How To Kill The American Musical

I have directed musicals professionally in regional and amateur theater, and the shows were a great love of mine growing up. Sadly, the American musical genre is becoming increasingly isolated from the mainstream culture for many reasons, among them the death of the movie musical, the pop-infection of the music and its singing styles, making most Broadway scores (and all of the women) sound the same, the inflated price of professional theater tickets, and production costs and effects that put most modern shows outside the realm of possibility for high schools and colleges.

Another factor,  which it is impolitic to discuss, is that the male gay community has decided to make musicals its own special genre, has been discouraging any talented straight performers from venturing into the field, sometimes unintentionally, sometimes not.

Emblematic of this trend is the Sirius -XM Broadway Channel, which is the only way any kids are likely to hear an excerpt from a cast recording other than buying the song online. The nearly exclusive host is Seth Rudetsky, a writer/performer of some note and obvious talent. To say that he is openly gay is an understatement. Rudetsky’s delivery, speech patterns and preferred subject matter would have once been criticized as evoking cruel anti-gay stereotypes. He’s an actor; Rudetsky could butch up he chose to, and if he cared about musicals continuing as an art form participated in and enjoyed by the whole society and not just a small segment of it, he would. Continue reading

Gay Stereotype Ethics

I admit it: I no longer understand gay stereotypes, or even if they are gay stereotypes anymore. What are the rules, and the ethics, now?

Take Jamie, the newish character in the Progressive insurance commercials, as longtime spokes-character Flo (Stephanie Courtney) approaches late middle age  and viewer fatigue. Everything about Jamie is stereotypically gay, and on top of that, he’s a silly character. (The actor is excellent and funny. Boy, will I be impressed to learn that he is straight. …let’s see…HOLY COW! His name is Jim Cashman, and apparently he IS straight! Wait…then he is deliberately playing a transparently gay man? And making him both funny and goofy? Silly gay characters were standards fair in Hollywood for decades, but the message was that gay men were ridiculous and laughable.

I don’t see how Jamie is any different from the outrageous gay stereotypes that were ridiculing gay men right up until  recently. Like Martin Short, in “Father of the Bride”: Continue reading