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Musical Theater and Film  
 
page: 1  2  3  4  

Among successful gay revues, the wittiest have been the work of the late Howard Crabtree, whose outlandish costume designs inspired Whoop Dee-Doo (1993) and When Pigs Fly (1996).

Musical Films

For many gay men during the golden age, Broadway was out of reach geographically and economically, but from the early 1930s until the mid 1960s, Hollywood offered a steady stream of musical films, some of which have been particularly susceptible to gay readings.

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In his enormously successful series of films with Ginger Rogers in the 1930s, which boast superb scores by Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, and George Gershwin, Fred Astaire was surrounded by a group of supporting players who certainly could be read as gay: Eric Blore's eyeball rolling, lisping queens, Edward Everett Horton's prissy Milquetoasts, Erik Rhodes' flamboyant portrayals of men who never get the girl and do not seem to care, and Helen Broderick's butch sidekicks.

Of course, the classic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz has played a special role in gay culture: for years gay men called themselves "friends of Dorothy."

In the 1940s, the unit at MGM that produced a series of fine musicals was known as "Freed's Fairies," because producer Arthur Freed had gathered such an array of talented gay men as directors, choreographers, composers, arrangers, and designers.

In the 1950s and 1960s, wide screen epic musicals offered audiences classic diva turns by Judy Garland (A Star Is Born, 1954) Gwen Verdon (Damn Yankees, 1958), and Barbra Streisand (Funny Girl, 1968).

In 2000, The Sound of Music (1965), hardly a film that could be considered gay, was resurrected as a camp classic and, with the lyrics superimposed on the print, became for the London gay community the sort of costume party, audience participation event The Rocky Horror Picture Show had been for teenagers twenty years before.

Although the film musical seems to be a dead genre and musical theater does not hold the central position in popular culture and popular music it once did, nevertheless the musical holds an important place in the history of gay men.

It may be no accident that the recent film of the Kander and Ebb musical Chicago (2002), which has been acclaimed as the best film musical in years, is the product of the collaboration of several out gay men, including director Rob Marshall, screenwriter Bill Condon, and executive producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan. All four have spoken of the crucial significance of musicals in their own lives from an early age, almost in the same terms in which gay men and lesbians frequently speak of their early awareness of their sexual difference.

John M. Clum

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arts >> Overview:  Cabarets and Revues

Historically, cabarets and revues have been much more likely to mention or imply same-sex desire than the "legitimate" theater; and same-sex desire has been less frequently condemned in cabarets and revues than in mainstream plays.

arts >> Overview:  Divas

The diva has traditionally played a significant role in both gay and lesbian culture as an object of cult worship with whom those who suffer the heartaches of forbidden love and ostracism from an unaccepting society find solace and identification.

arts >> Overview:  Film Sissies

The film sissy had his heyday in the 1930s, but persists as a film archetype, subtly reminding audiences that there are other ways of being than conventional heterosexuality.

literature >> Overview:  Musical Theater

There has always been homosexual involvement in American musical theatre and a homosexual sensibility even in straight musicals, and recently the Broadway musical has welcomed openly homosexual themes and situations.

arts >> Ashman, Howard

Award-winning lyricist and playwright Howard Ashman collaborated with Alan Menken on projects as diverse as the stage musical Little Shop of Horrors and the animated Disney film Beauty and the Beast.

arts >> Baker, Josephine

Entertainer Josephine Baker achieved acclaim as the twentieth century's first international black female sex symbol, but kept carefully hidden her many sexual liaisons with women, which continued from adolescence to the end of her life.

arts >> Barclay, Paris 

Award-winning television director Paris Barclay is also an activist for glbtq rights, including marriage equality and the opportunity to adopt children as he and his husband have done.

arts >> Barrowman, John

Accomplished actor and singer John Barrowman has won plaudits as a musical theater star, as well as for his roles in film and television.

arts >> Bass, Lance

Singer Lance Bass gained fame as a member of the boy band *Nsync; since coming out in 2006, he has spoken on behalf of glbtq rights.

arts >> Bennett, Michael

Bisexual choreographer and director Michael Bennett, winner of eight Tony Awards, developed a fluid, cinematic style of choreography and staging.

arts >> Bernstein, Leonard

For most of his life, the specter of the closet lurked threateningly behind the glamorous and often brash public image of American composer Leonard Bernstein.

arts >> Carter, Nell

A dynamic performer on stage, television, film, and record, Nell Carter built a successful and versatile show business career; only after her death was her longtime relationship with a woman revealed to the public.

arts >> Cashman, Michael

British politician Michael Cashman gained fame as an actor before becoming a Labour Party member of the European Parliament where he worked diligently on behalf of equal rights.

arts >> Condon, William "Bill"

Having earned critical acclaim for his work on Gods and Monsters (1998), Chicago (2002), and Kinsey (2004), screenwriter and film director William "Bill" Condon has become a leading American filmmaker.

literature >> Coward, Sir Noël

Although Coward's plays are about heterosexual couples, they are written in the language and spirit of camp and reject traditional domestic values.

arts >> Coward, Sir Noël

Accomplished playwright, actor, composer, and lyricist, Sir Noël Coward was also a singer and cabaret performer; he dominated the British stage between the world wars, then reoriented his career in the direction of America.

arts >> Drivas, Robert

Actor-director Robert Drivas brought a provocative sexuality and an emotional intensity to his stage and screen performances at a time when the male body was being liberated as the object of the audience's gaze.

arts >> Durang, Christopher

A fiercely comic playwright, as well as actor and screenwriter, Christopher Durang often incorporates gay themes and characters in his plays.

arts >> Edens, Roger

Gifted composer and arranger who gave a new look to movie musicals, Roger Edens was the heart and soul of the unit at MGM studios known as "Freed's Fairies."

literature >> Fierstein, Harvey

Award-winning Harvey Fierstein is one of the finest gay male playwrights currently working in the American theater.

arts >> Finn, William

Playwright and composer William Finn, best known for his Tony Award-winning musical The Falsettos, speaks with understanding about confronting life in all its complexity with sadness and joy, dilemmas and hope intermingled.

arts >> Garland, Judy

The fragile persona and emotion-packed voice of actress and singer Judy Garland are powerfully linked to gay culture and identity; she appealed especially to gay men, but also to lesbians.

arts >> Gordon, Ricky Ian

Composer Ricky Ian Gordon, often seen as an heir to the musical legacy of Stephen Sondheim, has been praised for the lyrical quality of his music and for bridging the worlds of theater and art song.

arts >> Harris, Neil Patrick

Child actor Neil Patrick Harris has made a successful transition to mature roles, showcasing his singing and dancing abilities along the way; he has also spoken out on behalf of glbtq causes.

arts >> Harris, Sam

Multi-talented Sam Harris is best known as a singer and actor; since coming out publicly in 1999, he has lent his voice to the cause of glbtq rights.

arts >> Hart, Lorenz

Despite having written lyrics as witty as any sung on the Broadway stage before or since, Lorenz Hart is best remembered for his songs of unfulfilled desire and failed romance.

arts >> Hart, Moss

Although playwright, screenwriter, and director Moss Hart achieved great commercial success and popular acclaim, he suffered from severe depression and other emotional problems that were intensified, and possibly caused, by intense anxiety concerning his sexual orientation.

arts >> Herman, Jerry

A proponent of the "diva musical," Broadway composer and lyricist Jerry Herman made homosexuality the undisguised subject of La Cage aux Folles but he did so just as gay culture lost its need of a diva to voice its concerns.

arts >> Hytner, Sir Nicholas

British director Sir Nicholas Hytner is acclaimed for his work on musicals and plays in London as well as New York, and also for directing films and operas.

arts >> Innaurato, Albert

Playwright Albert Innaurato's plays are as remarkable for the marginalizing ethnic identity, sexual orientation, and body image of their characters as they are for the author's refusal to adopt politically correct attitudes.

arts >> Kander, John (b. 1927) and Fred Ebb (1932?-2004)

Composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb are the musical poets of the poymorphous perverse; their works glorify the creativity inherent in sexual ambivalence and celebrate unorthodox forms of political activism.

arts >> Keenan, Joe

Best known for his work as a writer and producer for the hit television show Frasier, Joe Keenan is also the author of richly comic gay-themed novels.

arts >> Kirkwood, James

Co-author of the book of the celebrated musical A Chorus Line, James Kirkwood also wrote five popular novels and two nonfiction books.

arts >> Kleiser, Randal

Although best known for his direction of lighter fare such as Grease, Randal Kleiser made his most significant contribution to gay cinema with the 1996 AIDS-themed "It's My Party."

