by Gregg Shapiro
The realm of musical theater and the LGBT community have a longstanding and loving relationship. Long a haven for creative outcasts, many of whom have same-sex attraction in their present, past or even future histories, musical theater is queerer than ever. Several such shows are currently playing on or off Broadway, and others, including Dr. Sex (the musical about bisexual sex researcher Alfred Kinsey which ran in Chicago during the fall of 2003) have their sights set on making that transition.
The Original Broadway Cast Recording of Avenue Q (Victor/Arista Associated Labels), for example, features the song 'If You Were Gay,' sung by one puppet named Nicky (Rick Lyon, the creator of Avenue Q's puppets) to his closeted roommate Rod (John Tartaglia). Set in an obscure and offbeat NYC neighborhood, the wildly successful musical blends puppet and human characters to deliver stories and lessons on racism ('Everyone's A Little Bit Racist'), the Internet ('The Internet Is For Porn'), love ('Mix Tape,' 'There's A Fine, Fine Line'), noisy neighbors ('You Can Be As Loud As The Hell You Want (When You're Makin' Love)'), being closeted ('My Girlfriend, Who Lives In Canada'), the stresses of city life ('There Is Life Outside Your Apartment'), and post-college life ('What Do You Do With A B.A. In English?,' 'I Wish I Could Go Back To College'), among other things, like an explicitly adult version of Sesame Street.
A bleached-blonde Jai Rodriguez (best known as the 'culture guy' on Queer Eye For The Straight Guy) played Zanna, the title character in Tim Acito's Zanna Don't: A Musical Fairy Tale (PS Classics). Zanna is a mystical matchmaker at a high school in Heartsville, U.S.A., who magically pairs up the same-sex couples in the mostly queer student body. 'Love sleuth' Zanna seems to have found someone for everyone but himself. On top of that, Zanna is suddenly faced with the prospect of having to make the world safe for heterosexuals, when a male and female student discover that they are attracted to each other. Sillier and fluffier than even Avenue Q, Zanna Don't has a well-meaning, but ultimately a novelty, heart at its center, that may limit its appeal.
One of the gayest symbols of the '80s and '90s, Boy George has taken his life story and turned it into the Broadway musical Taboo. Until that Broadway cast recording becomes available, we have Taboo: Original London Cast (First Night). In addition to being gay, Boy George is renowned for his theatricality and the original songs in Taboo (all co-written by Boy George) bring that across with ease.
Gay men have been composing Broadway musical for years. Before he became known for his scores to such Disney animated classics as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and The Beast, and Aladdin, the late Howard Ashman made his mark with the stage musical Little Shop Of Horrors. More than 20 years after Little Shop debuted off-Broadway and more than 15 years after the hit movie adaptation, man-eating plant Audrey II has made it to Broadway. Little Shop of Horrors—The New Broadway Cast Recording (DRG) features Hunter Foster (who was in the Tony Award-winning production of Urinetown) as plant shop employee Seymour and Kerry Butler in the Ellen Greene role of Audrey. This new recording contains the complete score and five bonus track demos with performances Ashman and Alan Menken, the show's creators.
Two gay men, Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents, make up two-thirds of the collaborators for the musical about Gypsy Rose Lee and her mother Rose on The New Broadway Cast Recording of Gypsy (Broadway Angel). Starring longtime friend to gays and lesbians Bernadette Peters as Rose and Tammy Blanchard as Louise (later known as the title character), who received acclaim for her portrayal of the young titular character in the TV movie Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows, Gypsy has been a favorite of the community for many years.
Out gay composer Ricky Ian Gordon continues to write musical with sopranos in mind as you can hear in My Life With Albertine (PS Classics). The musical, 'based on the 'Albertine' sections of Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust,' features a scene in which Marcel (Chad Kimball) discovers in a casino near a train station that summer girls, 'in the absence of male partners, were dancing together.'
Although I received the Original Cast Recording of Rudolph The Red Hosed Reindeer (www. Handbagproductions. Org) too late to include it in my holiday music column, I made room for it here. David Cerda's lyrics (with music by Scott Lamberty) about being different are sung by queer elves ('When You're An Elf'), gay Herbie ('Being Normal, Pt. 1 & Pt. 3'), a cross-dressing Rudolph ('Being Normal, Pt. 2 & Pt.4'), among others, and cast a queer eye on the legend of Rudolph. I also received Holiday In Plaid (Fynsworth Alley), the cast recording companion to Plaid Tidings, the holiday musical edition of Forever Plaid, too late for inclusion in December. In addition to a guest appearance by Broadway star Faith Prince, the CD also includes the 'Catered Holiday Affairs' medley, featuring 'Oh, Little Town Of Bethlehem,' 'Mele Kalikimaka,' 'Christmas In Killarney' and 'The Dreidel Song.'
Other cast recordings to keep in mind include Das Barbecu (Fynsworth Alley), Jim Luigs and Scott Warrender's re-telling of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen in the musical comedy format with a five-person cast; and Wild Women Blues (DRG), featuring Linda Hopkins, Maxine Weldon and Mortonette Jenkins performing the songs of Comden, Green and Bernstein, Rodgers and Hart, the Gershwins, and others.