A pop-up, interactive Museum of Broadway has been announced to open in Times Square next year, and being the biggest theater queen who ever lived, I know just what exhibits and attractions this place should contain for maximum applause. Brace your drama-queen selves for:
The Worst Drag Queens on Broadway
This terrifying exhibit will showcase the most misbegotten drag ever seen by theatergoers, from Sugar to La Cage aux Folles to Priscilla to Kinky Boots to Tootsie and beyond. Every askew eyelash, hairy Adam’s apple, and untucked bit of business will be showcased, and on leaving, visitors will be asked to sign a petition begging producers to halt the proposed Mrs. Doubtfire musical, for the sake of decency.
Duet With the Merm
This is your chance to sing with [a hologram of] legendary Broadway belter Ethel Merman--on “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better,” of course. And she will indeed do everything better than you. No refunds.
The Turkey Trot Exhibit
“Turkey Lurkey Time” from Promises, Promises will play on constant loop as you view stills and memorabilia from resounding flops like Moose Murders, Carrie, Prymate, Kelly, and Gettin’ the Band Back Together. You will enjoy this exhibit all by your lonesome, but to ease the pain, turkey sandwiches will be served. Cash only.
Audra McDonald has won six Tony awards, impressively spanning all four acting categories. In the course of all that, Audra has thanked a hell of a lot of people. They will all be represented, along with her heartfelt acceptance speeches, in this exhibit, which will take up an entire wing of the museum. And next June, the museum will be ready to pipe in Audra’s seventh Tony speech (for Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune) just on the off chance that she gets the award again.
Restored Gay Classics
This exhibit will contain the original scripts of The Boys in the Band and Torch Song Trilogy (playwright Harvey Fierstein pictured above) before the authors decided to yank out the scissors, zhoosh up the shows, and make more money. On the screens, original versions of Kiss Me, Kate and Oklahoma! will show, but we’re warning you: They’re going to seem very shocking and avant-garde.
Come Up With an Original Idea
You, the consumer, match wits with a monkey sitting on a computer as you both valiantly try to scare up a film that has yet to be musicalized or a recording artist who has not yet been the subject of a jukebox show. If you come up with "Jurassic Park and Kool & the Gang," the monkey-on-a-Dell will win with “Howard the Duck and Stacey Q.” Thank you, next.
Most Unpleasant Audience Member
This attraction will have you forced to go on a small stage and perform scenes from Anything Goes as a paid actor sits there and plays the audience member from hell. While you valiantly attempt to sing, dance, and act, they will answer texts, crunch down on potato chips, cough at the most inopportune moments, loudly sing along, say “WHAT?” and heckle and throw things. For an extra $25, a hologram of Patti LuPone will give them a piece of her mind.
The Chicago Stunt Casting Exhibit
You will thrill all over again to the thousands of exciting if not always qualified stars who have graced the stage of Chicago in order to keep this satire of dazzling deception running forever. Clips and stills will be shown of Brandy Norwood (pictured above), Melanie Griffith, Mel B, Sofia Vergara, Alan Thicke, Robert Urich, Wendy Williams, Usher, and various athletes and boy band singers. As you leave the exhibit, you will learn that YOU will be playing one of the lead roles for six weeks. For scale.
The Sondheim-Withdrawal Exhibit
If 89-year-old legend Stephen Sondheim doesn’t finish his long-simmering Bunuel musical—which is quite possible—we might never have an original Sondheim show again. And you know what that means? Yep, more revivals of the same old Company, Follies, Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods, and on and on into eternity, through good times and bum times. In response to that potential horror, this exhibit will be a Sondheim-revival-free zone, with bare walls, no sound, and no willful destruction of subtext via heavy handed switching of locale, gender, and sexuality. You might complacently start humming “Nothing’s Gonna Harm You” for a few bars, but that will stop the second you re-enter the real world and prepare to see one more Sunday in the Park With George. Set in Yellowstone, with a female George, and crepes served at intermission.
