It’s a strange and sometimes fascinating relationship between the great Broadway divas and a gay audience, which goes back generations to the golden era of musicals.
The enduring tradition continues to this day, and its significance is not lost on contemporary divas like Faith Prince.
Speaking with the Star on the eve of her first Australian tour, Prince, the Tony Award-winning star of such Broadway hits as Guys and Dolls and The King and I, recognises the importance of gay fans.
Thems my people, she says from her Los Angeles home. They just get it.
As proof, she recounts a story of being invited by fans to a local gay bar after one of her recent concerts in Philadelphia.
We sat around the piano and those guys knew every lyric of every song, she says.
I thought -˜is it something in the DNA?’ They were all so into it, and I just remember thinking -˜it doesn’t get any better than this’.
I have this theory that I remind them of Aunt Polly -“ someone in their life who introduced them to theatre and the arts, be it an aunt or a grandmother, who they were comfortable with.
In that way, I think they can relate to the women I play. It is a part of them that can go back to those days.
In Prince’s one-woman show, A Leap Of Faith, she presents the songs from her career as well as stories of experiences of working on Broadway and in Hollywood, and her marriage to musician Larry Lunetta.
She admits she was initially reluctant to put together such a show.
I kept thinking I wouldn’t know what to say. But then when they got me up there, they couldn’t shut me up and I couldn’t shut up! You then realise you have much more to say than you think. Revealing my past is the fun stuff.
Prince performed in two seminal early 1990s AIDS musicals, Falsettoland and March of the Falsettos. In both shows, Prince played Trina, a woman whose husband comes out as gay and leaves her for a man, who later becomes sick and dies of AIDS.
That show at that time was a way for people to mourn and to let their feelings out. People were sobbing as they had no other place to put all those feelings, she says.
I remember some audiences were so devastated by the end of it, and it was fulfilling as an artist to know you were part of something that had that impact.
But Prince insists A Leap of Faith is not just a collection of her best-loved show numbers all rolled into a greatest-hits collection. I do numbers from my shows, but not in the way you might think. I play with them, she says.
If people are passionate about musical theatre, they are savvy and educated. It is a case of working within the box, but also thinking outside that same box.
A Leap of Faith plays 7 and 8 June at @Newtown, 52 Enmore Road, Newtown. Bookings on 9550 3666.