Waiting in the Wings
When it comes to gay romantic comedies, there tend to be two types. One is the really zany films that are funny, but don't really make much sense. These also tend to be filled with lots of gratuitous nudity, not that that is a bad thing! The second is a more realistic comedy that focuses more on the romantic, emotional aspect of the genre than the laughs. Attempting to straddle the line is "Waiting In The Wings: The Musical," which keeps things close to the surface, but also goes for a more realistic approach to the humor.
The characters here find themselves in an age-old dilemma: After entering a contest to be cast in an off-way Broadway musical, Anthony's entry form is mixed up with Tony's, who had entered a similar contest to become part of a male stripping revue. Tony ends up getting cast in the musical and prudish, Midwest transplant Anthony is put into the peepshow. The two's paths cross when Tony's co-star girlfriend begins tutoring Anthony in the art of sexiness.
The problem with the plot, however, is that in real life Anthony would have spoken to the producer or the director at some point before opening night to find out how this happened. Had he done it early enough, it is possible that the mixup could have been fixed and the correct man put in each show. Tony, however, wasn't going to say anything because he liked the idea of his new career and the girlfriend that came along with it.
The songs, which are more pop cultural referential than actually used to progress the storyline along, include songs about Anthony's love of Disney and how Broadway works. The production values are pretty good on them as well. One of the songs about who keeps Broadway in business - hint: it's the "Jews, gays, and girls who need love" - provides some nice laughs throughout. The songs are quirky enough to work, but it is almost a stretch to call this a musical since most of the music is only performed during rehearsals for the show within a show. During the stripping scenes, the actors aren't singing and there aren't any "Glee" type moments where they randomly break into song and dance.
Less attention was paid to the stripping numbers, unfortunately, than the standard musical scenes. Using quick camera moves and cuts to try to create additional excitement, it really just makes the scenes dizzying. When men are stripping down to their Andrew Christians, no other gimmicks are needed. Maybe they are trying to hide the fact that they are only stripping to briefs and jockstraps and not thongs, but these should have been the easiest scenes to shoot.
"Wait In The Wings: The Musical" also continues a fun tradition of former sex symbols and TV stars popping up for cameos in gay films with appearances by Sally Struthers, Lee Meriwether, Christopher Atkins, and Shirley Jones. It's good to see these former stars embracing their gay fans with usually campy cameos. They also help to draw attention to the films, which they might not otherwise get - another positive to this trend.
The good looking cast gels together well, which makes you yearn for more group scenes. There is a great sense of chemistry that comes off the scene. The weakest link is actually the lead Jeffrey A. Johns, who also wrote the screenplay. He doesn't do a bad job in the role, since he most likely wrote it with himself in mind, but his voice is an acquired taste and at times he can try to camp it up too much for the camera. Rena Strober, on the other hand, is delightfully delicious as Rita, the diva of the group. Rita is always setting out with the best of intentions, but that isn't always how things come out when she starts to speak and Strober is pitch perfect in the role.
For anyone who has ever dreamed of being on Broadway or lighting up a stage, "Waiting In The Wings: The Musical" is for you. It's a comedy with heart in the center and is bursting at the seams with characters you are rooting on to make their dreams come true. It's not the most deeply thought out film, but it's fun enough that you'll be willing to look past its shallowness.
This article is part of our "Cinema Diverse! Palm Springs 2014" series. Want to read more?
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