The Queerty Interview

WATCH: Armistead Maupin and Jake Shears Queen Out Over Tales of the City Musical

Armistead Maupin and Jake Shears sat down with Queerty to talk about why gays love musical theatre, which song from the new Tales of the City musical made Armistead tear up, and what it takes to make Jake’s heart race.

Plus, we got our hands on exclusive footage from the musical, premiering tonight and running until July 24 (EXTENDED!) in San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theatre.

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  • Ginasf

    I saw Tales of the City last Sunday (and brought my 14-year old musical-loving daughter). It’s good… still needs quite a bit of work, but there is much to like. The show mostly uses material from the first book (albeit greatly reduces Brian’s and Dee Dee’s story thread and slightly minimizes the sections with Norman). It does include Mother Mucca and some of the material from the sequel when Mona goes to the whorehouse.

    The best performers were Mona and Michael… both perfect in their roles, along with the woman playing Mother Mucca. Judy Kaye is Anna and, of course, is an incredible singer. I thought she wasn’t quite boho enough and a little too, for want of a better word, jolly and generic… not quite mysterious enough. The Mary Ann is an excellent singer, but I didn’t find her quite charming enough (and I though she seemed a bit old for the role). Dee Dee was excellent but they pretty much introduce her pregnancy thread only to drop it later on. Their Beauchamp wasn’t bad but just couldn’t compete with Thomas Gibson in the TV version… either in looks or smarm… he also kind of fades out in the second half. Michael’s lover, the OBGYN, is played by an African-American actor. Not a problem except that I didn’t think he seemed like he had a pole up the behind and uber closeted, which is kind of the core of the character. If I had my druthers, the guy who plays Norman, believe it or not, should have played Brian… he doesn’t work as Norman and isn’t nearly nerdy or odd enough. The ensemble is completely great… they play multiple parts and do it brilliantly.

    The music… well, it’s not bad. 3 or 4 real standouts (loved Michael’s song/letter to his mother *sob* and the song “Mary Ann”) but there were 5-6 songs I absolutely would have cut. Also, there were a few plot situations where I thought… they really needed a number here instead of some of the filler they had in other places (they were missing a duet for Edgar and Anna and one for Anna and Mona). TOTC is a lot of fun, still too long, needs a little shaping and some good pruning and slight re-working if it’s going to make it to Broadway. It has the core of a hit but there’s a still a lot of work to do.

  • ggreen

    In the clips the songs are great but the singers voices are a bit thin.

  • FortisEtLiber

    I couldn’t care less about this trite little piece of 70’s navel-gazing. I’m much more interested in what it would take to get Jake Shears to sit on my face.

  • jimstoic

    @Ginasf: I saw it Sunday (5/29 at 8:00) as well, and agree with most of what you said. I differ in my opinion of the performance by the guy who played Michael. He was physically right, but his voice was weak. I would shorten the play, if at all, by removing the Mother Mucca storyline. Her song was fantastic, but the plot could survive without it.

  • Jeffree

    We have some very talented theater critics here (Ginasf & jimstoic). I hope to read more reviews from you. ¡Gracias!

    And I hope the show will travel so that us no-coasters can see it too.

  • divkid

    i’m still much too invested in original cast from the mini-series — so much so that the second instalment was destroyed for me when they changed key actors including mouse (grrrr! ). so i find it hard to imagine anyone else in these roles; and i’m probably incapable of objectivity, but damn it, some of them just don’t look right.

    mona looks like my mona; but anna madrigal? if i recall correctly she’s described as angular. and that actress, bless her, is not that.

    this mouse kinda looks like the second series replacement mouse — who i never bought in that role, not being a patch on the original — so i’m not favourably disposed.

    as for the uptight doctor boyfriend being played by a black actor, is that just a bit of admirable colour-blind casting, or a way to redress the “whiteness” of the original books? if it’s the later i’m not sure that the characterisation wouldn’t suffer in the process: either you risk awkwardly shoe horning in the racial politics of a mixed relationship in the 70’s, or you don’t address it at all. either way you risk not doing the issue justice. it seems an unnecessary complication. besides, themes of racism could be more properly tackled through the dorethea storyline. or write new characters.

    that being said a musical version is a whole different entity deserving to be judged on it’s own merits. for people coming to these stories for the first time i guess this will be *their* mouse or mona or madrigal. ultimately what matters is that these tales keep getting told.

  • ewe

    This reminds me of Bette Midlers opening act i saw years ago where she came out on stage and said ” Ah san francisco. A million people. A thousand stories.”

  • Ginasf

    @jimstoic: Jim, I totally agree with you about the Mother Mucca thread… it makes the show too long. The problem… currently, is that part of the show works way better than some of the other parts and it adds a lot of energy to the second half. By all rights it should be cut but then they really have to make some of the other threads work better than they currently are.

    I still liked the Michael. Agree that the one from the first miniseries is the best… but I think this one still works. Michael is sweet and unassuming… he doesn’t really need a belting voice. I cared about Michael in this version more than cared about any of the other characters, which makes me think the actor was doing something right. Some of the other performers are too Broadway plastic slick, whereas I thought he brought an intimacy and reality to the role. And the more I think about Judy Kaye, as wonderful a performer and excellent a singer as she is, I’m convinced she’s really not right for Anna.

  • jrdubz

    ahhh I LOVE tales of the city. Haven’t read the books but I’ve been able to watch the series on Hulu. amazing

  • Cam

    Thanks for all the reviews! I’m just glad that we have some gay plays there. Hopefully this one will travel, get some nips and tucks where needed and end up running in some other large cities!

    I can’t wait for the fight a few years from now because some local college wants to do a performance and their dean won’t let them.

  • CG

    Does everything have to be turned into a musical? Sweet Jesus why?

  • Cam


    That was a wonderful sentance, we should turn that into a musical!

  • divkid

    @Cam: my god, your right! let’s put on a show! right here and now!
    people i wanna see some tits and ass. c’mon cam baby lets bob fossey it up.

  • declanto

    @divkid: Shades of Mickey Rooney!

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