Promises, Shmomises

11 Jun

With Ramin Setoodeh’s controversial article in mind, last night I decided to check out Sean Haye’s (Just Jack!) performance as the lead role in the Broadway musical Promises, Promises.

And, with all due respect and loving admiration for Hayes, I have to admit that Setoodeh’s article is not totally left field. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not agreeing with or approving of Setoodeh’s point that it’s often hard for gay men to convincingly play straight. Nor do I particularly find his journalistic approach here (it is Newsweek after all, pretty professional stuff) to be admirable.

What I will say is this:  Promises, Promises does  indeed suffer overall, particularly in the department of a convincing lead romantic relationship, but it is not directly a result of  Sean Hayes’ sexual orientation.

Instead, here’s my analysis:

For starters, Promises, Promises is dated as hell, and there’s no way in today’s day and age for it come off as anything but incredibly campy. And campy = gay, right? There’s a certain bubbly frivolity to the show that practically inhibits machismo. Show me a straight actor who can croon his way through the flowery “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” without showing a little bit of an effeminate side, and I’ll be damned. In fact here’s Jerry Orbach (Lennie Brisco, Law and Order) doing it in the 1968 original, and while’s he got the deep, bass/baritone voice on his side (Hayes does not) this is still not Orbach’s manliest moment. Thus, with cornball jokes about infidelity that just don’t resonate with today’s crowds and sweet melodies that might put your grandmother to sleep, Promises, Promises becomes all camp and no convincing.

In addition, it is impossible to ignore the circumstantial position that Hayes currently finds himself in, and the viewers’ psychological labels that come with it. First, Hayes publicly came out as gay right before Promises opened. Unfortunately, we still live in a society where an actor tells the world he’s gay, it makes headlines for a bit, and then everyone has to process the news and life eventually goes on. For me, in a way, I’m still processing the news, and I believe everyone else is still doing the same. Its like this. Bring up any celebrity name in conversation and the first thing that will pop in your head is the last major grouping of news surrounding the figure. Tell me Lindsay Lohan and I don’t visualize her role in Mean Girls or her lesbian fling with Sam Ronson. The first thing I’m thinking about is her current dizzying substance maze that has no end in sight. Mention Gaga and I’ve already forgotten about “Bad Romance” and her full body red lace McQueen, and am picturing “Alejandro” and that beehive she wore to her sister’s graduation. Unfortunately for Hayes, who does not make the news as often as these aforementioned ladies, coming out was the last major chunk of juicy news associated with his name in peoples’ minds by the opening of Promises, and its going to stay there for a while.

This matter is only made worse by Hayes’ suffering from what I like to call the ‘role of a lifetime syndrome’.  Rue Mcclanahan just passed away, and is the public going to remember her for much more than Blanche on Golden Girls? Hayes’ iconic role came early as Jack Mcfarland on Will & Grace, arguably one of the most flamboyant publicly gay characters to ever make it to the screen, let alone on an enormously watched and acclaimed show on one of the biggest TV networks.  Hayes has been trying to rid of himself of the character for years, and of course he’s landed many roles since, but in the end its always all about Jack (Just Jack?). For the whole two hours of viewing, and I really, really tried to fight it, my subconscious converted every mannerism and voice inflection of Hayes on stage to those of Jack Mcfarland. Our minds work in mysterious ways, and unfortunately we uncontrollably associate Hayes with a whole lot of things that scream gay.

Lastly, and most importantly in my book, there’s the idea that in a romantic relationship it takes two to tango. And Kristin Chenoweth, who plays the love interest of Hayes in Promises, is just simply wrong for the part. Now, I am of course an adoring fan of Chenoweth and her incredible talent, but for me the weakest part about Hayes and Chenoweth’s unconvincing relationship was the actress, and not the actor.  Chenowith is an unmatched commodity: No one else talks like her, looks like her, or sings like her.  She’s a loud, giggly and girly, uncontrollably effervescent personality that deserves a role like Glinda the Good Witch or Olive on Pushing Daisies (pie headpiece anyone?) which are more suitable for her traits. But the role of Fran in Promises, Promises is a muted one, most often a sorrowful and defeated one, and though Chenoweth does her best and always sings like a true diva, she’s still a fish out of water.

Now, these are just my takes on why Promises, Promises left me unconvinced. But then again, who really cares? I personally didn’t go to see this musical for its serious storyline to cry from my emotional investment in the incredibly complex characters and their trying fates.  No. This is a 1960’s era themed Broadway musical comedy. It’s ALL gay and ALL camp, and that’s the point of it, plain and simple.  Plus, who wouldn’t want to be five rows away from Just Jack and Glinda the Good Witch?

And regardless of controversy, Hayes does a bang up job considering it is his first role on Broadway (never an easy feat), and the Tonys were clearly convinced enough to nominate him for best actor AND let him host the darned ceremony!  So lets all go watch Hayes host  this Sunday and accept that gay actors have always been around and now that they’re out they’re here to stay as gay as ever. (And so sorry that I have to do this one more time but its the only way to end….)

Just Jack!

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3 Responses to “Promises, Shmomises”

  1. Brittany June 11, 2010 at 3:57 pm #

    Kudos on a great post!

    • zinastick June 11, 2010 at 10:15 pm #

      Thanks Brittany! Glad to have your support!

    • sophisms June 13, 2010 at 11:22 pm #

      Thank you thank you Brittany!

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