Here’s my selection, in no particular order, of the gayest things to happen in theater during 2012.
Cheyenne Jackson’s body
The most buzzed about theatrical moment of the fall was the first ten minutes of the Broadway bomb The Performers: Gay audiences flocked to the porn-themed play to see Cheyenne Jackson nearly naked. But even his finely sculpted body couldn’t save this misbegotten venture, which closed four days after opening.
Another camp bomb, but one that exploded: Despite mixed reviews, the off-Broadway revival of 1988′s mega-flop Carrie attracted a new audience. It may not be the perfect musical, but the gripping tale of sweet revenge against high-school bullying and overbearing mothers must resonate with LGBT theatergoers: Carrie and her mom’s power duet, “And Eve Was Weak,” is now a mainstay at New York’s more colorful piano bars.
Yes, Santa, There is a Virginia Woolf!
Martha may enter shouting, “What a dump!,” but the excellent Broadway revival of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is one of the sharpest stagings of the year. Out playwright Edward Albee’s descent into extreme marital discord is full of cutthroat bitchiness, but leads Tracey Letts and Amy Morton brought out the softer side of the stage’s most dysfunctional couple—with stunning results.
Bring It On’s La Cienega
Sassy trans high-schooler La Cienega may have been played for giggles in this musical based on the hit cheerleader flick, but as portrayed by Gregory Haney, she had enough defiant dignity to make mainstream audiences laugh with, not at, her. Plus, La Cienega broke boundaries as the Broadway musical’s first trans character. As she would say, “Werq!”
Forbidden Broadway rises again
Fans rejoiced over the welcome return of Forbidden Broadway, Gerard Alessandrini’s whip-smart send-up of the Great White Way. Most contemporary musicals mistake broad cartooniness for wit, but Forbidden‘s creator and cast teach a master class in affectionate satire.
The biggest gay-themed musical off-Broadway this year was the revival of bare, a pop musical about two boys falling in love at a Catholic high school. The show has gained a steady following since its 2000 premiere, though the current version at New World Stages has played to mixed reviews, with critics claiming its themes were dated and derivative of more acclaimed works.
No mystery about Edwin Drood
Roundabout Theater’s wondrous revival of The Mystery of Edwin Drood is a big, splashy musical presented in grand Broadway style—the kind that makes theater gays fall in love with song-and-dance shows all over again. The fact that leading lady Stephanie J. Block gets in boy drag for the show is just icing on the cake.
The Rebecca scandal
For gays who love gossip, the ne’er-to-be Broadway musical Rebecca offered a treasure trove in ’12: More exciting than the overblown power ballads the show offered was its quick demise, prompted by the sudden death of a major backer no one could ever prove really ever existed. Now that would make a good plot for a Broadway show!
Heather Headley in The Bodyguard
Over in London, gay icon Whitney Houston is being remembered with a jukebox-musical version of The Bodyguard. Although critics were unkind to the production, two-time Tony winner Heather Headley is wowing audiences with her versions of Whitney’s classic pop hits. When Headley brings her fierce self over to New York, theater queens will have a whole new diva to worship. About time, too!
Neil Patrick Harris. Period.
Out renaissance man Neil Patrick Harris continued to get our love with his brilliant turn hosting this year’s Tony Awards. He didn’t stop there, going on to direct an unusual magic show in L.A. and starring in a saucy web series opposite puppets. Look at that face—it deserves a Tony just for existing.
What were your theatrical thrills for 2012? Share in the comments section below.