Hot List: Tales of the City

5.22.2011

By Out.com Editors

Shears: Yeah, my inspiration for writing the songs came straight from the characters. I didn't want to make a period pastiche with the music. Yes, the books are set in the '70s, and there are constant references to things in 1976, but the story has stood the test of time.

Whitty: Yeah, it's not really comparable to anything. The only slim comparison would be Into the Woods with its interweaving story lines, but that show has the advantage that they're well-known fairy tales. When Rapunzel appears onstage you already know her backstory. The challenge has been to introduce an audience member who doesn't know TOTC to these characters and get them onboard for a story this epic.

Shears: How many scenes does the show have?

Whitty: There are 60 locations and 120 scene shifts. There are like 50-odd characters and more than 250 costumes. It's huge.

Shears: What is the gayest moment in the show?

Whitty: You pick yours, but mine is when we go from seeing the real Anita Bryant to an incredibly over-the-top drag version of Anita Bryant singing a disco song at the Jockey shorts competition.

Shears: There's also the song "Homosexual Convalescent Center."

Whitty: Oh, my God! Absolutely! I take that back!

Shears: It's the very snooty upper echelon of the San Francisco gay world singing a song about where they're planning to retire and how they see their future. It's really filthy, too. It's like "Delta Dawn" meets Blueboy magazine. One line in the third verse goes, "My saving grace/ Will be a slower pace/ And a parking space/ On the end of my face."

Whitty: I think that's the moment where the gayness is turned up to an 11 in the show. There's always a steady drumbeat, but that's when the brakes go off, and the car falls over the cliff.

Tales of the City plays May 18'July 10 at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco.

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