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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Broadway News Makers 2010 #3: Too Gay to Play?

In April of this year, Promise, Promises opened to mixed-to-negative reviews, despite the theatre world's love affair with its leading lady, Kristin Chenoweth and a new found appreciation for its leading man, Broadway debutante Sean Hayes.  Of course, the chatter was rampant: was Kristin out of her league in a dramatic role?  was the director, Rob Ashford, losing his touch?

Speculation ceased however, when Ramin Setoodeh, a writer for Newsweek posted an article called "From Glee to Sean Hayes: Gay Actors Play Straight" aka "Straight Jacket."  In it, Setoodeh claims that the real reason Promises, Promises got poor reviews was because of the "pink elephant in the room" - Sean Hayes being gay, and no one having the nerve to call him on it as a reason for his "lack of chemistry" with Ms. Chenoweth.  He went on to cite Jonathan Groff as a successful sexy leading man in Spring Awakening, prior to his coming out, and "cringe-worthy" performance in Glee, made all the more so because Groff's orientation was so obvious.  Was his character gay, asks Setoodeh.  Later, he said that actors like Portia diRossi and Neil Patrick Harris, while openly gay were acceptable in "straight roles" because they were both larger-than-life straight characters.


The response was swift - the Screen Actors Guild fired off a nasty gram to the magazine, and several actors made public statements in support of Hayes and other openly gay actors.  But perhaps the most fiery and poignant response came from Ms. Chenoweth herself.  To read her classy and balanced response, click HERE.


In the end, the show had a healthy run, and Hayes responded with his typical class and grace, making several appearances with his co-star beyond the Broadway Theatre, and landing the gig as Tonys host.  He and Chenoweth had the last laugh, as they "made out" on screen for several seconds.  And the show moved on from there.

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Jeff
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