The Big Gay Musical’s Joey Dudding is super, thanks for asking!
If you aren’t able to attend this year’s FilmOut, being held at the Birch North Park Theatre on April 16-22, to catch its opening number with the song-and-dance routine, The Big Gay Musical, fret not!
The film is also being released on DVD on April 6, but then you miss the chance to see it in its full-screen glory, as it provides a colorful commentary on everything from coming out, HIV-related issues, and religious zealots – oh my! Plus, there’s a little man-on-man action, thrown in for good measure.
The plotline concerns actors Paul (Daniel Robinson) and Eddie (Joey Dudding), who are headlining as the title characters in the Off-Broadway musical comedy production of “Adam and Steve Just the Way God Made ’Em.”
The pair begins to notice that their lives seem to be intertwining with their roles, as Eddie has to strike a balance with coming to terms with his sexuality and incorporating his faith into the mix, and Paul seeks out a solid relationship.
And, things are made more complicated when Eddie discovers that his devout parents will be attendance to see a Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker-like couple school a group of wayward sinners (The Gays) from the Breeder’s Informational Book of Living Examples– c’mon kids, you can figure out what that is supposed to be. And, what one is supposed to be is at the heart of this cinematic offering.
I chatted with star Joey Dudding about his Big Gay Musical experience, which was in the immortal words of something else that is Big and Gay (as in the character Al from “South Park”) was super, thanks for asking!
The affable actor also let us in on how it was to tackle his first starring role and sex scene at the same time, and what he hopes that audiences will get out of the film.
Early on, Dudding knew the world of musical theater was a place that he wanted to live in. Yet, his first Off-Off-Off-Off Broadway effort also had a religious connotation to it…well, sort of.
“I got started doing musicals – I’d have to say in kindergarten – you know, we did our school play,” he recounted. “And, I think I played the Easter Bunny in some Easter production we were doing. I remember that since I got to play the Easter Bunny that I got to wear the crazy Easter Bunny costume.
“I really enjoyed it, and at such a young age, it’s so silly – it just felt right,” he said. “But, of course, I guess any kid wants to put on a costume and get in front of people.”
The small town boy (Lynchburg, Virginia to be exact) unconsciously began prepping for his role in Musical during his upbringing.
“It’s a relatively small town – it’s actually where Jerry Falwell started his ministries,” Dudding stated. “So, growing up around that was quite interesting. Luckily, there were some great community theaters and my mom took me to see productions, like Oklahoma, and put me into acting classes.
“I started taking dance classes around age 14, and I went to a musical theater summer camp,” he explained. “That’s when I started looking at it as a potential career.”
And that leads us to the present day, when his agent submitted him for a role in The Big Gay Musical, which he initially had mixed feelings about partaking in.
“When they called her to let me know that I was going in for The Big Gay Musical, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh! This could be either really hilarious or really terrible.”
And, although he didn’t try out for the role of Eddie, it eventually seemed to be the most logical choice for the performer and the behind-the-scenes players, including co-directors Casper Andreas and Fred M. Caruso.
However, the process may have left Dudding feeling a wee bit schizophrenic.
“They gave me the scene to read for Scott – who’s the guy that Eddie goes home with at the bar – so it was really a minor sort of role,” he explained. “I had to go in and sing a song for them, and then they said, ‘Read Paul.’
“So, I went out in the hallway and read through the Paul stuff and did a cold read of that,” Dudding said. “And I felt connected to it, because I feel a little bit more like Paul than I am Eddie. And, right after I read that for them, they said, ‘You know what? Take a look at the other side.’ So, I switched characters and read for Eddie, and I think everyone could just tell it was a little bit better fit. I found out after my second audition that they wanted me to play Eddie.”
But, Dudding wasn’t only playing Eddie; he was also portraying Steve in the musical portion of the show, which caused him some consternation about his methodology at first.
“I thought about that when I approached the script,” he stated. “I was like, ‘Should I make these characters really different? Should I consciously try to make changes?’ I think the script informed us on how to play these characters, because Steve is similar to Eddie – they’re not radically different characters.
“Steve is a little campier than Eddie, he was the musical theater version of him…being Eddie was just me being natural.”
Speaking of natural, as is au natural, the part did call for the aforementioned sex scene, and was definitely made more comfortable two-fold.
One portion of the equation is that it is part of his character’s progression, and secondly, it gives new meaning to the term f**k buddy, as Dudding explained.
“I think I was more concerned with going to the gym and looking good,” he answered with a chuckle. “The guy that played Scott is Ryan Overberg, and he’s a friend of mine. So, it wasn’t totally awkward to be naked with him. I just went in and they just let us touch and filmed a little bit here and there – so it was very clinical and I wasn’t too nervous.”
Something else the 30-year-old wasn’t worried about was what could be viewed as a potentially hot button issue, with the film’s themes of a religious nature.
“I hope it would be controversial,” he proclaimed. “I think it plays it safer, in a good way, and I don’t think it will turn anyone with strong religious convictions off; because ultimately the message is acceptance, tolerance and love, which is the true message of Christianity that is lost in a lot of arguments coming from the religious right these days.
“And being a musical comedy makes it easier to swallow,” he said before asking for that quote not to be used. Sorry, Joey…you give good copy!
He also believes that the celluloid journey serves another purpose, as well, in the form of a valuable lesson.
“Definitely (it’s about) loving oneself,” he summarized. “It’s about two young guys in their twenties trying to figure out things. Eddie learns it’s o.k. to be Christian and gay. But, it also shows audiences that they don’t have to deny themselves an opportunity, because they’re afraid they are going to make a bad decision.”