Our Love Is Here To Stay X


by John Kenrick

(Copyright 1996, last revised 2008)

Are Musicals and Their Fans Doomed?

There are those who believe that gay liberation and assimilation make the long-standing musical film and theatre fantasies gays once indulged in superfluous . . . and then there are those who are awake. In the late 20th Century, the non-musical theatre turned a new spotlight on musical theatre queens.

These plays (by outstanding gay playwrights) depict musical queens with love, rather than derision. No longer a stereotyped focus of ridicule (remember the mincing costume designer in Broadway Melody?), musical theatre queens are now depicted as sources of and promoters of joy. It took the world long enough to catch on!

With few new musicals coming to Broadway, and even fewer musical films reaching local multiplexes, many believe that musical queens are an endangered species. However, home video and DVD make it possible to enjoy musicals at will. You can now lunch with Mame (Warner 1974), dine with Bells Are Ringing (MGM 1960) and spend the evening watching The Bandwagon (MGM 1953) – and all on the day of your choice. The sales figures for musicals on video and DVD suggest that there are still a fair number of buffs out there, and it is a safe bet that as many as ever are gay.

How do musical theatre queens react to the current state of the art? After bitching and moaning, we fall back on that mixture of wit, cynicism, creativity and hope that we call our own. To illustrate, I offer a lyrical parody:

The Modern Major Theatre Queen

Parody Lyric by John Kenrick
(Sung to the Tune of Gilbert and Sullivan's "Modern Major General")

Oh we are the very models of
The modern major theatre queen
With all the latest theatre dish
On Broadway, off, or in-between.
We know a lot of show tunes,
Both the recent and historical,
And some we sing as parodies
With lyrics allegorical.
We are very well acquainted too
With musicals from Hollywood
We love the classic MGM's,
And lately Disney's jolly good.
We'll sing you all the featured roles
In either West Side Story gang,
And seven campy medleys of
The songs that Judy Garland sang!
(And seven campy medleys . . .)
Then we can tell you why the latest
Broadway hit is such a bore
And tell you ev'ry detail of
The ball gown Gertrude Lawrence wore,
In short, in things theatrical,
On Broadway, off, or in-between
We are the very models of
The modern major theatre queen.
(In short, in things theatrical . . .)

We know the juicy gossip about
Most ev'rybody on Broadway
We know about Olivier
And how he slept with Danny Kaye,
We know two gals from MGM
Who had each other on a shelf
And know that David Merrick's only
Happy when beside himself.
We can tell the latest Sondheim from
The classic stuff that Bernstein wrote,
And tell how Jerry Herman can fit
All that schmaltz in ev'ry note
We'll dish old Richard Rodgers
And just when you think
You've had enough,
We'll dish a guy from England who
Keeps stealing old Puccini stuff!
(We'll dish . . .)
For though the Broadway tales we tell
Are not meant to admonish you,
The truth about a lot of people
Really might astonish you
But still, in things theatrical,
On Broadway, off or in-between
We are the very models of
The modern major theatre queen.
(But still, in things theatrical . . .)

In short, when we know why good stuff
Like Side Show hardly makes a dent;
When we can tell you why
Even the Pulitzer was up for Rent;
When endless runs for tacky crap
Like Cats start making sense to us;
And when Tom Stoppard's plays,
Or David Rabe's,
Don't seem so dense to us;
When we admit you need
A TV star to fill a Broadway house;
When we admit all showbiz soon
Just might belong to Mickey Mouse;
In short, when we admit
That Broadway's dead
And that we got it wrong,
You'll say that bigger theatre queens
Have never sung a sing-along!
(You'll say that bigger . . .)
For though our love of theatre
Is so plucky and adventur-ee
We sometimes wonder if we're in
The wrong half of the century,
But still, in things theatrical,
On Broadway, off or in-between
We are the very models of
The modern major theatre queen!
(But still, in things . . .)

Musical theatre queens cannot deny that these are worrisome times. Few new composers appear on the scene these days, and many of the so-called new musicals coming to Broadway are either noisy attempts to pander to new audiences, or tedious re-hashes of old songs and films. The golden age of our beloved art form has passed, and odds are that we're never going to get it back.

But for all our kvetching, musical queens are an optimistic lot. We know there are new musicals being written, just waiting for a chance to delight us. We also know that somewhere, this very day, some child is getting his first look at Mary Poppins or Little Mermaid (Disney 1989). If he is really lucky, he may even be taking his first flight with Mary Martin – and didn't she insist that flying takes a bit of fairy dust?

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