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THEATER : The Gay '90s--the Musical

January 01, 1995|JANICE ARKATOV | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

When David Galligan was first asked to create a gay revue for the Celebration Theatre, he said no--and he meant it.

"I'm not a big supporter of gay-rights parades. I don't think that someone walking down Santa Monica Boulevard wearing a dildo hat is the best representative of being gay," the director says. "Sure, they have their rights. But the average heterosexual looks at that on TV and says, 'Oh, that's what gays are like.' "

Galligan, who is gay, had no interest in entering those oft-visited waters of stereotypes and slanted public perception. It took the theater's artistic director, Robert Schrock, about a month to wear him down.

The result is a six-person revue, "The Gay '90s Musical: Looking Back . . . Moving On," a musical homage to the last 100 years of gay and lesbian culture, which begins previews Friday at the Celebration Theatre in Hollywood.

"I went to people I'd worked with before," says Galligan, who has staged the annual Southland Theatre Artists Goodwill Event (STAGE) since 1983. "Billy Barnes wrote the title tune, 'Gay '90s,' which takes us from the 1890s through today in one song--it's about how far we've come, and yet so many things are still the same."

The word got out that Galligan was soliciting material on gay themes, and submissions started flooding in. "We've got one song about gays in the military, one about gays in the gym. But only one about AIDS because the subject has been overdone. And it's not an AIDS revue."

Some of Los Angeles' finest songwriters are on the roster of contributors (the subject matter had to be gay oriented, but not necessarily the authors): Ron Abel, John Bucchino, Naomi Caryl, Dale Gonyea, Bruce H. Newberg, Holly Near, Alan Rich, Lindy Robbins, Jeffrey Rockwell, Gary Simmons, Chuck Steffan, Gerald Sternbach and Kirby Tepper. Additional material is being contributed by Joel Kimmel and Bruce Vilanch.

Cast member Tepper has written three songs. "One is a fractured tale about two lesbian sea gulls who find themselves on Noah's Ark," he says. "The second one's a surprise. The third, which I'm writing with Jerry Sternbach, is about politically correct speech--whether to call someone your 'lover,' your 'boyfriend' or your 'significant other.' "

Tepper, who has performed his material in many venues around town, thinks the "coming out" aspect of the show is "no big deal." Says Tepper: "Before, people in gay shows had to pretend they weren't gay. That's changed."

Caryl also deals with social labels in her musical contribution, "Mirror Image," a song performed initially by a woman, then by a man.

"It's about the idea of loving someone who feels like you, looks like you," she says. "The thrust of the song is about what makes loving a woman particular or special."

The subject itself came from a conversation Caryl had some time ago with Galligan in which, she says, "I told him I'd once fallen in love with a woman."

Kimmel, who is often paired with Galligan for charity shows, says he wanted to "try to recreate an old-fashioned musical-comedy revue--geared to the gay and lesbian sensibility. Our goal is to make it accessible across the board: to be funny, touching and sweet, and not so exclusive that general audiences wouldn't enjoy it."

Galligan, whose local directing credits include "Confessions of a Nightingale," "Strange Snow," "Angry Housewives," "Blame It on the Movies" and the recent "The Lion in Winter" at the Pasadena Playhouse, makes no apologies.

"There's nothing overtly political in the show because I'm not overtly political," he says. "As for tone, I guess it travels through a lot of areas. There are a few serious moments, but mostly it's happy. See, I don't have any experiences of having stones thrown at me. I don't have a problem being gay."

"The Gay '90s Musical: Looking Back . . . Moving On" begins previews Friday and opens Jan. 13; 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 6 and 9 p.m. Saturdays, 5 p.m. Sundays; through Feb. 26; Celebration Theatre, 7051 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Tickets: (213) 660-8587.

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