I’m still surprised that there aren’t more gay-themed musicals, but it is a notoriously tricky and expensive genre, so generally the low-budget world of queer cinema hasn’t made as much use of it as you might expect. However, Waiting In The Wings takes on the singing and dancing with gusto, and backs it up with minor gay-icon cameos from the likes of Lee Meriwether, Sally Struthers, Shirley Jones and Christopher Atkins.
Anthony (Jeffrey A. Johns) is a small town guy with dreams of making it big in musicals. He thinks he’s got his chance when he scores a role in a new, off-Broadway production and so heads from Montana to New York. Tony (Adam Huss) meanwhile is a stripper who thinks he might be able to take it to the next level as part of a new all-male exotic dancer revue. There’s a bit of a problem though – the same man is producing both shows and has mixed up their similar names, so the small, shy Anthony ends up being asked to take his clothes off, while Tony, who’s never sung before in his life, is now in a musical.
Unfortunately, the producer won’t swap them back, and so Anthony has to make the best of being a stripper, hoping that it can be a springboard to something else and that coming to the bright lights of the Big Apple hasn’t been for nothing. It may also be a chance to change things with his closeted boyfriend back home, who’s still too ashamed to actually admit that they’re together. Tony meanwhile also decides to make the most of this opportunity, getting caught between two of his co-stars who both have their eyes on this bit of beefcake.
Waiting In The Wings is a fun and entertaining film, that just wants the audience to have a good time. It largely succeeds, even if it doesn’t always hit its target with quite the power it might have hoped. For example, the songs are charmingly staged, breezy, Broadway style numbers that sometimes raise a decent laugh, but while most of them deliberately ape the styles of typical musical tropes (and talk about that in the lyrics), they’re not always quite sharp enough to fully pull it off. They are fun, but not quite as clever or musically strong to pull off a home-run as either homage or satire.
The film is helped immensely though by a charming cast who really seem to be having fun in their roles. Jeffrey A. Johns is infectious as the rather camp, musical-obsessed small town boy with big dreams, who has the sort of unabashed optimism that it’s hard not to get caught up with. Adam Huss is also good as Tony, who’s a bit of a meathead womaniser, but who ultimately has a good heart and wants to do the best he can.
It’s certainly a movie that looks at the world through gay-tinted glasses, from its use of camp reverie to the rather hunky male strippers who make regular welcome appearances. Of course, there’s also the fact it likes to break into Technicolor song whenever it has the opportunity. It all adds up to a movie that sets out to put a smile on your face and manages to do that extremely well. It might not have too many songs you’ll be humming the next day, but it should certainly amuse and entertain.
Overall Verdict: Not perhaps as sharp on its musical homage/satire as it might have hoped to be, Waiting In The Wings still succeeds thanks to its infectious enthusiasm, endless desire to entertain, keen cast and gay-infused outlook on life.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac