by Ryan Leeds
The tale of “naïve country boy moves to the city to pursue his dreams” is a story as old as musical theater itself, and although audiences will have to suspend a great deal of disbelief, they’ll find much charm and cheer in Waiting in the Wings: the Musical. (Not to be confused with the 1960 play of the same name by Noël Coward.)
Written by Jeffrey A. Johns, who also stars in the film, it tells the story of Anthony (Johns)—a fresh faced gay church choir boy from Montana who dreams of moving to New York City to star in an Off-Broadway show. His golden ticket is through a contest. Once he arrives, he is mistaken for a different, heterosexual named Tony (Adam Huss) by a casting agent. Suddenly, the crossed performers find themselves in each other’s shows: Anthony is cast in a strip show, while Tony assumes an off Broadway role. Meanwhile, hearts are broken and—like all good musical comedy—restored to hope by the end.
Johns’ and his director, Jenn Page were able to gather some amusing cameo appearances for the film including Sally Struthers, Shirley Jones, and Lee Meriwether and while it’s doubtful that any of the acting performances are Oscar worthy, one must keep in mind the lighthearted campy nature that is intended.
Arie Gonzalez contributes most of the music and lyrics to the film, none of which will achieve the same canonization as Rodgers and Hammerstein. Yet the tunes succeed, thanks largely in part to the tone of the movie, which doesn’t take itself seriously.
It’s hard not to grin from ear to ear when Anthony breaks out in song with, “The world needs music/as in a musical/like food and water/it is intrinsical.” Another number, about the composition of theater audiences, called “Gays, Jews, and Girls Who Need Love,” evokes a similar sentiment as Eric Idle’s, “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway (If You Don’t Have Any Jews”) from Spamalot. It might come across as a stolen riff, but all of the numbers in this movie poke gentle fun at the form, so it’s easy to overlook.
There’s enough pulchritude and charisma to keep gay viewers (and other fans of musical theater) happy and ultimately, it makes for a great stay at home date night option. Waiting in the Wings: the Musical is available on iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, and Google Play. A sequel is in the works.
Ryan Leeds is a freelance theater journalist who lives in Manhattan. He is the Chief Theater Critic for Manhattan Digest and a frequent contributor to Dramatics Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @Ry_Runner or on Facebook