Great Weird Way

A Queerty YouTube Anthology of Bizarre Broadway

nycbroadway Once upon a time, Broadway was the exclusive domain of nice blue-haired ladies from the Upper East Side and gays who needed something to do after a hard-day of gentrifying the crappy neighborhoods they lived in. Brought together by a shared love of jazz hands, the biddies and the bohos had the Great White Way to themselves until somewhere along the line, producers decided to reach out to a wide audience (read: New Jersey). Today, you can find the Fabulous Invalid on television in film– and of course YouTube, where the Internet goes to get weird. Curtain up!
You have to wonder what sort of mind looks at their copy of The Sims 2 and says, “Finally! A way to stage my virtual production The Little Shop of Horrors!” Freed from the constraints and demands of whiny meat puppets, our would-be auteur demonstrates the future of Broadway, where audiences will thrill to holographic actors performing revivals of sure-fire hits, or perhaps a musical based on the music of The Backstreet Boys. Go ahead and steal that idea. We will sue.
You can tell the kids at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School really, really loved their production of ABBA’s bizarre 80s Cold War sociopolitical musical Chess, because they created a slide show of all their treasured memories. Then again, they set it to “Seasons of Love” from Rent, which of course, is the show they pretended they were actually in.
We could do a whole post of embarrassing Rent renditions, but Derek & Diego’s take on the lesbian power ballad “Take Me Or Leave Me” condenses everything’s that’s great/awful about these videos into perfection. Check out how Derek reflexively grabs his air mic whenever Diego invades his personal space. You could cut the subtext with a knife!
Flush with the success of Rent, The New York Theater Workshop thought it could get lightning to strike twice with this musical adaptation of Jay McInerney’s coke-splattered roman-a-clef Bright Lights, Big City. Strangely, audiences didn’t fall for 10-minute long numbers extolling the virtues of Bolivian Marching Powder that naturally segues to a chorus of “I wanna have sex tonight!” Go figure. (NB: Your editor was an intern at NYTW when this show was first produced and it was his solemn task to keep the show’s creator, Paul Scott Goodman, flush with whiskey, throughout their annual benefit. The other interns were so jealous.)
Poor Ben seemingly slept through most of Dr. Villa’s Chem 153A at UCLA, but fortunately for us (and him), Dr. Villa offered the kind of extra credit we would give were we not barred by court order from setting foot on any college campus. Namely, she makes the monkeys dance for her benefit and Ben brilliantly delivers, with a version of Wicked‘s “Popular” that explains covalent bonds or something. Had we not gone to a fine arts school we might be able to understand what the hell he’s singing about, but hey, if you ever want to know what Being There, Anna Deavere Smith, and Marshall McLuhan have in common, we’re your guys.
While not an exclusive YouTube oddity, this music video of Björn Skifs singing “The Arbiter” from Chess is wrong in all the most delightful ways. To begin with, it’s a story song, not exactly the best choice for a Top 40 hit, ABBA sounds or not. Add to it a music video that combines the aesthetics of Tron and a Vidal Sassoon commercial and you get and 80s catastrophe that probably in the background while a younger Jay McInerney cut lines on his coffee table.

An honest-to-goodness-operetta The Beastly Bombing may already be a little dated considering it’s mostly about Bush and terrorism, but “Our Savior” the pas de deux between 43 and a lithe Jesus (played by local L.A. celebrity John Quale aka Prince Poppycock) who calls on Dubya to embrace His love is timeless.

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5 Comments*

  • Sampson

    Wow, Chess is my favourite musical bar none. Not the horribly messed up Broadway version, but the original concept album. I spent far too many hours miming the songs.

  • gurlene

    I am so greatful for youtube.com. Not only can one find interesting show clips like the one featured on this weeks post with the nude Swedish guys with the cute butts but also stars that have long since past but come to mind from time to time.

    Unfortunately for the younger generation the only place to see Ms. Pearl Bailey doing Hello Dolly is on youtube. Why the all black version of Hello Dolly is not available on DVD is a mystery but that is one dvd I would buy.

    On easter sunday I saw how The Easter Parade (Judy Garland, Fred Astaire) was no longer a traditional showing TCM or AMC (unless it came on in the wee hours of the morning). It was no where to be found but be that as it may I looked to youtube and not only found many of the great number that were in that movie but some creative person had spliced a lot of them into a ten minute clip that I enjoyed over and over.

    Thank you, whoever you are that created youtube.com.

  • Adam

    Thank you for sharing the LSOH and Chess/Rent vids were amazingly awful… I love it!

    This has to be my all time favorite Bizzare Broadway vid though… These poor boys singing Defying Gravity.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COotQLx4Amo

  • rick

    chess is my favorite musical. and the swedish version in english from which one of the clips is taken from “the arbiter” is the best of the best.

  • deskenemy

    @gurlene:
    I love that we can find gems like Pearl Bailey as Dolly. It was the first Broadway show I ever saw as a 16 year old fairy-in- training, spring of ’68. It’s a trip I’ll never forget, my first to NYC

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