Manufacturing opening in October portrays US evangelical star who turned a homosexual icon due to her empathy for folks with HIV/AIDS
By Harriet Sherwood / The Guardian
The colourful life story of an American Christian celebrity who turned a homosexual icon due to her empathy for folks with HIV/AIDS is the topic of a brand new stage musical with a rating by Elton John.
Rehearsals started this week for the world premiere of Tammy Faye on the Almeida theater in north London in October. In addition to Elton John’s music, the present’s script was written by James Graham, the writer of the tv dramas Sherwood and Brexit: The Uncivil Warfare, and the play Ink.
The present is, mentioned the Almeida, a “testomony of religion, resilience and the temptations of success.”
Tammy Faye Messner, who died in 2007, constructed a Christian tv empire together with her first husband, Jim Bakker. Along with her elaborate hairstyles, heavy make-up and heat character, Tammy Faye was a success. At its peak, the couple’s flagship program, The PTL Membership (quick for reward the lord), was seen in additional than 13m households throughout the US.
The couple, who met at bible faculty, additionally created a massively profitable Christian theme park, Heritage USA, in South Carolina. In its peak years within the Eighties, it was the third hottest theme park on this planet behind Disneyland and Disney World.
BIZARRE LIFE STORY
Tammy Faye’s guileless persona and willingness to debate topics thought of out of bounds by different Christian broadcasters received her an enormous following. However it was acceptance of LGBT+ folks, and her empathy for these going through sickness and loss of life on account of the AIDS epidemic, that marked her out inside a spiritual motion characterised by homophobia. Specifically, her emotional 1985 tv interview with Steve Pieters, an brazenly homosexual church pastor dwelling with HIV, was a break with non secular and political orthodoxy. On the time, some public figures have been suggesting that AIDS was a divine punishment for homosexuality.
A couple of years later, Jim Bakker was jailed for fraud and conspiracy; he had additionally been accused of raping and paying off a church secretary, which he denied. Tammy Faye, who divorced Bakker whereas he was in jail, wrote three memoirs and continued to seem on tv. Her final look, on the Larry King Present, was two days earlier than she died of most cancers on the age of 65.
“It was a weird, baroque, nearly operatic life story,” mentioned Rupert Goold, the Almeida’s inventive director who’s directing the musical. “She’s at occasions kitsch, at occasions sentimental, however mainly a really empathic determine.”
The world of televangelism, particularly the Bakkers’ present, was “a theatrical world” which lent itself to a musical comedy, he added. However there was a severe aspect, too.
“We’re in a very attention-grabbing time relating to religion and perception, with the repealing of Roe v Wade in numerous [US] states and the return of the concept of faith-based morality or laws. There may be discuss that that will transfer in direction of homosexual marriage and parenting, and there’ll be a policing of civil liberties and folks’s our bodies. And it’s not with out resonances over right here.
“So though Tammy Faye is a historic story, and appears actually on the delivery of the prosperity gospel, it has one thing politically to say now.”
Elton John has written the scores for a number of musicals, together with The Lion King and Billy Elliott.
“I believe there’s numerous religion music and church music influences in basic Elton John,” mentioned Goold. “Tammy got here to early fame within the 70s, after which turned a unique form of public determine within the 80s and 90s. And the rating in some methods traces Elton’s personal musicality by way of these durations as effectively.”
The Eyes of Tammy Faye, a movie starring Jessica Chastain, got here out final autumn to combined opinions and grossed simply US$2.7 million on the field workplace.
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