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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Reeling Review #2: See Waiting in the Wings: The Musical at Chicago's LGBT Film Festival

It seems only fitting that actor Christopher Atkins is the first person you see in Waiting in the Wings: The Musical. You remember him - he starred in The Blue Lagoon (1980) with Brooke Shields, The Pirate Movie (1982) with Kristy McNichol, and A Night in Heaven (1983) as Lesley Ann Warren's studly young stripper/lover. And in Waiting, the story centers around studly young strippers. So I found this connection amusing - but now Mr. Atkins, at age 53, is keeping all his clothes on as a priest in this light and funny new musical comedy directed by Jenn Page and written by Jeffrey A. Johns. The former 1980s teen idol isn't the only familiar face to show up - Sally Struthers (All in the Family), Lee Meriwether (Barnaby Jones, 1966's Batman: The Movie) and Shirley Jones (The Partridge Family) all make appearances. And, of course, it's so nice to see them again.

However, Waiting in the Wings is more about its younger cast, especially Mr. Johns, who has written himself a plum starring role as Anthony Richardson, a wide-eyed musical theatre enthusiast from Montana who enters an online contest to be in a new Off-Broadway musical. Meanwhile, Tony Richardson, a hunky stripper from New York, also auditions online for a strip show. Then their headshots get mixed up in the casting office, which leads to the silly (and highly implausible) situation that Anthony and Tony end up in each other's shows. One does need to suspend their disbelief in order to enjoy Waiting in the Wings, but if you're willing to do that, I think you'll have a good time.

The movie's musical score has some catchy tunes, including "I'm a Disney Whore" and "Gays, Jews, and Girls Who Need Love", while the handsome Adam Huss (as Tony), the adorably cute Blake Peyrot (as a stripper named Lee) and a few other hot guys from The Banana Peel strip club provide plenty of sweet eye candy. I also liked Rena Strober as the musical's leading lady and the always wonderful David Pevsner as the musical's director/choreographer. But the talented Jeffrey A. Johns is the star of this film - and I was rooting for his Anthony to achieve his musical dreams from the get-go. Mr. Johns obviously has a great affection for the world of musical theatre, and Waiting in the Wings is his heartfelt and often hilarious tribute to this genre. And this show tune enthusiast enjoyed spending time with him and his delightful cast of characters.

Show time: 9 pm, Tuesday, September 23, at the Landmark's Century Centre Cinema (2828 N. Clark). There will be a post-screening Q&A with Jeffrey A. Johns and musical director/songwriter/actor Arie Gonzalez.
Running time: 107 minutes

Over the next two weeks I will be reviewing films that will be shown during Reeling32: The Chicago LGBT International Film Festival, which runs September 18 - 25 (click here to see all my reviews). For a complete schedule of films, go to You can purchase tickets online (click here) or in person at Chicago Filmmakers (5243 N. Clark) Monday - Friday (and Saturday, September 13) 10:30 am - 6 pm. You can also get the latest festival news by following Reeling on Twitter and Facebook.

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