wagner and April Kidwell rehearsing for the
West Coast premiere of SHOWGIRLS! The Musical

With a unit set designed by Ric Ray, costumes by Amie Sarazan, and sound design by Sharon Boggs, the raucous evening proved to be a blast. Tim Wagner was appropriately sleazy as Kyle MacLachlan with Raya Light as Andrew Rapersoon, Rori Nogee as Labia, and Anna Muravitskaya as Mittens.

While no one onstage could match Kidwell's raw energy and Nomi's determination to dominate the evening, I tip my hat to Marcus Desion (who doubled as as Nomi's roommate, Molly, and James) and Bobby "Barnaby" Bryce (who was hysterically over the top as the choreographer, Gay). The show benefits immensely from the choreography by Rory Davis and music direction by Peter Fogel.

April Kidwell (Nomi Malone) and Raya Light (Andrew Rapersoon) in
a scene from the West Coast premiere of SHOWGIRLS! The Musical

Performances of SHOWGIRLS: The Musical! continue at the Victoria Theatre through August 27 (click here for tickets). Here's the trailer:

No comments: