Gays and Stages

LGBT characters and themes are more prevalent in theater than in film or TV, unless you're watching Bravo, which is a gay man's paradise, with more bitchy queens than a Miss Continental pageant.

"I thought when I came to Broadway that it was going to be so glamorous. I used to imagine myself going out of the theater at night, leaving the stage door, and finding stage door persons waiting… Last night when I left the theater: 'I don't want no fucking autograph. What the hell is wrong with you? Who are you anyway? I didn't come in this alley for no autograph. I came in here to pee.'"

-- Jane Wagner and Lily Tomlin, Appearing Nightly

"There's No Business Like Show Business". "Give My Regards to Broadway". Listen to the "Lullaby of Old Broadway". "God, What a Bitch!" One of these things is not like the others. Clearly, that would be the last on the list, which is featured in John Paul Sharp's 2009 stage production, My Big Phat Gay Musical, not to be confused with Casper Andreas and Fred M. Caruso's 2009 film Big Gay Musical, which features a large group of gay Broadway performers, along with the song "I Wanna Be a Slut". As these two numbers evidence, gay musicals usually don't feature the type of songs with which Ethel Merman used to deafen the back row of the balcony. Still, it's easy to imagine that one or two of the queens appearing in gay musicals have a picture of Ethel taped to the make-up mirror. Right beside Liza.

Lily and Jane's observation about the theater life is correct: it isn't the glamorous life people may imagine it to be while fantasizing themselves taking bows during their fifth curtain-call. It's tough to get a show noticed, and tougher still if the production prominently features an LGBT storyline. Granted, LGBT characters and themes in theater are more prevalent than can be found in film and on TV, unless you're watching Bravo, which is a gay man's paradise, with more bitchy queens than a Miss Continental pageant.

Even so, the past couple of years have seen LGBT theater flourish. For many, that will seem to be an oxymoron. After all, aren't "gay" and "theater" synonymous? We write many of theater's hit productions; perform many of theater's greatest roles; construct more than our fair share of the sets, costumes, and lighting designs; and god knows we fill a high percentage of the good seats in any theatrical production's audience. By God, We Are Theatre! Regardless, most of the productions that we have helped create and have supported are about straight people and are designed for a straight audience. Despite our proclivity to play it straight, literally and figuratively, both The New York Times and The New York Post featured articles this past year on the depth of gay-themed productions coming to the city this year. Unfortunately, references to LGBT theater usually emphasize the "gay", with less reference to "transgender" and even fewer references to "lesbian" and "bisexual".

On Broadway, Geoffrey Nauffts' Next Fall, a poignant story of gay love and its relationship to religion and life or death decisions, was nominated for a Best Play Tony Award this past year (it lost to John Logan's Red). Bisexual actor Patrick Breen, who you've seen on a bazillion episodes of Law and Order, and straight Patrick Heusinger, who you know as Lord Beaton on Gossip Girl, play an atheist and devout Christian who fall in love:

Meanwhile, Off-Broadway has been buzzing about My Trip Down the Pink Carpet, the one-man show from Leslie Jordan, aka Brother Boy and Beverly Leslie. In the show, produced by the aforementioned Lily and Jane, Jordan recalls what it was like to arrive in Hollywood in the '80s as a gay man. The show's site quotes The New York Times, which praised it for its "self-deprecation and spotlight-seeking shamelessness".

Also playing somewhere in New York recently have been It Must Be Him, a comedy about being gay and aging; My Big Gay Italian Wedding about, not surprisingly, a big gay Italian wedding; A Night in the Tombs, in which transgendered Bianca Liegh describes her night in jail; Ryan O'Connor Eats His Feelings, and some of the scenery;Abraham Lincoln's Big Gay Dance Party, the tale of an elementary school teacher put on trial for suggesting during the annual Christmas pageant that the 16th president was gay; and Bash'd, the world's first gay rap opera, at least that I am aware of.

Perhaps the gay-themed production that has received the most press this year is the revival of La Cage Aux Folles, starring Kelsey Grammar and Tony winner Douglas Hodge. In his analysis of the LGBT-friendly musical, Norman Hart argues that the mass acceptance of La Cage was due to the juxtaposition of "almost Victorian application of neo-traditional American family values to the gay lifestyle". Hart goes on to argue that the song adopted as a gay anthem, "I Am What I Am", is a generic song that could serve as a battle-cry for any muted group in society. ("The Selling of La Cage aux Folles: How Audiences Were Helped to Read Broadway's First Gay Musical", Theatre History News, 2003) Still, regardless of how we may view them in retrospect, the old faves still can draw in the crowds. Angels in America is also enjoying a fairly well-received revival, off-Broadway, with Star Trek's Zachary Quinto playing Louis.

Next Page

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.

20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta

Keep reading... Show less

Hitchcock, 'Psycho', and '78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene'

Alfred Hitchock and Janet Leigh on the set of Psycho (courtesy of Dogwoof)

"... [Psycho] broke every taboo you could possibly think of, it reinvented the language of film and revolutionised what you could do with a story on a very precise level. It also fundamentally and profoundly changed the ritual of movie going," says 78/52 director, Alexandre O. Philippe.

The title of Alexandre O. Philippe's 78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene (2017) denotes the 78 set-ups and the 52 cuts across a full week of shooting for Psycho's (1960) famous shower scene. Known for The People vs. George Lucas (2010), The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus (2012) and Doc of the Dead (2014), Philippe's exploration of a singular moment is a conversational one, featuring interviews with Walter Murch, Peter Bogdanovich, Guillermo del Toro, Jamie Lee Curtis, Osgood Perkins, Danny Elfman, Eli Roth, Elijah Wood, Bret Easton Ellis, Karyn Kusama, Neil Marshall, Richard Stanley and Marli Renfro, body double for Janet Leigh.

Keep reading... Show less

Rather than once again exploring the all-too-familiar territory of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, Samantha Silva's debut novel contextualizes the work's origins and gets inside the mind of its creator.

Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol has been told and retold so many times over the years that, by this point, one might be hard-pressed to find a single soul evenly glancingly familiar with western culture who isn't at least tangentially acquainted with the holiday classic. This is, of course, a bit of holiday-themed hyperbole, but the fact remains that the basic premise of A Christmas Carol has become so engrained in our culture that it would seem near impossible to imagine a time prior to its existence. It's universally-relatable themes of the power of kindness, redemption and forgiveness speaks to the heart of the Christmas season – at least as it has been presented in the 174 years since it was first published in 19 December 1843 -- just in time for Christmas.

Keep reading... Show less

Following his excellent debut record Communion, Rabit further explores the most devastating aspects of its sound in his sophomore opus Les Fleurs du Mal.

Back in 2015 Rabit was unleashing Communion in the experimental electronic scene. Combining extreme avant-garde motifs with an industrial perspective on top of the grime sharpness, Eric C. Burton released one of the most interesting records of that year. Blurring lines between genres, displaying an aptitude for taking things to the edge and the fact that Burton was not afraid to embrace the chaos of his music made Communion such an enticing listen, and in turn set Rabit to be a "not to be missed" artist.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.