Drama Club

THEATER: Larry Kramer Bitchslaps Babs; Magic Mike Broadway Bound; Exorcist Live On Stage!

Theater Queens, welcome to Queerty’s new weekly column on all that’s happening in the très gay world of Drama with a Capital D. Every Thursday, it’s curtain up, light the lights on the wild week of Broadway and beyond.

Gay icon and much mimicked hair-fixer, Cher, is writing a Broadway bound musical autobiography spanning from her Sonny and Cher years right up to this very second. Naturally, it’ll incorporate the ditties that have dotted her life. (If she could turn back time, do you believe she’ll sing “I’ve Got You, Babe” with Broadway’s gypsies, tramps and thieves?) The stage version will have three actresses playing Cher: in her Sonny years, her “Believe” years, and Cher now. In the conceit, her three selves chat with each other. Perhaps she’ll make up a Little Shop-style girl group! One suggestion, Cher darling: play yourself. Sales will hit the roof! [Playbill]

Speaking of gay divas, marvelously crotchety activist and playwright Larry Kramer has never been one to mince words when his feathers get ruffled. Not even Barbra Streisand gets spared. Babs optioned the film rights to Kramer’s AIDS-era masterwork, the play “The Normal Heart,” back in 1986, but she sat on it for years. The play won the 2011 Tony for Best Revival, and will now be made into a star-studded film by Glee creator Ryan Murphy. When the play recently opened in Washington D.C. to raves, and Kramer informed Babs about it, she sent Kramer an email saying, “Why make me sad that I’m not directing your wonderful play??” Kramer’s response to her is F-I-E-R-C-E. Excerpts:

Dear Barbra . . . My fellow warrior against good and evil, all those many years you could have directed it — what happened to all that time? When your options lapsed, I said you could buy it for a million dollars and do whatever you wanted with it . . . You kept telling me I wanted too much money. I kept telling you this is my only asset to sell and live on for the rest of my life. (AIDS activists don’t make much money.) You couldn’t tell me what you didn’t like about my screenplays. (God knows I wrote enough drafts for you.)

“Ryan has wonderful ideas that jell and enhance my work. You said you couldn’t get financing. He has his financing. He said if he couldn’t get it, he’d finance it himself. (You chose to remodel and redecorate your houses.) This is a man whose driving passion to make this movie is extraordinary.

“I guess it wasn’t meant to be. You had other movies and tours to make first. I sat back with increasing sadness as I watched you (often at the last minute) choose something else to do . . . This is not a person with quite the same burning passion to make it as you always claim…

Wow. Gotta love a queen willing to rip Babs a new one. [New York Post]

Male Showgirls flick Magic Mike opens in theaters today. The celluloid hasn’t even cooled, and word’s out than a Broadway musical version is in the works. Doesn’t that more or less already exist in Broadway Bares? “We are working on it as a Broadway show, which would be a different story, more of a romp, more of a fun night out at a club with a story,” says Reid Carolin, who wrote the screenplay and is working on the stage version. “I’m almost more excited about that than the movie because I think it’s the perfect thing for women to go see on Broadway, to be participants in the show.” Uhhhhh…does Carolin have any concept that it’s the gay men who’ll be lining up in droves? The squealing mobs of bachlorettes come later to ruin the fun. [THR]

In related news, Magic Mike star Alex Pettyfer claims he’d “absolutely” strip before a live audience in the Broadway version. (We’re waiting breathlessly at the theater doors now.) “I think we should all do the opening night,” he said about his co-stars Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey, Joe Manganiello and Matt Bomer. The man must have no idea how theater works if he’s gonna go through rehearsals just for opening night, then leave the real cast to perform. If this group of Grade-A Hollywood beefcake did strip on the Gay White Way (in your dreams), we wonder if they’d go, er, the Full Monty. [THR]

Theatrical powerhouse Nathan Lane is slated to come back to Broadway next year in sassy playwright Douglas Carter Beane’s newest piece, The Nance. The play revolves around a long forgotten, but hugely popular burlesque staple from the ’20s and ’30s, the wildly effeminate homosexual male called the nancy boy. Directed by Jack O’Brien (Hairspray) and presented by Lincoln Center Theater, the play already feels like a perfect match for Lane’s unrivaled comedic gifts, along with being a fascinating frolic through a never-discussed chapter in gay history. [NYTimes]

The Exorcist? Live on Stage? It’s happening at The Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles, with performances starting July 3. The theatrical retelling of an adolescent girl possessed by a demon will star Brooke Shields as her beleaguered mother and legendary Richard Chamberlain as the priest who arrives armed with holy water and prayer. Mercifully, the stage version is not trying to recreate the film–don’t expect magic tricks with spinning heads and flying green vomit. Playwright John Pielmeier (Agnes of God) is aiming to tackle greater themes of crisis of faith. We’ll have to see what director John Doyle (who led the recent Broadway revivals of Sweeney Todd and Company) does with it. Doyle is best known for his gimmick of actors playing their own musical instruments. He’s up to similar theatrical tricks here, casting an adult actor (why??) to play the possessed young girl. But will it be scary?!

