“Still Waiting in the Wings”: Let’s Put on A Show

Kelsey (Harrison White), Lee (Blake Peyrot), Ethel (Lee Meriwether), Tony (Adam Huss), Anthony (Jeffrey A Johns), Bradley (Joe Abraham), Rita (Rena Strober)
(Rear row) Harrison White, Blake Peyrot, Lee Meriwether, Adam Huss, (front row) Jeffrey. A. Johns, Joe Abraham, and Rena Strober in “Still Waiting in the Wings,” directed by of Q. Allan Brocka.
JJ Spotlight Productions

When the coronavirus, quarantine, and politics are getting you down, there’s one sure-fire antidote: a great big, splashy musical. Trust me, it worked during the Great Depression, and it can work now. The only requirement is a desire for a couple of hours of innocent entertainment — at least if that’s your thing.

If it is, you’ll likely be delighted by the new movie musical “Still Waiting in the Wings.” Originally released in 2018 and having made the rounds of various LGBTQ festivals where it garnered several top awards, it’s now available to stream on Amazon, Google, and iTunes platforms. Written by Jeffrey A. Johns and Arie Gonzalez with original songs from a variety of artists, it’s a backstage musical of the classic variety. The backstage, though, is not quite as elegant as in most archetypes of the genre. Instead, Café Broadway is a tacky Times Square restaurant where all the characters are singing waiters and all the patrons are tourists.

A delightful, new movie musical makes its streaming debut

The story begins as Anthony, the irrepressibly cheerful young man from Montana, lands a job there and is convinced that serving and singing represent the first of his sure-to-come big breaks in the Big Apple. The other waiters, however — particularly his best girlfriend Rita — consider singing and dancing while slinging salad a comedown. After all, just the month before Rita was in an Off-Broadway musical. When not in the spotlight, the characters bicker about solos and group numbers. Among the most entertaining parts of the entire movie are the songs they do — each of which is a pastiche/ homage of classic musical theater numbers, staged with tongue-in-cheek charm by choreographer Cassie Nordgren.

The plot thickens when newcomer Bradley joins the servers’ chorus line, and trouble ensues. Ambitious and wily, Bradley tries all kinds of tricks to derail Anthony’s dreams of acting on a bigger stage and even causes trouble with Anthony’s boyfriend Lee, a stripper in a Chippendale’s-like club. Anthony’s roommate, a straight actor named Tony, gets a gig on a soap opera (sorry, “an outstanding daytime drama” — a running gag), Bradley scuttles Anthony’s one-line debut on a soap, and there are plenty more competitive shenanigans, including a battle over an audition for “Lead Leprechaun” in a real Broadway show. (Anthony and Bradley are both small in stature — another running gag.)

Still, no matter how much Bradley tries to undermine Anthony — which the writers never waste time trying to explain — in the best, sun-coming-out-tomorrow tradition of these time-honored tales, where the answer to any dilemma is a production number, Anthony remains relentlessly upbeat. His undimmable brightness and relentless exuberance, in fact, might be alarming if it weren’t so damned endearing.

The cast is obviously having a blast doing this under the savvy direction of Q. Allan Brocka, who captures just the right tone and spirit for the story. Jeffrey A. Johns is terrific as the seriously sunny Anthony, as is Joe Abraham as the conniving Bradley. Blake Peyrot is sweet and sexy as stripper Lee. Rena Strober is a lovely mix of diva and ingenue as Rita, and Adam Huss is great as the hunky straight man — in both meanings of the word. Complementing these bright performances is a series of funny celebrity cameos — another stape of the genre — from Chita Rivera, Cindy Williams, Sally Struthers, Ed Asner, Seth Rudetsky, Carole Cook, Lee Meriwether, Nick Adams, and Bruce Vilanch.

At first, it felt like this was going to be a satire, but “Still Waiting in the Wings” turns out to something much more entertaining and satisfying — an innocent throwback to escapist entertainment that asks nothing of its audience and puts on a show that will just make you feel good. It’s a clever mash-up of “All About Eve,” “Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss,” and Mickey and Judy’s “backyard musicals,” that delivers a happy ending… for anyone who deserves one, of course. That’s certainly no spoiler. As the show gets rolling, one couldn’t imagine anything else.

STILL WAITING IN THE WINGS | Directed by Q. Allan Brocka | JJ Spotlight Productions | jjspotlightproductions.com/where-to-watch

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