Streisand to Play Mama Rose!

A look back on the gayest movie-musicals ever

The Los Angeles Times confirmed Barbra Streisand has signed on to play Mama Rose in a new movie-musical adaptation of Broadway’s Gypsy. Rosalind Russell and Bette Midler have both played the role in previous film versions, while Patti Lupone recently won a Tony Award for reviving Mama on Broadway.

Other great dames who have belted out show stoppers like “Rose’s Turn” and “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” have included Ethel Merman, Angela Lansbury, Linda Lavin, Tyne Daly and Bernadette Peters. Liza Minnelli has also interpreted a few of the songs in her live shows over the years, often sparking rumors that she may play this, the most famous stage mother ever.

All of this talk about movie-musicals made us think of a few other famous flicks that strike a chord among gay audiences (many of which feature familiar songs belt out around the piano at Tavern on Camac any night of the week). These are G Philly‘s all-time favorites:

42nd Street (1933): Busby Berkley was the king of movie musicals, pushing the limits with outrageous choreography and decadent sets filled with casts of thousands forming human kaleidoscopes. This movie is a grand tribute to the glory days of both Hollywood and Broadway – the likes of which have never really been seen again. Alternative gay singer-songwriter Stephin Merritt even penned a brilliant ode to Berkley for his band The Magnetic Fields.

Top Hat (1935): This screwball comedy features Fred Astaire as an American dancer in London. It may use all the gimmicky tricks that have come to define musicals (not always for the best), but the fancy footwork and Irving Berlin songs – like “Top Hat, White Tie and Tails” and “Cheek to Cheek” – are truly classics.

The Wizard of Oz (1939): Friends of Dorothy know that the recipe for the ultimate gay movie-musical is Judy! Judy! Judy!, flying monkeys, wicked witches – and her little dog, too.

Gentleman Prefer Blondes (1953): Madonna reinterpreted the famous Marilyn Monroe number “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” in the “Material Girl” video – and for good reason. It doesn’t get much better than seeing the blonde bombshell coo in a room full of half-naked men.

Hello Dolly! (1969): Barbra stole this show from Broadway diva Carol Channing (causing quite a backstage stir) in this Jerry Herman-penned musical. Memorable numbers, like “Before the Parade Passes By,” have become gay anthems for those old enough to remember both the original and movie adaptation. Herman went on to score many other shows, like the very gay La Cage aux Folles, which has been revived on Broadway starring Harvey Fierstein this month.

Cabaret (1972): This is Liza Minnelli at her best playing singer Sally Bowles with a bisexual boyfriend and all the Bob Fosse moves you can shake a leg at. It’s loosely based on the Broadway musical by Kander and Ebb, which was adapted from gay author Christopher Isherwood’s The Berlin Stories. Cher’s stinker Burlesque basically ripped off most of the plot and moves – but with nowhere near the pizzazz of the original, which is set in naughty Berlin during the Nazi regime.

Mame (1974): What do you get when you drop a kid on the doorstep of a boozy diva? A madcap musical that – while it doesn’t do justice to the Rosalind Russell film – enjoys eccentric scenes with catchy numbers. Plus, you get Bea Arthur long before she became one of our favorite Golden Girls.

All That Jazz (1979): This is Fosse’s surreal semi-autobiographical version of his life as told through the eyes of Joe Gideon, a pill-popping, alcoholic choreographer whose body can’t quite keep up with his creative fervor. It’s pure 70s excess with stunning dance sequences that have influenced plenty of MTV videos from the last 30 years (we’re looking at you, Paula Abdul).

Hair (1979): Based on the 1969 Broadway musical, this groovy adaptation features a memorable songbook sung by an all-star cast about hippies navigating the 20th century in war time. LSD not included.

A Chorus Line (1985): A group of dancers audition for a new Broadway musical. But what we see are stripped-down vignettes about their lives set to song and dance. Nothing is off limits. The candor hits on being gay, being flat-chested and being a bad singer. The movie does a good job of capturing the spirit of the late great Michael Bennett’s long-running stage musical.

Chicago (2002): Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renee Zellweger give surprise performances as they shimmy their way though Fosse-inspired dance numbers like “All That Jazz,” which, as anyone who has ever been to Philly’s gay piano bar can attest, is always a crowd pleaser.