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Queer Musical Films

6 min read

It’s time for one of my favourite genres: Queer Musicals! (The theatre major and performer in me might be just a tad bit biased, but it’s truly hard to not love musical.) With outbursts of singing, magical dance breaks, and so much more, there’s something special about a musical; something unique that’s hard to capture otherwise. Many would even consider musicals to be automatically queer… partly because they can’t enjoy singing and dancing, and the often cheery toned stories musicals showcase.

But these five queer musical films are most definitely queer – for actual queer reasons! One of the films is a queer musical theatre staple that I couldn’t skip over because it’s message is so crucial to our community in many forms; the fact that there is a film adaptation of the show. A second is another film adaptation of a queer musical, albeit it a bit newer to both stage and screen. However it’s the other three queer musical films on my list that are likely to be new to many of you – mainly because they are not film adaptations or even a stage show at all, for that matter. They are uniquely a musical film – and quite queer to boot! Read on to find out why each film made this month’s list.

[Note: Not all of these films have full reviews yet – but they’re added to the quickly growing list of films I plan to tackle soon!]

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This rock opera tells the story of one year in the life of a group of bohemians struggling in late 1980s East Village, New York, USA. The film centers around Mark (Anthony Rapp) and Roger (Adam Pascal), two roommates. While a tragedy has made Roger numb to new experiences, Mark begins capturing their world through his attempts to make a personal movie. In the year that follows, they and their friends deal with love, loss, and working together.

“RENT” has a very special place in my heart and is one of a few key shows that are among my favorites. When the musical opened on Broadway in 1994, it took Broadway and the theatre world by a storm, and it wasn’t just because of the tragedy of the show’s writer, Jonathan Larson, passing away in the morning of the first preview show Off-Broadway. Overall, RENT is a good film to watch if you do not know the musical well. It is great to be able to see the musical on the big screen – even with the problematic changes. However, since they filmed the final performance of the musical when it closed on Broadway and have released that to DVD, I’d actually encourage everyone who has never seen the show live to watch that film before this one. But no matter which version and format you choose, the message still rings clear: “No Day But Today”

Paul (Daniel Robinson) and Eddie (Joey Dudding) have just begun previews for the new Off-Broadway musical “Adam and Steve – Just the Way God Made ‘Em.” Their lives strangely mirror the characters they are playing. Paul is looking for the perfect man and Eddie is dealing with how his sexuality and faith can mix.

I absolutely adore “The Big Gay Musical” – and would love to see this show-within-a-show actually performed, because the premise is simply hysterical. However, it’s the smaller more subtle bits that really give life to this flashy comical spectacle. Eddie, as well as his stage character in the show, are coping with finally exploring his sexuality, virginity, his faith, AND coming out to his parents. Paul is there for support and laughs, but struggling with his own relationship issues. Because it’s a musical, everything ends up quite cheery in the end, but the journey to get there is just as enjoyable. This queer musical film is one to add to your list!

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Jamie New (Max Harwood) is 16 and doesn’t quite fit in—instead of pursuing a “real” career he dreams of becoming a drag queen. Uncertain about his future, Jamie knows one thing for sure: he is going to be a sensation. Supported by his loving mom (Sarah Lancashire) and his amazing friends, Jamie overcomes prejudice, beats the bullies and steps out of the darkness, into the spotlight.

With a world full of Drag Race and drag queen celebrities, there naturally had to be a drag queen musical! However this “based on a real life story” musical is quite an emotional coming of age film that’s worth watching. Is the “teenage who’s bullied before blossoming” storyline getting a bit overdone… maybe? But with a positive outcome, drag queens, and a heartfelt homage to the pioneers of drag and LGBTQ rights, we needed this queer musical! While I cannot speak on how great of an adaptation this film is compared to the stage show, there are plenty of musical numbers that run the full range of emotions – and they’re stunningly performed by a talented cast! I might’ve been late to watch this newer queer musical film, but there’s a reason that “Everyone is Talking About Jamie”!

If you had a love-potion, who would you make fall madly in love with you? Timothy (Tanner Cohen), prone to escaping his dismal high school reality through dazzling musical daydreams, gets to answer that question in a very real way. After his eccentric teacher (Wendy Robie) casts him as Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, he stumbles upon a recipe hidden within the script to create the play’s magical, purple love-pansy.

“The course of true love never did run smooth.” (A Midsummer Night’s Dream 1.1, 133) A powerful line from Shakespeare, yet it’s also an oft-repeated line in “Were The World Mine”, by writer/director Tom Gustafson. This brilliant feature film is an extension of his well-received short, “Fairies“, weaving a retelling of Shakespeare’s iconic play with a queer twist. By creating a colourful dream-like fantasy musical, we are given an answer to the question: what would you do if you had the power to make someone love you? It’s not all a fairy tale, with a handful of consequences resulting in an acceptance of reality. But not all is lost, love still prevails! I highly encourage you to give this film a watch – it will draw you into its spell.

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Two entertainers destined for the big time are mismatched in a casting office from two very different online contests. Tony (Adam Huss), a stripper from New York, is cast in an Off-Broadway musical and needs to trade in his tear-away trunks for tap shoes and tights. Anthony (Jeffrey A. Johns), a naive musical theatre enthusiast from Montana, needs to decide if he can strip all the way down just to stay in town. Hilarity ensues as they realize that “to make it” they’re gonna have to learn some new tricks.

I truly enjoy watching “Waiting In The Wings”, but I have a confession: I’m not a fan of Anthony’s character. He’s about as stereotypical as you can get for a gay musical theatre performer – UGH! Yet equally, within the comedic life-swap storyline that creates some interesting dramatic irony, it’s honestly hard not to love Anthony by the end of this queer musical film. Throw in a romance for both of our leads, some incredibly talented supporting roles, some short but sexy stripper routines, and some fabulous musical numbers – this is quite a film to enjoy! (Unless you’re not a fan of musical theatre, I guess…) If you haven’t heard of “Waiting In The Wings”, then stop waiting and go watch it!