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  • Henry Holland

    Good cast so far for the movie version of The Normal Heart. Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons, Mark Ruffalo, Alec Baldwin and Julia Roberts are the only ones listed on IMDb so far. It’s set to be released in 2014.

  • Daez

    @Henry Holland: Just what the gay community needs at this point in time, another AIDS film. YEAH! This stopped being a gay disease around 20 years ago, and I think the time has passed that we need to present it as a gay disease.

  • The Real Mike in Asheville


    “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

    AIDS is the sad device for telling the story of the fight, of the survival, and of the community built; as the title itself explains, gay hearts are normal hearts. As more and more, and finally now the clear majority, “average Americans” accept the civil rights for gays and lesbians to pursue our happiness, is due to the voices of those who tell our story.

    While Larry has become, in my opinion, too much the curmudgeon, his story is moving and telling, more full of life than death.

  • Spike

    “Male Showgirls flick Magic Mike opens in theaters today.”

    Hmm, sounds familiar, who was it that was saying that Magic Mike would be a gay Showgirls in the early comments when Queerty first started hyping Magic Mike? Who was it, it sounds so damn familiar, could it have been ME?!!?

  • Alexa

    A weekly theater column? Great idea.

    It will be good to see Nathan Lane back on Broadway in something he sounds perfect for. He was woefully miscast in The Addams Family.

  • Some Random Guy

    That’s actually pretty mild for Larry Kramer. When you said “bitchslap” in the headline, I was almost expecting he had called her a “murderer”!

  • Making up stuff is fun!

    Hopefully one day they’ll do a movie version of The Destiny of Me. I know stories about depressed gays have fallen out of fashion, but man did I love that play when I was in high school.

  • Steven Housman

    Statement issued by Barbra Streisand

    Correcting Larry Kramer – The Truth About Our Effort To Make The Normal Heart –

    JUNE 28, 2012, 3:51 pm
    Larry Kramer does not need me to publicize his beautiful play. It stands on its own. For the last time – I will answer his complaints, which rewrite history.

    When I saw the play in 1985 I was very moved and immediately contacted Larry to acquire the rights. After going through several drafts with Larry, I hired another writer to develop a screenplay that was faithful to Larry’s play — but adapting it to make it more cinematic. It was finished in 1995. Ralph Fiennes and Kenneth Branagh were interested in doing the version that I oversaw.

    I tried very hard to get it made, but when it became clear that we couldn’t raise the money to do it as a film due to the controversial nature of the material, I thought, all right, we’ll do it on TV. At least it would reach a wide audience. But even HBO would only pay Larry $250,000 for the rights, and he would not let it go forward for anything less than $1,000,000 and no company was willing to move on it.

    After ten years, the rights reverted back to Larry. But even when I had no contractual involvement, I still persisted in pressing to get The Normal Heart made, purely because I believed in the project. As producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron can confirm, I thought that if we could get a great cast together, maybe a studio would finally finance it and we could persuade Larry to let us do it. I offered the part of the doctor to Julia Roberts because I thought she would be terrific. I also asked Mark Ruffalo and Bradley Cooper to be in it, and they said yes to my adaptation of the screenplay. By the way, this is not to say that it wouldn’t have been rewritten again. The work is never done until the movie is released.

    I think it’s unfair to keep blaming me for the movie not getting made. I worked on it for 25 years, without pay. Larry had the rights for the last 15 years and he couldn’t get it made either. Those are the facts, and none of this is news to Larry.

    More recently, he sent me a note before giving the project to another director, asking me again if I wanted to direct it — but only with his screenplay. As a filmmaker, I couldn’t have my hands tied like that. What if I needed changes? Sadly, I turned his offer down and wished him well.

    I will always believe in Larry’s play and its powerful theme about everyone’s right to love.

    © 2012 Barbra Streisand

  • David Ehrenstein

    “Magic Mike” sucks.

    And not in a good way.

  • Making up stuff is fun!

    @David Ehrenstein: You’d think we get something a bit more eloquent from someone who made a career as a film scholar.

    That’s affirmative action for ya.

  • Dave

    Larry Kramer is and always has been a professional complainer. He’s NOT for LGBT rights or even gay male rights-unless of course they’re rich white/Jewish urban gay men like he is.

  • Making up stuff is fun!

    @Dave: Yeah? What have *you* done that compares to Larry Kramer’s efforts?

  • James M. Martin

    Am I wrong? I liked “As Is” more than “The Normal Heart,” and I didn’t think Kramer was that good a writer.

  • Matt

    Larry Kramer hasn’t actually done anything to help LGBT people at all. He’ll start groups and then go batshit crazy when they don’t do exactly what he wants or when they become large organizations. I agree that he’s nothing but a professional complainer and has been since day 1.

  • Timmmeeeyyy

    @Matt and @Dave::
    Starting Gay Men’s Health Crisis and ACT UP can hardly be called doing nothing. While he may not have tact and diplomacy, he certainly has vision, courage and drive. At least give him credit for that. He also started and secured funding for Yale’s LGBT Studies. While Larry Kramer Initiative for Lesbian and Gay Studies is no longer a program, Yale’s LGBT Studies has morphed from the original, still operates and has a 15-member faculty.

    That’s more than most of us Queerty commenters will ever accomplish in our lifetimes.

Comments are closed.