“Tammy Faye,” the show about the late Charlotte-area televangelist and gay icon, debuted in London last year. John’s production company announced on Friday that it will transfer to Broadway in the 2024-25 season.
Bakker, along with her then-husband Jim Bakker, ran the religious TV empire “Praise the Lord,” or “PTL,” from Charlotte, then Fort Mill, South Carolina, in the 1970s and ‘80s. PTL eventually collapsed amid scandal and financial ruin, and Jim Bakker was imprisoned for fraud.
John, himself, was the one who developed the idea to base a musical on Bakker’s life.
Standing less than 5-feet tall, the diminutive Bakker had an oversized spirit, buttressed by her trademark big eyelashes and heavy makeup. And while numerous evangelical leaders shunned people with AIDS in the 1980s, Bakker warmly interviewed an HIV-positive gay pastor on the PTL show.
Bakker, who later went on to marry Jim Messner, died in July 2007.
The musical is the latest show, but far from the only one, to tackle the tale of Bakker’s life. Last year, Jessica Chastain won an Oscar for the biopic “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” a movie filmed in the Charlotte area. It was inspired by a 2000 documentary that shared the same name.
About the ‘Tammy Faye’ musical
The superstar singer John also is a musical theater vet who wrote the scores for “Lion King” and “Aida” in addition to writing music for “Tammy Faye.” Jake Shears with the pop band Scissor Sisters handled the lyrics and James Graham wrote the script.
‘The ‘Tammy Faye’ musical show drew strong reviews across the pond, with The New York Times critic saying it was “savvy... campy fun” and “spectacularly entertaining.”
The show focuses on televangelism’s growth, the Bakkers landing a religious TV show with PTL, and their rise and subsequent fall. Among its songs are “Satellite of God,” “Bring Me the Face of Tammy Bakker” and “Look How Far We’ve Fallen.”
There are numerous Carolina connections throughout. For instance, some of the sets recall the old PTL studio in Fort Mill, South Carolina.
Among the characters in the show are Jessica Hahn, the church secretary who had an affair with Jim Bakker, the Rev. Billy Graham and “Charles Shepherd,” a Charlotte Observer reporter investigating fraud claims against Jim Bakker. (The real-life reporter, Charles Shepard, led the Observer’s reporting on financial mismanagement and Jim Bakker’s affair with Hahn, and those stories won a Pulitzer Prize in 1988.)
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