Fairy Tales: The Director and Stars of the New Broadway Production of Shrek Talk about Playing Gay, Fighting off Fans, and the Best Coming-Out Gift for Clay Aiken
Voss, Brandon, The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
THE GAY GOLDEN BOYS of the Great White Way have gone green for Shrek the Musical. Broadway's new adaptation of William Steig's 1990 book and DreamWorks' Academy Award-winning animated film series about a misunderstood ogre and the inhabitants of Far, Far Away opens December 14 at the Broadway Theatre, reuniting Avenue Q director Jason Moore, 38, with his Tony-nominated puppet master John Tartaglia, 30, as Pinocchio. Christopher Sieber, 39, a groundbreaking gay dad in ABC's short-lived series It's All Relative and a Tony nominee for his work in Monty Python's Spamalot, also rules the stage as the diminutive Lord Farquaad. Once upon a time not so long ago, these three men joined The Advocate for a three-martini meal at midtown Manhattan's actor hangout Angus McIndoe.
The Advocate: Avenue Q and Spamalot both include gay-themed musical numbers. What's the gayest moment in Shrek the Musical?
Jason Moore: There's a scene with Chris shirtless in a bathtub and a hooded guy as his manicurist.
Christopher Sieber: All my minions are well-built with big packages. You don't really know what's going on with Lord Farquaad's sexuality, and I like that. John Tartaglia: There's also the "Freak Flag" number, where I get to say, "I'm wood, I'm good, get used to it!"
Moore: One Seattle review [during the show's pre-Broadway run there] said it looked like a West Hollywood street parade.
Tartaglia: Pinocchio's ashamed to be a fairy-tale creature. He's basically a self-hating puppet that hasn't come to terms with the fact that he'll never be a real boy.
Moore: Early on in rehearsals we thought, What's the model for someone who isn't admitting something that he obviously is?
Tartaglia: Even when everyone else is fine with it, but he himself is still so afraid?
Sieber: Mario Lopez? Oh, my God! [Laughs]
Moore: Pinocchio is a real embodiment of the theme of the show--owning and loving yourself for who you are.
So, as the Christian right might say, you're sneaking in your evil gay agendas.
Sieber: Yes, we're trying to recruit as many as we can. I want that toaster!
The Shrek films did come under attack by conservative groups for promoting cross-dressing and transgenderism because Pinocchio wore panties and a stepsister, voiced by Larry King, was mannish. Does your Pinocchio wear panties, John?
Tartaglia: It's in my subtext. [Laughs] As for the other thing, it's like Tinky Winky: There was no agenda. It was truly funny to have a stepsister who talked like Larry King. It's comedy, people.
Sieber: I know I learned cross-dressing from Warner Bros. cartoons like Bugs Bunny and Sylvester! People have gotten so serious about things that aren't that serious. Gays aren't trying to take over the world. [Leans in toward tape recorder] Or are we?
Moore: The fact that Chris liked to dress up like Tinker Bell till the age of 5 doesn't mean anything.
Chris, have you heard any dirty jokes about the fact that your costume requires you to perform on your knees for the entire show?
Sieber: Oh, like, "Is this the first time you've had to be on your knees after you got the job?" Ha, ha, ha! Oh, keep 'em coming! The knees for me are like the nose for John.
Tartaglia: In Seattle people would be like, "Lie to me, Pinocchio, lie to me!" But Ill be the first one to show off my nose.
John and Chris, you're both in relationships, but do guys still slip you their phone numbers at the stage door?
Sieber: Sadly, I'm not Cheyenne Jackson, so I've only gotten a few. You do get guys touching, kissing, and wanting to hug you. At first that bothered me, but now I take what I can get. [Laughs] I understand that some of these guys are from Nebraska and they identify with us and feel like they know us. But you have to set boundaries--unless they're really cute. …