The Gay ’90s Musical: Looking Back … Moving on

There's not too much looking back, except for performer and writer Kirby Tepper's buoyant ode to lesbian seagulls on Noah's Ark and Billy Barnes' jaunty title number, tracing gay themes from the gay 1890s to the gay 1990s.

There’s not too much looking back, except for performer and writer Kirby Tepper’s buoyant ode to lesbian seagulls on Noah’s Ark and Billy Barnes’ jaunty title number, tracing gay themes from the gay 1890s to the gay 1990s.

Otherwise, the majority of the production settles easily on contemporary gay and lesbian culture, emphasizing the oneness of everybody (gay and straight), with songs contributed for the show by several well-known California writers (including Holly Near, Dale Gonyea, Ron Abel and Barnes).

This is not an AIDS revue, a genre director David Galligan has stated has been “overdone.” Except for one song about AIDS, Galligan, who conceived the show, essentially steers clear of politics.

He wants the audience to have fun, and it does — except for a few dreary songs (the worst example being “My Superman”) in which lyric and melody tend to a plaintive, poignant sameness.

But whatever they’re singing, the performers (Bill Hutton, Kathy Garrick, Jamie Anderson, Deborah Nishimura, Peggy Hewett and Tepper) are appealing personalities, with soaring, throaty voices.

Of the 18 numbers — contributed by a whopping 19 writers — lyrics are accompanied by an off-stage piano whose loudness occasionally overwhelms the words. The lyrics range from playful verse, such as “When John and Fred who share a bed” in a song by Gonyea, to Naomi Caryl’s take on social labels in the insightful “Mirror Image.” In the latter, Nishimura begins singing “When a woman loves a woman in a different, gentler way,” followed by Hudson counterpointing with “When a man loves a man.”

The exuberant Tepper also penned the clever phone-sex number “976 Number” (performed by the three males), which is emblematic of several songs that could as well be targeted at heterosexuals.

The show’s most comical inspiration is the humorously anxious “Lookin’ at Me” (by Rick Unterberg, Dan Kael and Ben Schaecter), in which Tepper nervously enacts a self-conscious gay taking a public shower with another GI at a military base (The soldier’s secret wish “Is he looking at me?” segues to his panic that “He’s not looking at me!”). Hewett is boisterously funny as a Spanish dancer in “Bisexual Tango” (by Jeffrey Rockwell).

Although the intermissionless show could be trimmed, the mood is good-natured, on occasion tremulous and never strikes an angry note.

The Gay ’90s Musical: Looking Back … Moving on

(Celebration Theatre, Hollywood; 64 seats; $ 20 top)

  • Production: Ronn Goswick and Michael Seel for Shoestring Prods. in association with Celebration Theater present a musical revue in one act.
  • Crew: Music, lyrics and special material, Ron Abel, Billy Barnes, Tom Brown, John Bucchino, Naomi Caryl, Dale Gonyea, Dan Kael, Joel Kimmel, Wayne Moore, Holly Near, Bruce H. Newberg, Lindy Robbins, Jeffrey Rockwell, Ben Schaecter, Gary Simmons, Check Steffan, Gerald Sternbach, Kirby Tepper, Rick Unterberg; conceived and directed by David Galligan; choreography, Toni Kaye; lighting, Daniel C. Touris; set decoration, Paul McAvene; costumes, Zoe DuFour; musical director/vocal arrangements, Gerald Sternbach. Opened Jan. 13, 1995; reviewed Jan. 14; runs through Feb. 26. Running time: 90 min.
  • Cast: Cast: Jamie Anderson, Kathy Garrick, Peggy Hewett, Bill Hutton, Deborah Nishimura, Kirby Tepper. Avocally and comedically fresh ensemble offers diverse chronicles of gay/lesbian lifestyles in "The Gay '90s Musical: Looking Back ... and Moving On."
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