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Theater & Dance

Butch Lesbian With a Closeted Dad—In a Musical?

Butch Lesbian With a Closeted Dad—In a Musical?


Also: Eminem’s gay cameo in The Interview & Lorna Luft cries over Barry Manilow

Pictured Lisa Kron | Photo by JUCO

Last year, you couldn't turn on an electronic device, grab a remote control, or pick up a phone without having someone yell, "Have you seen Fun Home yet?" If you dared to leave the house to escape this relentlessness, you'd be greeted on your doorstep by lunatics screaming the very same thing. And I have to admit: I didn't see it! I never got a press invite to the Public Theater production, but I had a deep-seated suspicion that I would nab one when it came to Broadway, which seemed as inevitable a move as Beyonce's solo career. And sure enough, it's landing there in April (previews begin March 27), still wafting from all the giddy buzz it's accumulated since 2013. So stop the screeching! I'm going!

I even went to a promotional event for the show the other day at Joe's Pub. There, we were reminded that Fun Home is based on the 2006 graphic memoir by Alison Bechdel, the wryly insightful author of the comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For. In the show, "Fun Home" is an ironic name for the small-town funeral home Dad runs, as well as the domestic situation he presides over with a tyrant's tongue and an aesthete's touch. He was a closeted gay, and though Bechdel goes through her own sexual dramas in the show as she comes to terms with her emerging lesbianism, Daddy heads toward a suicidal doom while she flowers as a cartoonist and human.

At the event--which was moderated by out Tony winner Cherry Jones, a rabid supporter of the show--Bechdel talked about what drew her to write about her early life in the first place. "I felt an increasingly insistent need to tell this story," she said, "partly to honor the full complexity of who my father was, but also, it was such a vivid example of the imprint of homophobia in real life on an actual family. He lived with this tremendous pressure of shame and secrecy, which took a great toll, not just on him, but on our family."

Bechdel said her father grew up unable to be open about his desires, whereas she came of age at a different time, when gay was way more OK. The show's book writer, Lisa Kron (one of the Five Lesbian Brothers theater group and the author of Well), chimed in: "The family is living a lie they're not aware of, and they're heading toward a tragedy they can't begin to imagine."

And that's the basis of a musical? Composer Jeanine Tesori (Violet , Caroline, or Change) said she initially couldn't fathom how you could pull that off, which is exactly why she wanted to work on the show. And now, Tesori said, "I have a feeling if I didn't write another thing, it will be enough. Here I am, announcing my own retirement!" she added, laughing.

The presentation climaxed with a musical sample that brought us into the show's most profound personal evolution. Eleven-year-old Sydney Lucas--who plays Bechdel at a young age--performed "Ring of Keys," in which the character is thunderstruck by the sight of an unapologetic, butchly dressed woman who she finds strong and "handsome." The song is sincere, stammering, poignant, and clearly life-altering for little Alison, and Lucas acts the living daylights out of it. Cherry asked Lucas if she got great responses from grownups over her performance last year. She replied that the cast of Smash told her she was great, but she couldn't think of any other particular instances on the spot. "It was so long ago," she exclaimed as us older folk cracked up.


Inevitably, I now take you to my own "fun home"--the local cineplex--for some alternately disturbing and delightful nuggets. The yanking of the comedy film The Interview over hacking crimes and violent threats constitutes a sad moment when free expression was victimized by utter terror. The only possible upside is that the studio can now avoid a barrage of inevitable Golden Razzie nominations. What's more, the film includes an Eminem cameo, the rapper explaining on the lead characters' tabloid TV show that he's actually gay and all the homophobic lyrics he's perpetrated over time were just a smokescreen. Ha ha ha. It's so adorable to turn years of virulent verbal gay bashing into a cute joke, no? Still, banning entertainment is definitely not the way to go. Whatever happened to the old-fashioned form of protest--just yelling "boo"?

But movie studios should definitely ban daft audience members. At a Q&A for Birdman that I went to a while ago, a nutty woman in the crowd mentioned Michael Keaton's nose transformation in the film, after which she bizarrely asked costar Naomi Watts how she felt wearing a fake nose for the camera. Awkward! Watts replied that it's her actual shnozz up there, then she laughingly added: "And that was one of the few things I don't have a complex about!"

Theater and cinema come together inLife of an Actress: The Musical, Paul Chau's new movie about the loves and dreams of three singing waitresses. At the premiere, I asked Tony nominee Orfeh--who's wonderfully warm and sassy as the most seasoned of the three--if she ever fantasized beating up a sleazily lecherous casting director, as she does in the film. My ears are still ringing from her response: "ABSOLUTELY!"


At 54 Below last week, show biz icon Lorna Luft proved once again that she's a casting director's dream. For one thing, she did a medley of great songs that were never nominated for an Oscar, culminating with "New York, New York." "Not even nominated," cracked Lorna, "But this relative of mine keeps singing it anyway!"

Her own show was a snazzy, brash, and vivid salute to lyricists, but Lorna naturally embraces the melodies too; she's one of the great old-style belters. And she's funny! Looking around the room, she noted, "I'd love to tell you I've never been in the basement of Studio 54. I'd love to tell you I didn't spend days down here." Pause. "They told me I had a good time."

So did we as she launched into a medley of songs from On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, which she said was always a weird show, and the gay-scented revival made it even weirder. "I went opening night and the whole audience looked like a sea of RCA dogs," said Lorna. "They didn't know what was going on--and neither did I!"

But don't fret. Lorna actually loves the gays. Mid-show, she paused to sobbingly announce that her best friend in the whole world was sitting in the audience: BarryManilow. So I guess Barry's a friend of Dorothy--or at least her daughter, lol.

Also in the crowd, Broadway's Lee Roy Reams (42nd Street, Hello, Dolly!) and partner Bob Donahoe told me they've made it legal and got married after 45 years. And that officially makes me the only single theater queen left on earth.

Hedda-lettuce-by-manu-rodriguezJINGLE BALLS, JINGLE BALLS...

The legendary disco came up again last week when drag star Hedda Lettuce told her Metropolitan Room audience that she has A.D.D. and is jealous of the newer generations. "Now they give kids Ritalin," noted Hedda, awash in green hues. "Speed! Third grade would have been like Studio 54 for me. I would have gone to school on a white horse like Bianca Jagger!"

This was all sardonic, of course, Hedda's specialty is biting, bracing, witty stuff, interspersed with creamy singing of revamped classics. She's the undisputed grand dame of drag comedy. And in this show--Hedda Lettuce: Lettuce Rejoice--she helped usher in the dreaded holidays with some unrepentantly filthy cheer. She sang "Hedda, the Big-Boned Drag Queen," plus a song about Bill Cosby's unconventional ways, a number about granny getting Ebola, and "Phylicia Rashad" (to the tune of "Feliz Navidad"). Perhaps most touching of all was her monologue about how Visine should put out a product to help those who've gotten cum in their eyes. ("Then I'd be able to keep my eyes open during sex. Without a Visine product, you end up looking like a troll who lives under a rock. You look like Susan Boyle going for the high note. And if you close your eyes when they cum on you, you feel like a bird shit on your eyelid.") Gaymazing. I'd found my fun home. And with that, let me wish you all an extremely Phylicia Rashad.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff and Wayne Brady

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