GAY FILM REVIEWS BY MICHAEL D. KLEMM
The Big Gay Musical
Unrated, 90 minutes
Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Eden
Musicals, generally, come in two flavors. Most feature characters who break out into fabulous song and dance numbers in the middle of a scene. Others, like Bob Fosse's 1971 film version of Cabaret, take place at the theatre or in a dancehall and the musical numbers are confined to the stage. The Big Gay Musical, co-directed by Casper Andreas (Slutty Summer, A Four Letter Word) and Fred M. Caruso, falls into the latter category.
|The Big Gay Musical (2009) is a fun, and heartfelt, confection about Paul and Eddie, two young gay men who are starring in a new Off-Broadway musical, Adam and Steve: Just the Way God Made 'Em. Paul (Daniel Robinson) has just been dumped by his boyfriend. He listens to advice from the "professional sluts" he shares the dressing room with and throws himself into the dating scene. His co-star in the show, Eddie (Joey Dudding), is a virgin who has just come out. His parents are Southern Baptists who wouldn't let him read Harry Potter and they have no idea that their son is gay. Paul, who befriends Eddie, strongly suggests that he tell his parents before they come to opening night and wind up having to be carried out of the theater on stretchers. Their lives mirror the characters they play on stage and this anchors Caruso's clever and well crafted script.|
|I'm going to be honest. When the film began with columnist Michael Musto running out of a bad show (The Small Straight Play) screaming "I need a big gay musical!" - and this was followed by a very campy chorus line of tap dancing angels wearing wings and not much else - I feared that I was about to sit through another Naked Boys Singing. Thankfully this is not the case and I loved this movie. It's a comedy, it's a drama, and it's filled with beefcake and over-the-top showtunes.|
The play itself mines territory already explored by Paul Rudnick's The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told but the material is given a new twist. When a very gay God (Trick's Steve Hayes) expels Adam and Eve from Eden, He creates Adam and Steve to live in the garden instead. Adam and Eve harbor a huge grudge against their fabulous replacements that soon turns into hate. Then they wonder if their children will be "like us or like them?" Thinking that the boys are trying to recruit their children, they teach their son Cain that the gays are evil. Cain kills Abel because he was singing a showtune. Eve writes The Breeder's Informational Book of Living Examples (or The Bible for short) so that future generations will remember to hate the gays as much as they do. "Five thousand years from now," she sings, "No one will know who wrote it."
|Its second half is set in modern times as two sanctimonious televangelists deal with their gay son, Steven, by establishing the Foundation Against Gayness Society, or F.A.G.S. for short. They recruited "a wonderful reformed homosexual to run it....he used to be a corographer [sic] on Broadway before he found Jesus." At the ex-gay camp, Steven falls in love with Adam. The play ends with the ultimate deus ex machina when God, Himself, reappears to set things right by informing the fundamentalists that the Bible isn't His book. "What do you think I faxed it down here?" He asks, sarcastically. "It was written by man, it was interpreted by man, it was abused by man. I never told people to hurt and kill; I told them to love."|
|The show is hardly West Side Story, but it's good campy fun. Some of it is a little too over the top but the staging features many good voices and a lot of precise and sexy choreography. A duet between the two leads becomes a ballet. When God gives Adam and Steve special presents - art, fashion, creativity and music - Eve's lament sounds like Ethel Merman singing Man of La Mancha. At the ex-gay camp, the men wear pink T-shirts that say "I'm Going To Go Straight... To Heaven" and their Fosse-esque production number doesn't forget to include the classic bowler hat. Much of this is very funny, like when Cain promises Eve that he will never sing a showtune and then, of course, breaks into song.|
|The bulk of the film, however, takes place away from the footlights. Paul and Eddie are likable guys whose stories are both amusing and touching. "Showtunes and booze, that's what keep me happy," Paul tells the chorus boys backstage, but he's also looking for love. He is devastated when his boyfriend stops returning his calls because someone told him that he is HIV positive (he's not). Since love is out of the picture, Paul decides to have some fun. "I never realized being a slut was so hard," he says when he posts a Manhunt profile and one of his co-stars screams, "Sweetheart, you never use your head shot!"|
|Paul spends a lot of time at a bar's open mic night called "Mostly Sondheim" and two of the songs he sings there are beautifully intercut with narrative scenes about him, and about Eddie. I've written before that director Andreas is a master at the musical montage. His earlier Slutty Summer and A Four Letter Word feature musical interludes that actually further the plot and define character instead of just showing lovers rolling in the grass or riding a carousel. There is also a great soundless scene in a gym where Paul bops to his headphones between sets. He's cute, he's built, he's a nice guy and there's nothing not to like about him. Amidst several disastrous trysts, Paul meets a sweet young man who waits for him at the backstage door and later sings a song to him from the piano on "Mostly Sondheim's" stage.|
|He also becomes best friends with his co-star, Eddie, who has suddenly come out of the closet with a vengeance. In time-honored musical theatre tradition, we expect Paul and Eddie to fall in love. But, for a time, we're left wondering if Paul is going to finally wind up with Eddie or with the piano guy. Either way would satisfy. Eddie also receives dating advice from the chorus boys. He goes out with them, gets drunk, and then goes home with a go-go dancer. Paul runs after him to make sure that he knows what he his doing. He doesn't. Eddie loses his virginity and has unsafe sex to boot. Paul, who was seen opening a condom in an early sex scene, hears this and begs Eddie never to have unsafe sex again.|
|There was something about this scene that really worked for me and I was glad that they included it for all the young victims out there of the George Bush abstinence-only sex education program. The scene isn't preachy; it just shows Paul's concern for his friend in a very realistic manner. First he's laughing and saying "I don't believe it, you bottomed for a bottom." Then he asks, "You were safe, right?" The scene works, and the humor is one of the reasons why. Before it becomes maudlin, or worse: an Afterschool Special, Eddie changes the subject and asks what to do about his parents. "Well whatever you do," Paul answers, "Don't tell them a bottom banged you bareback." Later, Eddie meets a Mormon and asks if that's worse than a Southern Baptist.|
|The Big Gay Musical is a nicely written film. It is well acted, it is well filmed. The editing between the main plot and the stage show is superb and the directors know just when to cut from one to the other. So we don't forget that we are watching the previews of an Off-Broadway play, we often see the tops of the first row's heads and we always hear the audience's laughter and applause. The performers are all veterans of the Broadway stage. Robinson (Paul/Adam) was in Hairspray, and Dudding (Eddie/Steve) did Gypsy, A Chorus Line and La Cage Aux Folles. Others appeared in Chicago, Wicked and South Pacific. Andreas directed the narrative sections and Caruso the scenes on stage.|
Like most musicals, you get a happy ending but I'm not giving it away. The Big Gay Musical is fun, it is sexy, there is drama and there is comedy tonight. Mix in some irreverent showtunes and it's Jerome Robbins meets Charles Busch and Christopher Durang. Funny things happen on the way to Eden. Pat Roberston and Fred Phelps will hate The Big Gay Musical, but it's the perfect romantic date movie.
Hayes also appears in: