Lea Michele: The gay interview

Posted on 10 May 2017 at 10:58am

 

Third in a series of interviews with musicians.

Lea Michele knows exactly where her life is headed. “It’s just gonna be me in bed with gay people and I’m gonna be alone forever like Cher,” the powerhouse playfully foretells, “and that’s totally fine by me.” If you’re like Michele — theater-kid-turned-Broadway-queen, and then, with TV’s Glee and Scream Queens, the apple of Ryan Murphy’s eye — it’s a natural fit. And so be it. “That’s just the story of my fuckin’ life, all right.”

Not the whole story, though. The rest involves brainstorming the 30-year-old singer’s “dream girl” make-out sessions and what Glee episodes she likes the most.

— Chris Azzopardi

Dallas Voice: I loved that you were drinking red wine while singing The Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me” when you reunited with your Glee co-star Darren Criss recently. Lea Michele: Listen, that’s just a typical night for me, let me tell you! I mean, we just wanted it to be casual, like a chill time, us hanging out. We didn’t want it to feel too performed. We just wanted it to be a little peek of what Darren and I do for fun together.

How much wine did you enjoy during the recording of your new album, Places? No wine during the recording of Places, I’ll tell you that. It was too vocally challenging, so none in the recording studio!

This album is more intimate than your debut. You take it down a few notches, and it sounds like you’ve realized that you don’t need to be the pop artist that some people might think you should be. Thank you. Can you do all of my press for me and tell everyone that?

Ha! Sure, I’m for hire. How did you apply what you’ve learned about yourself as a recording artist to Places? I learned a lot from my first album [2014’s Louder]. I definitely think a lot of things contributed to that album: I took a lot of people’s opinions into play, as well as just being a lover of pop music myself and also working on Glee at the same time, so I had a lot of factors kind of coming at me.

I worked on this new record over the past three years, and I really just took the time to be quiet and think about myself, and I was finished with Glee, so I was no longer in the recording studio for that. I just took the time to figure out really, truly who I am as an artist, what kind of music I want to make, and at the end of the day, I’m from Broadway, I’m a theatrical singer, there’s no way around that.

When I did this record, no one told me to change anything; no one told me to sound any different. And this is it, this is me. It’s a true representation of who I am, and all I can hope is that people like it. If they don’t, that’s OK for me now at this point in my life. You know, I’m 30 years old, and I know I can sing. I just hope that people like it and that’s all you can really do. At a certain point, you just have to let it go into the universe.

Did you feel differently making your first album? Did you feel like people were trying to put you in a box? No, I just think that I was sort of influenced a little bit more personally. I was putting myself into a box! No one was really making me do anything – I was the one that was saying, “I want a song that sounds like Katy Perry” and “I want this song to sound like Kelly Clarkson.” But in the recording studio this time, I was like, “No. It can’t sound like anyone but me.”

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Melissa Etheridge: The gay interview

Posted on 09 May 2017 at 9:22am

Second in a series of interviews with musician/activists this week.

“You keep doing what you’re doing, you keep being out, you keep being beautiful,” Melissa Etheridge tells me, as if to emphasize the present-day significance of simply being your queer self.

The Grammy-winning rock icon, whose coming out at the height of her career in the early ’90s paved the way for many in the LGBT community, knows the gravity mere visibility can have on the world. On the heels of our interview with Indigo Girls, Etheridge, 55 — who will be performing in concert June 29 at the Majestic — brings her centered thoughtfulness to our conversation about the precise career moments when her music incited momentous change, the influence Donald Trump is having on her latest “empowered” songwriting sessions, and why she’s not sweating the “big bully in the schoolyard.”

— Chris Azzopardi

Dallas Voice: Melissa, if there was ever a time to drink your weed wine, it’s gotta be now and for the next four years. Etheridge (laughing): Tell me about it!

Can you send me a crate? You do need it, don’t you? Oh my god, I wish I could. I wish I could get it out of [California], but I’m working on it.

