Elton John and the Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears have come together to collaborate on the creation of a brand new musical based on the life of the legendary televangelist and LGBTQI icon, Tammy Faye Messner.
The new musical, entitled Tammy Faye is slated to begin its run at the Almeida Theatre in London’s West End in October 2022.
The cast of Tammy Faye, which includes Beautiful’s Katie Brayben, The Book of Mormon’s Andrew Rannells, and Zubin Varla, began rehearsals for the show this week.
Tammy Faye will feature music by Elton John, with lyrics by Jake Shears. John has also famously written music for The Lion King and Billy Elliott.
Elton John was nominated for a Tony Award in 1998 for Best Original Score for his work collaborating on the score for The Lion King and was nominated again in 2009 for Best Original Score for his work on Billy Elliott.
Out singer Jake Shears, who announced at Brighton Pride August 7 that he had been granted a five year visa to live in the UK, most recently appeared onstage at the Hollywood Bowl in Kinky Boots in a special three night run.
The musical is based on the life of the iconic Tammy Faye Messner, who along with her former husband Jim Bakker fronted the PTL Club television ministry during the 1970s and 1980s. Tammy Faye embraced the LGBTQI community, drawing strong disapproval from other minsters, including Jerry Falwell.
Tammy Faye – A Gay Icon
Tammy Faye famously invited Steven Pieters, a gay Christian minister living with HIV/AIDS onto her program in 1985. Pieters appeared on Tammy’s House Party, a segment of The PTL Club, and during the segment they talked about Pieter’s AIDS diagnosis, as well as the death of his partner and his sexuality.
During the segment with Pieters, Tammy Faye said, “How sad that we as Christians, who are to be the salt of the earth, we who are supposed to be able to love everyone, are afraid so badly of an AIDS patient that we will not go up and put our arm around them and tell them that we care.”
In a 2021 interview with People, Pieters said, “She wanted to be the first televangelist to interview a gay man with AIDS.”
“It was a very scary time and there was still a lot of fear about AIDS and about being around a person with AIDS. And I thought the opportunity to reach an audience that I would never otherwise reach was too valuable to pass by.”
“I was struck by her compassion and supportiveness and affirmation right away,” Pieters said. “She had a ministry to the LGBTQI population and to people with AIDS that was very different than your typical televangelist.”
Tammy Faye continued to strongly support the LGBTQI community, attending gay pride events, visiting AIDS hospices and gay-friendly churches with her children Jay and Tammy Sue.
Pieters said, “She made sure that they were exposed to people that they otherwise would not be exposed to and taught them to be loving and compassionate and supportive.” Tammy Faye Messner passed away from colon cancer in 2007.
Bizarre, Baroque, Almost Operatic Life Story
Tammy Faye’s director Rupert Goold, in an interview with The Guardian said, “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.”
“I think there’s quite a lot of faith music and church music influences in classic Elton John,” said Goold, who directed Renee Zellweger in her Oscar winning turn as Judy Garland in Judy in 2019.
“It was a bizarre, baroque, almost operatic life story,” Goold said, of Tammy Faye. “She’s at times kitsch, at times sentimental, but basically a very empathic figure.”
“Tammy just wants to put the fun back into faith. But a new wave of ministers wants you not to just feel God in your heart, but in your homes, in your schools, and in the law too.”
Brayben, who will play Tammy Faye, was nominated won the 2015 Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her role in Beautiful: The Carole Kind Musical, where Brayben played legendary singer-songwriter Carole King.
Tammy Faye At London’s Almeida Theatre
Out actor Rannells, who plays Jim Bakker, was nominated for a Tony Award in 2011 for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical for his role as Elder Price in The Book of Mormon. In 2017, Rannells again received a Tony nomination, this time as Best Featured Actor in a Musical for Falsettos.
Rannells announced his casting in an Instagram post August 24, saying, “Happy Birthday to me! I’m making my London debut alongside the amazing Katie Brayben at The Almeida Theater this fall!” Out Australian actor Murray Bartlett voiced his support saying, “Woohoo!!!”
Varla, who plays Jerry Falwell, won an Olivier Award, for Best Actor in a Musical for Fun Home in 2018.
Playwright James Graham, also wrote the acclaimed play This House, which was nominated for an Olivier Award for Best New Play in 2012. This House was named the “Play of the Decade” in Bloomsbury Publishing’s 60 Years of Modern Plays public vote.
Tammy Faye is scheduled to run at London’s Almeida Theatre from October 13 until December 3. The Almeida, in a press release said, Tammy Faye will be a “testament of faith, resilience and the temptations of success.”
This isn’t the first time the life of Tammy Faye has inspired a work inspired by her colourful life. The Eyes of Tammy Faye, starring Jessica Chastain, who won the Academy Award for Best Actress as Tammy Faye in March, bombed at the box office despite generating raves for Chastain’s performance.
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