Can a small-town Montana gay boy with stardom in his eyes find fame, fortune, and romance in the Big Apple when he’s accidentally cast in an off-off-off-off-off-Broadway male strip show instead of the honest-to-goodness musical in which he’d been expecting to make his NYC debut?
Meet Anthony (Jeffrey A. Johns), the star player in Waiting In The Wings: The Musical, Johns’ delightfully entertaining movie musical gem, already a multiple award-winner on the International and LGBT film festival circuit and sure to be a home audience-pleaser thanks to iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, and Google Play.
The last thing Peter Pan-sized Anthony expected when he submitted his video audition tape (a solo musical salute to Aladdin, Tarzan, Pocahontas, and Hercules aptly titled “I’m A Disney Whore”) was to follow in Gypsy’s footsteps (the stripper, not the musical), nor was the similarly named—but umpteen times buffer (and straighter)—male burlesque vet Tony (Adam Huss) any better prepared to sing and dance when he got cast in the show that was supposed to be Anthony’s.
But thanks to an inadvertent snafu, that’s where our two heroes find themselves to their considerable dismay—and to equally considerable audience delight.
As Anthony gets taught the stripping ropes by hunky Lee (Blake Peyrot) with motherly advice from drag queen host Kelsey (Harrison White) thrown in for good measure, Tony finds himself directed by a not-so-dazzled Michael (David Pevsner) and coached by leading lady Rita (Rena Strober) and sexy gay showboy Peter (Ethan Le Phong), each of whom would like nothing better than to get inside Tony’s thong.
Will Tony and Rita’s onstage romance extend into their real lives? Will Anthony and Lee do more than just strip together? Will Trevor (Matt Wool), Anthony’s closeted boyfriend back home, and Ethel (Lee Meriwether), his oldest hometown supporter, find out the truth about Anthony’s unplanned career detour?
For that, you’ll just have to check out Waiting In The Wings: The Musical, which smartly ups its box office appeal with cameo appearances by a still gorgeous if weathered Christopher Atkins as Anthony’s hometown pastor, a feisty Sally Struthers as a sperm bank receptionist not at all impressed by would-be donor Anthony’s 5’2” stature, and a still glamorous Shirley Jones as none other than Shirley Jones.
Jenn Page directs Johns’ original script with plenty of verve, the film’s multiple musical sequences spiced by Cassie Nordgren and Roddy Kennedy’s lively choreography. Songs, most of them by musical director Arie Gonzalez, are catchy, with one of them (“Gays, Jews & Girls Who Need Love”) verging on inspired.
Director of photography Pawel Pogorzelski, editor Phillip J. Bartel, film scorer Dean Andre, production designer Heidi Strykiewicz, art director Perry Mateson, and recording engineer Michael Whitney work wonders on what was surely a shoestring budget, with special snaps to Alex Navarro’s imaginative, eclectic bevy of costumes.
Still, if there’s anything that’s made Waiting In The Wings: The Musical a festival hit from Philly to Fort Myers to Pasadena to Palm Springs, it is Johns’ infectiously likable lead performance matched by a devilishly handsome Huss and an all-around splendid supporting cast of SoCal musical theater favorites.
White’s sassy Kelsey, Pevsner’s silver-foxy Michael, Meriwether’s warm and wonderful Ethel, Wool’s appropriately snarky Trevor, Mitch Poulos’s well-meaning if inept producer Bob, and blonde bombshell Rebekah Kochan (as Rita’s jealous rival Gina) and Gonzalez (as Tony’s less-than-buff brother Aaron) are all marvelous as well, with Struthers and Atkins adding a double shot of TV/movie nostalgia and Jones proving that the Oklahoma!/The Music Man star has still got what it takes to light up the screen.
Waiting In The Wings: The Musical has proven such a crowd pleaser, its sequel Waiting In the Wings: Still Waiting is already in the can, and (hint, hint), I can only hope that Waiting In The Wings: The Stage Musical is waiting to take wing.
I’d give that a WOW! for sure.