Does that stuff help you write? Does it get the words flowing? You know what, I’m not as much of a drinker. I actually just smoke, and yes, smoking helps me write very much — smoking helps me every day.

Is it sativa you smoke for writing? For writing I smoke sativa; otherwise, if I’m not writing, I don’t use sativa because it would just make me run around in circles. [Laughs]

You know, when it comes to marijuana, I’m still learning. Aww. The whole product thing that I’ve got going, called Etheridge Farms — part of what we really want to be is sort of the “Cannabis for Dummies.” I can really take everybody through this … and this is good medicine! It’s good for you. And I’ll show you the choices and how to do it if you’re scared and stuff; that’s really what I want my brand to be. It’s about wellness and sort of walking people through this. It’s a very good time to take a breath and know that this too shall pass, and it’s making us all better.

Do you really believe that message – this is making us all better, that “this too shall pass?” I do. I have to. It’s my worldview. It’s my belief in the world, and I do have a belief that the universe doesn’t give us anything we cannot handle. All of this is cementing and making stronger our desire to live in a world that celebrates diversity. We know because the last eight years we’ve been riding on this incredibly amazing wave of, wow, we can all do this, we can live and let live and be stronger, and to borrow [Hillary Clinton’s] battle cry, be “stronger together.” Sometimes that being taken away from us and being confronted with what the world would be like without it is what makes that desire stronger, so obviously, it makes us stand up and take to the streets and say, “No, this is not how we want to live, this is not the American dream and let’s change that.”

Well, because we have to – we’re forced to. I was listening to your song “What Happens Tomorrow,” from 2007, and it gave me so much hope then and it’s giving so much hope now. But also, at the same time, I can’t help but feel bittersweet hearing, “I believe a woman can work hard and succeed, and we could be content to believe that she could be in charge of the free, and be the president,” knowing Hillary isn’t in the Oval Office right now.  I still believe in it. I know it was hard. We will never forget what that was like in November and January. We will never forget. We will tell our children. I have 10 year olds and said, “Look, this is an important time in history and you’re going to tell people that you were alive when this happened.”

Creatively speaking, is the current political climate shaping your new music? Are you writing songs about all this? Of course. I think we’re going to see more music talking about it, more music coming from that, and my music has kind of — I’ve always had a bit of that in my music. So, right now is a writing time for me. This whole year. And I can’t help but be influenced by it. I don’t want to put out a protest album, because I’m hoping in two years it will be moot and that we will have figured this all out, and yet I want it to be inspiring and speaking of our times because these, I think, are very important times.

What you do so well is put a face on an issue or event, like your song about Matthew Shepard, “Scarecrow,” and “Tuesday Morning,” an LGBT-rights rally cry centered on the late Mark Bingham, who sacrificed his life to save others in the Sept. 11 attacks. I imagine that might be the direction you’d go in. It’s funny, I haven’t really told anybody what I’m up to, but that’s exactly it — putting a face to it. I’m finding stories and really taking that way in.

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Indigo Girls: The gay interview

Posted on 08 May 2017 at 9:53am

 

Ray and Saliers, aka Indigo Girls

Marriage equality was a mere pipe dream when Indigo Girls duo Emily Saliers and Amy Ray came out in 1988, coinciding with the release of their eponymous Epic Records debut. There was no groundbreaking Ellen sitcom episode. Melissa Etheridge wasn’t formally out, and wouldn’t be until 1993, when she released Yes I Am. Within popular entertainment, particularly within the music business, Saliers and Ray were at the forefront of the queer rights movement. They won a Grammy and released chart-toppers like “Closer to Fine.” And they refused to let their sexuality get in the way of their success, brazenly being themselves at a time when being a gay public figure was uncommon and even downright scary.

In Friday’s print edition, we have an interview with Tony Award winner Billy Porter, so all this week, we decided to run interviews with other musicians who have taken an active role in art and politics.

We caught up with Saliers, 53, and Ray, 52, at the beginning of 2017, just days before Donald Trump would become our 45th president. The trailblazers talked about how music will unify despite the divisiveness of his administration, why “this is a really good time for artists to come to the forefront and stand up and be brave,” and their initial grade-school encounter that led to a devoted musical career and dear friendship spanning three decades.

