Director/writer David Galligan has filtered much of the gay and lesbian experience through this fast-paced musical revue, featuring 22 songs and sketches performed by an outstanding six-member ensemble. Galligan's staging, augmented by the choreography of Tony Kaye and Kay Cole, is sparse but highly inventive, effectively highlighting the realities and absurdities, humor and pathos of living an "alternative" lifestyle. The musical numbers were provided by many of L.A.'s most gifted writers, including the legendary Billy Barnes, whose irreverent opening number, "The Gay '90s," features the ensemble in full turn-of-the-century regalia. The costumes are quickly discarded, however, as the casually attired cast of three women and three men segue into a series of illuminating musical and spoken vignettes.

Assisted greatly by the facile keyboard work of Stephen Bates and the atmospheric lighting of Michael Gilliam, the ensemble numbers are especially rewarding. The hilariously choreographed “976 Number,” written by Kirby Tepper and featuring Bill Hutton, Bill Ledesma and Tepper, has the guys attempting to give it their macho best as telephone studs.

The tender ballad, “Desmond, Sam & Ellen” (music by Glenn Sternbach, lyrics by Lindy Robbins), features the beautifully harmonized voices of Margot Rose, Ledesma and Hutton as a trio of gay friends who nurture and support each other throughout their lives. Ledesma and Hutton also team up on the soaring duet, “My Superman,” composed by Wayne Moore. A comedic highlight of the evening features Peggy Hewitt and ensemble performing Jeffrey Rockwell’s “Bisexual Tango,” a musical ode to a lady who gloried in having it both ways.

Amidst all the outstanding ensemble work, the solo material is probably the most soul-reaching and cathartic. Accompanying herself on guitar, Nishimura offers the sob-inducing rendition of Tom Brown’s “Jonathan Wesley Oliver, Jr.,” a haunting farewell to a childhood friend who has died of AIDS.

Also noteworthy are Rose’s outing on Holly Near’s “Simply Love,” Ledesma’s version of Dale Gonyea’s tribute to a man and his dog, “John & Fred,” and Bill Hutton’s heartfelt “Sweet Dreams,” a love ballad by John Bucchino.

The solo material offers some laughs as well. Rose is a riot with “All the Good Men are Gay” (music by Ron Abel, lyrics by Bruce H. Newberg), an over-the-top musical lament on the lack of suitable single heterosexual men. Equally as guffaw-inducing is Hewitt’s “She’s a Cunning Linguist,” a double-entendre-ridden ditty by Sternbach and Robbins.

But the most adept comedian in the group has to be Tepper. His “Lookin’ At Me” (music by Ben Schaacter, lyrics by Dan Kaal & Rick Unterberg) is a tour-de-force portrayal of the ultimate homophobic soldier.

Sprinkled throughout the show are clever little “slanguage” monologues that spotlight the often ludicrous synonyms (roommate, significant other, workout buddy, etc.) gay people have come up with to describe their lovers to the outside world.

The Gay '90s Musical

Celebration Theatre: 99 seats; $20 top; Opened Aug. 2, 1997

Production

The Celebration Theatre presents "The Gay '90s Musical," a musical in one act, conceived and directed by David Galligan. Produced by Ronn Goswick. Music direction, Gerald Sternbach; pianist, Stephen Bates; choreography, Tony Kaye, supervised by Kay Cole

Creative

lighting, Michael Gilliam. Opened Aug. 2, 1997; reviewed Aug. 9; runs until Oct. 5. Running time: 80 minutes.

Cast

Peggy Hewitt, Bill Hutton, Bill Ledesma, Deborah Nishimura, Margot Rose, Kirby Tepper.
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