New musical on gay icon Tammy Faye is coming to London

Elton John teamed up with Scissor Sisters frontman Jake Shears and playwright James Graham for the upcoming show.

Photo of gay icon Tammy Faye, protagonist of a new upcoming movie, and Jim Bakker speaking on microphones.
Image: Peter K. Levy, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The life story of American Christian superstar Tammy Faye is going to become a musical, coming to London in October of this year, and it has a stellar cast of queer creatives behind it.

The world premiere of the musical Tammy Faye will take place in October at the Almeida Theatre, a “small” theatre in the north of London. With rehearsals beginning this week, the Almeida theatre has just announced the full cast, which includes famous names like Katie Brayben, and Andrew Rannells.

In addition to the script written by playwright James Graham, the show will have music written by none other than Elton John, who also penned music for The Lion King and Billy Elliott, while Scissors Sisters frontman Jake Shears worked on the lyrics. The musical will be directed by artistic director Rupert Goold who, speaking to The Guardian, said: “I think there’s quite a lot of faith music and church music influences in classic Elton John.”

He continued saying: “Tammy came to early fame in the ’70s, and then became a different kind of public figure in the ’80s and ’90s. And the score in some ways traces Elton’s own musicality through those periods as well.”

Speaking of the life story of the protagonist of the musical, he said it was “bizarre, baroque, almost operatic” and that Tammy Faye herself was “at times kitsch, at times sentimental, but basically a very empathic figure.”

Tammy Faye became a gay icon because of her kindness and compassion toward people living with HIV during the AIDS crisis in the ’80s.

Tammy Faye Messner captivated audiences thanks to her warm personality and her willingness to discuss matters that were considered taboo, especially for a Christian TV personality such as her. One of her most groundbreaking gestures happened in 1985, when she invited Steve Pieters, a person living with AIDS, to talk on her show.

At the peak of the AIDS crisis in the US, when people were suggesting that the disease was divine punishment for homosexuality, the fact that she gave this man the possibility to openly talk about his diagnosis and his sexuality was unheard of.

“We’re in a really interesting time regarding faith and belief, with the repealing of Roe v Wade in various [US] states and the return of the idea of faith-based morality or legislation,” commented director Goold. “There is talk that that may move towards gay marriage and parenting, and there’ll be a policing of civil liberties and people’s bodies. And it’s not without resonances over here.”

“So although Tammy Faye is a historic story, and looks really at the birth of the prosperity gospel, it has something politically to say now,” he added.

For more information on the musical Tammy Faye, visit the dedicated webpage here.

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