Chris Azzopardi

Dallas Voice: You’re on the road fairly frequently. What keeps you touring as often as you do? Amy Ray: Every audience is different, so every experience is different, and I just think it’s good to get out there and play in front of people and keep that community… build it and keep it vibrant and have that exchange.

Emily Saliers: The demographic is more mixed now, and there are younger people who come to the shows. I don’t know how they find out about us, maybe their parents. Also, a lot of young women who are looking for bands that have a feminist reality about them. Self-empowered, self-worth, self-questioning — all those things that are all over our lyrics. Even though we’ve gotten much older, I don’t feel like the experience of going to one of our shows is like we’re just this old band that’s been around forever. It still feels new and fresh. I love it as much or more than I ever have.

Given the divisiveness of what’s happening politically, is building that sense of community more important now? Ray: It might be. I guess in some ways there are other levels where community is always important, because even when you have the best kind of administration and a president that you love, there are still pockets within our own country that need community and need that glue where there’s hard things going on, whether it’s different queer communities or Native American communities or communities of color that are disenfranchised in some way. But right now, it’s pretty daunting. There might be reversals that are negative environmentally and human rights-wise. I think it’s definitely a time to batten down the hatches and roll up the sleeves and start working.

What part do you think the arts, including music, will play in the political climate of Trump’s America? Ray: This is a really good time for artists to come to the forefront and stand up and be brave and make themselves known, and not be worried about alienating people with their art. Sometimes in the music community — still! — there are people who go, “Oh, we don’t want to rock the boat and alienate our audience.” But I feel like people are feeling less of that and more like, “Screw it.” I can see it happening around me with my friends even, who didn’t want to rock the boat, who might’ve been scared to alienate somebody in their audience. But now I think it’s like, “Well, what do we have to lose?”

Visual art and movies and theater right now are very important – music, also. Popular culture, like with Ellen, the original sitcom, for instance, really impacted people. It broadened a lot of people’s horizons, and Transparent does that as far as issues around queerness and trans issues and issues around Jewishness.

During Obama’s administration, there was, in a good way, a lot of permission given to all this really beautiful art to blossom, and I think that’s good because there’s this strong groundwork that’s been laid that just needs to continue happening well into the next administration. Art can really bring people together who might feel alienated from each other, like in my community. I live in a rural community where maybe 80 or 90 percent of the people voted for Trump, but I don’t really demonize people. I can’t go there ’cause they’re my neighbors, and I know them. I know them in their best moments. And I just try to understand where they’re coming from.

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‘Titanic:’ ship sinks but show soars

Posted on 05 May 2017 at 11:35pm

Titanic4bSpoiler alert: Yes, the ship sinks.

But the Uptown Players-Turtle Creek Chorale production of Titanic soared with sound that topped the original Broadway production. I loved the show on Broadway with its measly cast of 40 or 50. But the production that continues through the weekend at City Performance Hall has a cast of 160.

Please don’t confuse this show with that dreadful film with that one song that sounded like fingernails on a chalkboard. This show isn’t about some dopey necklace as in the movie that came out about the same time as the show. The story revolves around the tension between the ship’s designer, its captain and the representative from White Star Lines who wanted to set records on its maiden voyage to beat Cunard, as well as about actual passengers from the ship’s three classes of service. In this version of the story, there are actually characters to care about.

This show, with music and lyrics by Maury Yeston, is performed with a 15-piece orchestra in concert style. That means the emphasis on the music, with a single set and limited choreography. And what a wonderful score the show has.

On Broadway, once the big ship in the opening scene sails off stage, little scenery was used through the rest of the production, so this version doesn’t suffer one bit from its limited set. In fact, the projection screens worked as well as sets did in the original. As the large wave projected behind the Chorale overtook the Titanic, the feeling of drowning is more effective than in the original.

