Our Love Is Here To Stay I
by John Kenrick
(Copyright 1996, revised 2011)
Before we go any further, let's define two terms that are central to this discussion --
1. What is a "Musical"?
According to Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary:
"musical (noun, singular) a film or theatrical production typically of a sentimental or humorous nature that consists of musical numbers and dialogue based upon a unifying plot."
Not bad, but it leaves a few important bases uncovered. For the purposes of this essay,
musical (noun, singular) - a stage, screen or television entertainment utilizing popular style songs to either tell a story (book musicals), or to showcase the talents of varied performers and/or songwriters (revues).
Whether a musical's origin is on stage, screen, or television, it counts. The fact that Singin' in The Rain or Gigi began as films does not reduce their importance to devoted fans of the genre, and one's first encounter with The Sound of Music or West Side Story can be unforgettable on stage or screen even a television screen. There is a big world beyond Manhattan's Broadway and London's West End. As the lead character in Boys in The Band (Crowley 1968) puts it, "Pardon me if your sense of art is offended, but odd as it may seem there wasn't a Shubert Theatre in Hot Coffee, Mississippi!" Stage snobs should take a deep breath and face the fact that Rooney and Garland mean just as much to true musical queens as Lerner and Loewe. Wherever musicals are born, they are part of the same wonderful history.
(Important disclaimer: This essay will not attempt to examine that most mystical and stereotypical of gay cults, Judy Garland Queens. Although many Judy queens are also musical queens, these "Boy's Next Door" are a multi-generational phenomenon that deserves separate and detailed examination.)
2. What are "Musical Queens"?
Webster's gives no help on this one (some hets can be sooooo limited, n'est ce pas?), so we're on our own
Musical queens (noun, plural) - gays (and sympathizers) enlightened enough to realize that stage and screen musicals are the be all and end all, the ultimate cultural flowering of the human race.
At a time when the musical is an endangered art form, it is no longer a hobby it is a cause. Becoming a true "musical queen" today is less a matter of taste or artistic preference than it is a qestion of degree of dedication. This is not a classification open to dilettantes. Musicals queens don't merely care . . . we believe.
Most gay men are culturally aware enough to have some interest in musical theatre, but not all make the grade as musical theatre queens. Do you have a handful of original cast CDs scattered among your Madonna's, U-2's and K.D. Lang's? A Playbill or two hidden in a drawer? One musical theatre or film poster on your bedroom wall (for something you didn't see) for purely decorative purposes? If so, sorry honey you don't rate. Musical theatre queens collect recordings, videos and memorabilia with a vengeance, attend every screening and performance they can, argue about musicals at the drop of a hat, and do all of the above with the subtlety of a chain saw in a Buddhist temple. Musical queens love non-musical theatre and film too, but it is a different sort of passion. Lets face it -- you cannot sing along with the greatest works of Arthur Miller or Michael Tarantino.
Many people have asked over the years if it is possible for enlightened lesbians and heterosexuals to rate as "musical queens." In my humble opinion, the answer is yes. A special few share the mania, the sense of belief, and these lesbians and heterosexuals deserve to be considered honorary members of our enchanted circle. (I refuse to guess where bisexuals fit in all this -- as a classic Alan Jay Lerner lyric so aptly put it, "indecision is a bore.")
For Us, It's Like Football . . . Sort of
For gay believers, musicals are what football is to many straight (and an appalling number of gay) men. We relish souvenirs, memorize statistics, cheer on our favorites, and know all too well the difference between a winning season and a losing one. Where they have the Superbowl, we have Tony Award night, and just as football-loving hets are not required to throw a great forward pass, musical queens are not required to do a time step. Granted, musical theatre queens don't strip half naked and paint their torsos with show logos, but we have to leave straight men some form of unrepressed emotional expression, don't we?
Having defined the genre and its gay adherents, let's look at their joint history. To do this we must step back to a time when (horror of horrors!) musicals did not exist, and some Higher Power realized something was needed to bring color to a dreary, drama-heavy world.