The “Tales” are coming to “the City”


It’s still a year or two down

the road, but a musical version of Armistead Maupin‘s Tales of the

is slated

to head to Broadway — with a possible stop in San Francisco along the way.

The Tales of the City

series, which spanned seven books and three miniseries, began as a

serial in The

San Francisco Chronicle

in the ’70s. It told the story of Mary Ann Singleton, a secretary

who never returned to Cleveland after a vacation in San Francisco, and

the “family” she found in her new digs at 28 Barbary Lane on Russian

Hill. Her family members included Michael “Mouse” Tolliver, her

gay best friend; Mona Ramsey, Michael’s sometimes-lesbian roommate;

Brian Hawkins, ’70s straight guy on the prowl (and her future husband);

and Anna Madrigal, the transgender “mother of them all” who grew

pot in her garden and taped joints to apartment doors as gifts for her “children.”

The creative team certainly

has the credentials to keep the show gay enough. Tony Award winner

Jeff Whitty is slated to write the book. If you’re not familiar

with his work in Avenue Q, check out the opening number.

(Whitty didn’t write the music

and lyrics, but he clearly had a lot to do with the campy gay sensibility.)

The musical team will consist of John Garden and Jason Sellards

(Scissor Sisters), so it’s likely that the show will have some era-appropriate

disco influences.

The story has so many intricate

story lines that some will clearly have to go. Obviously I hope the

lesbian plot remains. (Mona’s ex-lover, D’or — a white woman who’s passing

as black for the sake of her modeling career — moves back to the Bay

Area to win back Mona.) Perhaps they can do without the story of the

closeted gay husband of the socialite (pregnant by the Chinese deliveryman)

hooking up with the socialite’s gynecologist at the baths. Or maybe

they’ll downplay Brian’s endless quest to get laid. But they have to

keep Mary Ann’s doomed romance with the vitamin salesman/private investigator/child

pornographer. (I won’t tell you how that ends.)

I can imagine lots about the

show: a set featuring the Barbary Lane steps with the Golden Gate Bridge

and Transamerica building in the background, an opening number about

Cleveland, perhaps a song and dance number with the Sisters of Perpetual

. But

what I cannot picture is the casting. The original miniseries was so

perfectly cast that I cannot fathom seeing others in the roles.

First, there was Laura Linney as Mary Ann.

In 1993, I didn’t yet know

that Laura Linney was one of the best actresses in the world. But I

soon learned. She was Mary Ann, and I cannot imagine anyone else

playing her.

Then there was Olympia Dukakis as Anna Madrigal.

Still the best portrayal of

a male-to-female transsexual in film history. (Although Felicity Huffman

came close in Transamerica. And Kate Moennig was quite good in an episode of

Law and Order: SVU

And the lesbians of various


Barbara Garrick was

wonderfully uptight as socialite Dede Halcyon Day. She’s not a lesbian

in the first book, but she gets there eventually. Then there’s Chloe

, who was perfect as hippie, “hasbian” Mona. (She becomes

a full-fledged lesbian later, with no explanation.) Finally, there’s

Cynda Williams
as D’or — who ends up with Dede a book or two later.

Plus there were some memorable

supporting roles. There was the inimitable Parker Posey as Connie


And there was even Janeane

in a bit part.

Sigh. I cannot even begin to

come up with a possible Broadway cast this good.

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