A campy retelling of the Bible mixes with an urban dramedy in ‘Big Gay Musical’
The Big Gay Musical
3.5 our of 5 stars
Magnolia Theater, 3699 McKinney Ave.
Screens Nov. 12 at 7:30 p.m. $10.
Pre-screening mixer at 6 p.m.
"In the beginning, God created the angels — and they were hot!"
So starts The Big Gay Musical, a movie of such unpretentiously infectious frivolity that, if it weren’t worried about confusing its audience, could have just as easily been titled The Importance of Being Earnest.
Yes, there’s plenty of coy nudity (and it’s true: the angels are a flock of pretty boys) … enough that you might be inclined to dismiss the film as what I call a "pizza movie:" flat, with an abundance of sausage and cheese. But there’s also a heart, and a head, amid all the posing and musical numbers.
Big Gay Musical is actually two stories in one. The first has the look of a real off-Broadway musical called Adam & Steve, the kind of subversively campy genre retelling of the Bible that has long kept open-minded theater patrons charmed. The second explores the lives of the actors in the play, especially Adam/Paul (Daniel Robinson), a hopeful but experienced denizen of the gay dating scene, and Steve/Eddie (Joey Dudding), a fresh-faced newcomer still not out to his parents who has still not slept with a man.
When Paul becomes the victim of a prank rumor, he decides to get in touch with his inner slut just as Eddie opens his horizons sexually, but remains tormented by an unsafe encounter and his folks’ impending trip to see him on opening night.
It’s not as Fame-Meets-Longtime-Companion as it sounds. In fact, when the film stays, Cabaret-like, in the theater, watching Adam & Steve play out with song, dance and flashes of flesh, it’s as joyously silly as a Rose Room production from Uptown Players: Likeable, tuneful, refreshingly slick in a guerrilla-theater way.
Even the real-world tale, especially well-acted by the leads, isn’t overloaded with maudlin sentiment. True, themes of AIDS, empowerment in opposition to religious oppression and "it’s hard being gay in the city" form the crux of the plot. There are seductive escorts, callous one-night-stands, bitchy best friends and many, many show tunes. And the prologue, with uber-queeny gossip hound Michael Musto whining for a musical, is the dumbest part of the entire movie.
But sincerity and authenticity win out over familiarity. Director Casper Andreas and co-director/writer Fred M. Caruso create an air that feels more lived-in than clichÃ©.
From an abortive steam-room seduction to frolicsome sex scenes that are alluring without seeming smutty, they keep the style direct and plainspoken (its closest cousin tonally may be 2003’s charming Camp). They leave the outlandishness for Adam & Steve (which has enough good songs I’d be interested in seeing it mounted as a real production). The play also serves as a mirror on the lives of the actors — a well-worn device, perhaps, but one handled capably here.
The Big Gay Musical isn’t as big — and in some ways, as much of a musical — as its name suggests. Its bigness lay in the welcoming embrace of its soft-hearted purr. It may be the ideal date movie for every theater queen who ever imagined his life as a musical. Sing out, Louise!
The Out Takes screening opens with the short Ogles with Goggles, a light-hearted comedy about a drunken one-night stand that seems to have gone wrong. Its gimmick — the dialogue is written in a sing-songy Dr. Seuss patter a la Green Eggs and Ham — is also its curse: There’s a reason Dr. Seuss was a genius who was difficult to imitate, and the lame rhymes here are sometimes wince-inducing. But when nearly half the 8-minute run time features cute guys showing skin, it’s a small price to pay.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 06, 2009.