literature >> Kramer, Larry

Controversial playwright, novelist, and essayist Larry Kramer has been a pioneer in the gay political response to AIDS in America.

arts >> LaChiusa, Michael John

Composer Michael John LaChiusa, identified as a heir to Stephen Sondheim's legacy in the American musical theater, creates works that demand intellectual involvement on the part of the audience.

arts >> Larson, Jonathan

Although apparently heterosexual, musical theater composer Jonathan Larson wrote sympathetically about a diverse community of artists, many of whom are glbtq.

arts >> Mantello, Joe

Having staged a variety of well-received and award-winning productions, actor-turned-director Joe Mantello has emerged as one of the most accomplished artists now working in the American theater.

literature >> McNally, Terrence

Texas-reared Terrence McNally, whose first play, And Things That Go Bump in the Night, was one of the great scandals of the 1964 New York season, emerged in the 1990s as America's most important gay playwright since Tennessee Williams.

arts >> Mitchell, John Cameron

While he had already achieved recognition as an actor, the multiple talents of performer, writer, and filmmaker John Cameron Mitchell came to wide public notice in 2001 with the release of his prize-winning film, Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

arts >> Novello, Ivor

Show business renaissance man extraordinaire, Ivor Novello not only composed the scores of musical comedies, but also acted in films while dominating the London stage as a playwright and romantic leading man for three decades.

arts >> Pierce, David Hyde

Award-winning actor David Hyde Pierce, best known for his comic performance on the long-running hit comedy television series Frasier, belatedly acknowledged his homosexuality in 2007.

arts >> Porter, Cole

Living the paradoxical life of an openly closeted gay man, songwriter Cole Porter introduced non-normative values and risqué double entendres into what was one of the most pedestrian and hackneyed of cultural forms.

arts >> Sherman, Martin

Best known for his groundbreaking play Bent, iconoclastic playwright and screenwriter Martin Sherman has created an impressive body of work.

arts >> Sondheim, Stephen

One of the most innovative talents of the musical theater in the second half of the twentieth century, Stephen Sondheim has only indirectly reflected his homosexuality in his work.

arts >> Tune, Tommy

The first person to have won Tonys in four different categories, dancer, director, and choreographer Tommy Tune is known for his choreographic sense of humor and for his celebration of the chorus line.

literature >> Vidal, Gore

The multifaceted Gore Vidal is important in the gay literary heritage because of the straightforwardness with which he pursued gay themes and included gay characters in his work.

arts >> Wright, Doug

The works of award-winning playwright, screenwriter, and librettist Doug Wright often focus on the unconventional lives of society\'s outsiders.

arts >> Wright, Robert (1914-2005), and George "Chet" Forrest (1915-1999)

Composers and lyricists Robert Wright and George "Chet" Forrest, partners in life and art, specialized in adapting themes from classical music into engaging tunes for movie scores and stage musicals.

arts >> Zadan, Craig (b. 1949), and Neil Meron (b. 1955)

Prolific film, television, and stage producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron have created a diverse body of work, including a number of theatrical films and television features with glbtq themes.


    Bibliography
   

Clum, John M. Something for the Boys: Musical Theater and Gay Culture. New York: St. Martin's 1999.

_____. Still Acting Gay: Male Homosexuality and Modern Drama. New York: Palgrave, 2000.

Giltz, Michael. "Confessions of Chicago's Gay Mafia." www.advocate.com/html/stories/879/879_chicago.asp.

Koestenbaum, Wayne. The Queen's Throat: Opera, Homosexuality, and the Mystery of Desire. New York: Poseidon Press, 1993.

Miller, D. A. Place for Us: Essay on the Broadway Musical. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1998.

Mordden, Ethan. Beautiful Mornin': The Broadway Musical in the 1940s. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

_____. Broadway Babies: The People Who Made the Broadway Musical. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

_____. Coming up Roses: The Broadway Musical in the 1950s. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

_____. Make Believe: The Broadway Musical in the 1920s. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

_____. Open a New Window: The Broadway Musical in the 1960s. New York: Palgrave, 2001.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Clum, John M.  
    Entry Title: Musical Theater and Film  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated July 9, 2007  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/arts/music_zal_theater_film.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
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Chicago, IL   60607
 
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    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  
 

 

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