on DVD tomorrow.
It is directed by Casper Andreas and Fred M. Caruso, who previously collaborated on the popular gay-themed film A Four Letter Word. The Big Gay Musical is a thoroughly silly, occasionally overbearing but ultimately entertaining tale of two gay actors who strive to overcome their personal issues while starring in an off-Broadway production of Adam & Steve: Just the Way God Made 'Em.
One of the men, Paul (played by Daniel Robinson), is constantly on the hunt for the perfect man with whom to share his life. Eventually disappointed one time too many, Paul decides to become a slut under the tutelage of the musical’s less-romantically inclined chorus boys. His new, more promiscuous approach leads Paul to encounters with numerous hotties, including an escort tenderly played by gay porn star Brent Corrigan.
Eddie, Paul’s co-star, is newly out to everyone but his conservative Christian parents, who are planning to attend the opening night of Adam & Steve but are unaware of the subject matter. Joey Dudding plays Eddie, and conveys well the young man’s struggle with his integrity. Eddie and Paul also endure a frightening ordeal involving possible infection with HIV.
The growing friendship between Paul and Eddie is touching and serves as a nice, contemporary counterpoint to the musical’s campy recounting of the not-quite-biblical story of Adam and “Steve.” Eddie tries to convince Paul to hold out for “Mr. Right” and not give in to the temptation of commitment-free sex, while Paul provides Eddie support and encouragement in coming out to his parents.
The musical numbers are fun, the men are pretty, and the film’s good-natured attack on the Religious Right is timely. Its joyous and abundant spirit of gay self-affirmation is infectious. Gossip columnist Michael Musto has a funny cameo, as does Steve Hayes (who was memorable as Christian Campbell’s show tune-loving friend in Trick) as God in the show-within-a-show.
Writer and co-director Caruso told The Advocate, “So many gay people have been screwed up by religion, but gay shows and movies about religion always end up being so depressing. I wanted to create a show with a positive message about being gay and religion that was funny, campy and crazy.” Caruso, a former Roman Catholic, has actually said he considers The Big Gay Musical to be as “divinely inspired” as the Bible.
Caruso also co-wrote the film’s original songs with composer Rick Crom. They include “I’m Gonna Go Straight to Heaven,” “God Loves Gays,” Paul’s showstopper “I Wanna Be a Slut” and the clever “Musical Theatre Love Story.” Most of the musical numbers feature energetic choreography by Shea Sullivan and pleasingly minimal costumes by Tony Award-nominee Bobby Pearce. Some of the song lyrics are obvious while other songs go on a bit too long, but all are sufficiently entertaining. (A soundtrack CD is also currently available.)
The religious commentary in the screenplay is similarly overdone at times and borders on being heavy-handed. However, it is so unrepentantly on the pro-gay side that it is easy to forgive such occasionally preachy excess after all the anti-gay sentiment our community has weathered from religious conservatives over the years.
The Big Gay Musical boasts a cast of stage veterans representing nearly 50 Broadway productions of the past decade, including the blockbusters Hairspray, Wicked, The Lion King and Mamma Mia! Caruso intentionally recruited experienced stage performers because he needed a cast of “triple threats” who could act, sing and dance. Their professionalism is obvious even while evoking a low-budget musical on a smaller, off-Broadway stage.
While buying or renting The Big Gay Musical, you might also want to check out several other “big gay musicals” I recommend:
A Chorus Line (1985): Generally reviled by fans of the stage production, the movie nonetheless includes two gay characters (fairly bold for a mid-80’s studio film), a then-attractive Michael Douglas, dynamic choreography and most of the original songs, plus the sexy, Oscar-nominated newcomer “Surprise, Surprise.”
Moulin Rouge! (2001): Exhibiting one of the gayest cinematic sensibilities ever, Aussie director Baz Luhrmann’s musical fantasia on the bohemian ideals of “truth, beauty, freedom and, above all things, love” is an unconventional delight. Nicole Kidman has never been more beautiful on screen, and you’ve got to love its all-male rendition of Madonna’s “Like a Virgin”!
Jesus Christ, Vampire Hunter (2002): I kid you not. This low-budget indie film is a mash-up of songs, transvestites, Mexican wrestlers, gory impalings, a vicious trio of lesbian vampires and the second coming of Christ. Not quite a camp or cult classic yet, but this imaginative spectacle deserves to be seen.
Rent (2005): While the film version of the Broadway smash about a group of friends struggling with poverty and AIDS in 1990’s New York City is overproduced, the score and the cast — most from the original Broadway production — are great and the gay love story at its heart remains endearing.
20 Centimeters (2006): A wacky comedy from Spain, written and directed by the talented Ramon Salazar, in which a narcoleptic transgender woman longing to complete her sex change procedure (despite her super-buff boyfriend’s protests) dreams up elaborate musical numbers in which she’s the star. Well worth tracking down on DVD.
Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.