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Kristin Chenoweth: Newsweek Article Was 'Horrendously Homophobic'

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In a recent Newsweek article, author Ramin Setoodeh asks "Heterosexual actors play gay all the time. Why doesn't it ever work in reverse?"

Setoodeh goes to some lengths to state that Sean Hayes, currently starring in the Broadway revival of PROMISES, PROMISES, cannot come across as straight in the role. He writes "Hayes is among Hollywood's best verbal slapstickers, but his sexual orientation is part of who he is, and also part of his charm. (The fact that he only came out of the closet just before Promises was another one of those Ricky Martin-duh moments.) But frankly, it's weird seeing Hayes play straight. He comes off as wooden and insincere, like he's trying to hide something, which of course he is. Even the play's most hilarious scene, when Chuck tries to pick up a drunk woman at a bar, devolves into unintentional camp. Is it funny because of all the '60s-era one-liners, or because the woman is so drunk (and clueless) that she agrees to go home with a guy we all know is gay?"

Hayes' co-star, stage and screen favorite Kristin Chenoweth has authored a response to the Newsweek article, which she refers to as "horrendously homophobic." BroadwayWorld has included the entire piece below:


As a longtime fan of Newsweek and as the actress currently starring opposite the incredibly talented (and sexy!) Sean Hayes in the Broadway revival of "Promises, Promises," I was shocked on many levels to see Newsweek publishing Ramin Setoodeh's horrendously homophobic "Straight Jacket," which argues that gay actors are simply unfit to play straight. From where I stand, on stage, with Hayes, every night -- I've observed nothing "wooden" or "weird" in his performance, nor have I noticed the seemingly unwieldy presence of a "pink elephant" in the Broadway Theater. (The Drama League, Outer Critics Circle and Tony members must have also missed that large animal when nominating Hayes' performance for its highest honors this year.) I'd normally keep silent on such matters and write such small-minded viewpoints off as perhaps a blip in common sense. But the offense I take to this article, and your decision to publish it, is not really even related to my profession or my work with Hayes or Jonathan Groff (also singled out in the article as too "queeny" to play "straight.") This article offends me because I am a human being, a woman and a Christian. For example, there was a time when Jewish actors had to change their names because anti-Semites thought no Jew could convincingly play Gentile. Setoodeh even goes so far as to justify his knee-jerk homophobic reaction to gay actors by accepting and endorsing that "as viewers, we are molded by a society obsessed with dissecting sexuality, starting with the locker room torture in junior high school." Really? We want to maintain and proliferate the same kind of bullying that makes children cry and in some recent cases have even taken their own lives? That's so sad, Newsweek! The examples he provides (what scientists call "selection bias") to prove his "gays can't play straight" hypothesis are sloppy in my opinion. Come on now! Openly gay Groff is too "queeny" to play Lea Michelle's boyfriend in GLEE, but is a "heartthrob" when he does it in Spring Awakening? Cynthia Nixon only "got away with it" 'cause she peaked before coming out? I don't know if you've missed the giant Sex and the City movie posters, but it seems most of America is "buying it." I could go on, but I assume these will be taken care of in your "Corrections" this week.

Similarly, thousands of people have traveled from all over the world to enjoy Hayes' performance and don't seem to have one single issue with his sexuality! They have no problem buying him as a love-torn heterosexual man. Audiences aren't giving a darn about who a person is sleeping with or his personal life. Give me a break! We're actors first, whether we're playing prostitutes, baseball players, or the Lion King. Audiences come to theater to go on a journey. It's a character and it's called acting, and I'd put Hayes and his brilliance up there with some of the greatest actors period.

Lastly, as someone who's been proudly advocating for equal rights and supporting GLBT causes for as long as I can remember, I know how much it means to young people struggling with their sexuality to see out & proud actors like Sean Hayes, Jonathan Groff, Neil Patrick Harris and Cynthia Nixon succeeding in their work without having to keep their sexuality a secret. No one needs to see a bigoted, factually inaccurate article that tells people who deviate from heterosexual norms that they can't be open about who they are and still achieve their dreams. I am told on good authority that Mr. Setoodeh is a gay man himself and I would hope, as the author of this article, he would at least understand that. I encourage Newsweek to embrace stories which promote acceptance, love, unity and singing and dancing for all! --Kristin Chenoweth

 

Kristin Chenoweth (Fran Kubelik). Broadway credits include You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown (Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle Awards); Wicked (Tony nomination); Steel Pier (Theatre World Award); and Epic Proportions. Other NY Theater includes Love, Loss, and What I Wore, The Apple Tree, Scapin, A New Brain, Dames at Sea, The Fantasticks, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever and Strike Up the Band. Film work includes You Again (2010), Bewitched, The Pink Panther, RV, Running With Scissors, Stranger Than Fiction, Deck the Halls and Four Christmases. TV includes the upcoming Lifetime movie "The Twelve Men of Christmas," "Glee," "Ugly Betty," "The West Wing," "The Music Man," "Annie," "Frasier," "Sesame Street," "Kristin," and two seasons as Olive Snook on the ABC dramedy "Pushing Daisies" for which she won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy. Her extensive concert career includes performances at the National Symphony Orchestra, Boston Pops, Hollywood Bowl, London's "Divas at Donmar" series, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, Washington National Opera and the Metropolitan Opera House. This winter she will be part of Il Divo's limited-run holiday tour. Albums: Let Yourself Go, As I Am, A Lovely Way To Spend Christmas. Her book, A Little Bit Wicked debuted at #12 on the NYT Hardcover Non-Fiction Best Seller list.

Broadway Across America (John Gore, Thomas B. McGrath, Beth Williams), Craig Zadan, Neil Meron, Candy Spelling and The Weinstein Company will present the first-ever Broadway revival of PROMISES, PROMISES this spring at the Broadway Theater (1681 Broadway). Previews will begin on Sunday, March 28th, 2010 with an opening night slated for Sunday, April 25th, 2010. The musical is written by legends Neil Simon (book), Burt Bacharach (music), and Hal David (lyrics). Emmy Award winner Sean Hayes will make his Broadway debut starring in the role of Chuck Baxter opposite Tony and Emmy Award winner Kristin Chenoweth, returning to Broadway as Fran Kubelik. Tony and Emmy Award winner Rob Ashford will also make his Broadway directorial debut and choreograph. More casting and creative team members will be announced in the near future.

Based on the 1960 Academy Award-winning Billy Wilder film The Apartment that starred Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine, PROMISES, PROMISES tells the story of the Consolidated Life Insurance Company and Chuck Baxter, one of its charming young employees. In an effort to advance at the company, Chuck lends executives his apartment for their extramarital romantic trysts. But things become slightly complicated when Fran Kubelik, the object of Chuck's affection, becomes the mistress of one of his executives. With Simon's funny and touching book and Bacharach and David's hit-packed score ("I'll Never Fall In Love Again," "Promises, Promises," and "Knowing When to Leave"), PROMISES, PROMISES is a unique and popular part of the musical theatre canon that will now return to the stage for the first time in over forty years, for a new generation of theatergoers.

The original production of PROMISES, PROMISES debuted on Broadway in 1968 at the Shubert Theatre and ran for 1,268 performances through January 1, 1972. The production was nominated for eight Tony awards, winning for Best Actor in a Musical (Jerry Orbach) and Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Marian Mercer). The original cast recording was honored with a Grammy Award in 1969.

 


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