Raise Money for a Premium Seat to Hamilton
You will exit through the gift shop, but you won’t be allowed to actually leave until you buy an $849 obstructed view balcony ticket for the ninth replacement cast of the Pulitzer-winning Hamilton. After refinancing your home and selling your body, you will nab the seat, crying—and then you can scalp it!
And Back to the Worst Musicals...
That “Turkey Trot” exhibit idea has me thinking: What are the worst musicals I’ve ever seen? (And I’ve seen a lot, honey. My legs are atrophying from not standing, except to leave.) Let me start with runners-up, which were roundly hated and truly had some bad elements, but I feel weren’t quite as rotten as everyone thought: The Civil War, The Pirate Queen, Harrigan ‘n Hart, Scandalous, Lestat, Amour, Carrie, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, Dance of the Vampires, and Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public. Congrats, shows! You were only semi stinky!
But here are my top 21 of the trash heap—the ones it would be hard to find anything redeeming about, even if you weren’t a critic.
Amazing Grace (An amazingly bad idea; the life story of the slave trader who wrote the lyrics to “Amazing Grace”. I shit you not.)
Ain't Broadway Grand (Nope)
Bonnie and Clyde (I couldn’t wait for the characters to die violent deaths)
A Broadway Musical (For two weeks)
Brooklyn the Musical (It made me ashamed to be from there)
Chess (I felt rooked)
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Shitty shitty bad bad)
Ghost the Musical (A headache inducing high-tech show with one song I could relate to—“I’m Outta Here”)
Glory Days (Not quite)
Good Vibrations (Bad results)
Grind (That it was)
In My Life (A musical about Tourette’s syndrome written by a serial rapist. Enough said?)
Into the Light (A dreary musical about the shroud of Turin, AKA Jesus Christ Tablecloth)
Late Nite Comic (About as funny as a funeral)
Metro (A musical set in a Polish subway station. I wanted to jump the turnstile and leave.)
The News (Extra! Extra! This show sucked!)
Shogun, the Musical (Exciting songs like “Poetry Competition” and “Death Walk” somehow failed to make this volcano erupt)
A Tale of Two Cities (It was the worst of times)
The Times They Are a Changing (After two months, it was blowin’ in the wind)
Urban Cowboy (A whole lot of mechanical bull)
Wonderland (Belonged way down deep in a rabbit hole)
The Gay Who Squeezed Merv Griffin
If there’s ever a museum for gay comic/actors navigating their way through show biz, Jason Stuart would have to curate it. In his book, Shut Up, I’m Talking! Coming Out In Hollywood and Making It to the Middle, Stuart [known for movies like Kindergarten Cop, TV shows like Swedish Dicks, and specials like Out There] talks about various career milestones that happened when he was as closeted as Velma from Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!
In 1986, he landed on Merv Griffin’s chat show and even squeezed the equally closety host’s arm, but he had been asked to do so. You see, Merv had generously instructed the comic, “If you’re telling a joke, squeeze me, and I’ll know and won’t interrupt you.” (Hmm, I wonder if Merv told that to every male he met!) Merv liked Stuart so much that the comic would have probably become a regular, but the talk show went off the air three months later.
As fate would have it, though, Stuart landed on Star Search (sort of the original American Idol, but with more than just singing), only to lose to future superstar Martin Lawrence. On the announcement of the winner, Stuart stormed off the stage in a faux snit—a shtick which was enjoyed at the time, though when the clip turned up years later on YouTube, people reacted as if he he really was a diva!
Stuart came out on another talk show—Geraldo Rivera’s—in 1993 and even talked sense to a woman in the audience who had a problem with gays. I know the feeling. If I had a nickel for every Geraldo audience member I talked sense to, my mortgage would be paid off.
Two questions for Stuart:
You came out in 1993. Was it impossible to do so before that?
It was possible, yes, but very few had done it. There was no template and certainly no one to hold her hand through it.
Of all the celebrities you've worked with, was there any homophobia, or was it all peaches and cream?
Most folks would not think they were homophobic, but a lot of people wanted me to stay in my lane and not ask for more!