Powerful voices throughout the huge cast make this a blockbuster — the Strausses, the three Kates, the Thayers, the Beanes — all were wonderful singers. When the Chorale joined in the sound swelled magnificently to fill the room.

The choreography helped keep the show from getting static, but in a few places, was quite energetic. If I had one suggestion at all, it would be that the over-sized stage at the Winspear across the street would have accommodated this production even better. That stage was full, well, at least until half of them drowned.

Great collaboration and looking forward to seeing these two groups continue their successful partnership.

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Young gay Frenchmen more likely to support right-wing nut job Marine Le Pen

Posted on 04 May 2017 at 10:13am

It’s an accepted norm that gays tend to be more politically liberal, for obvious reasons, and that young people are more liberal than their older counterparts. You’d expect, then, that young gays would be among the most liberal of demographics. But in France, the opposite appears to be true.

Hornet, a gay social network, recently surveyed its French users about the country’s upcoming national election for president, which pits left-leaning Emmanuel Macron against hard-right fringe candidate Marine Le Pen. More than 5,000 users were questioned, with about half under 30 and half over. Those 18–29 supported Le Pen with about 45 percent; those over 30 supported her only 35 percent, which is in line with national polling in general. And over 50? Her support dropped to 20 percent.

Even the 20 percent seems staggering to me, since she is an overly racist, homophobic, right-wing nut job by all accounts. But in some ways, the idea that older gay men are more woke about Le Pen does make some kind of sense: They have had to fight for decades for rights younger people probably take for granted, and older demos are typically more engaged in politics. It’s a sad state, though, that younger people cannot see to vote in their own best interests.

The run-off election is Sunday.

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Tasting Notes: May the Fourth, Cinco de Mayo and more

Posted on 03 May 2017 at 4:13pm

Thursday is May the Fourth, a fauxliday for Star Wars fans. Friday is Cinco de Mayo, aka May 5, and traditionally an exciting holiday for those who love Mexican food and drink. And Saturday is the Kentucky Derby. So lots to keep in mind these days. Here are some events coming up to keep in mind.

First, Q Tacos at Macho Cantina, the new name and concept of Quesa, is open on Cedar Springs, just in time for Cinco de Mayo. All week, they are serving $6 Avion Tequila margaritas and boilermakers, plus the house sangria. And Friday night will feature a DJ on hand from 8 p.m. til 2 a.m. My review of Q Tacos will appear next week, but the short version is: Go there!

Tacodeli, which I have praised for having some of the best salsas around, has decided to release those salsas outside their restaurants. Starting Friday, the dona (spicy), roja (medium) and verde (mild) salsas will be on sale at Whole Foods stores in Texas, as well as Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma. (Tacodeli is based in Austin.) The price is $6.99 per 12 oz. container.

Tricky Fish in Richardson is celebrating May the Fourth with a party, constant screening of Star Wars movies and specialty items like The Ham Solo burger, and cocktails like The Yoda, the Death Star and Java the Hut.

One of my favorite restaurants of last year, the Southern-themed Grayson Social, is marking Derby Day with  a brunch that included a variety of juleps (cucumber lime, lavender mint, etc.) for just $8 or a flight of three for $15.

The second of three planned restaurants from Headington Companies has opened in the Design District. This week Sassetta, an Italian resto at Hi Line and Oak Lawn, opened for dinner. It joins neighbor Wheelhouse and the soon-to-open Go Go.

And finally, congrats to John Tesar, who commemorated the publication of his new book, Knife, with a signing at The Highland earlier this week. The cookbook shows how to make Texas-style steakhouse cooking at home. Congrats, chef.

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‘Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812’ lead Tony nominations

Posted on 02 May 2017 at 4:42pm

Bette as Dolly

Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 received 12 Tony Award nominations. Among other nominees is Bette Midler who is starring in a revival of Hello Dolly.

Full list of nominees here

Best musical:

Dear Evan Hansen

Come From Away

Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812

Groundhog Day

Best play:

Lucas Hnath: A Doll’s House, Part 2

Lynn Nottage: Sweat

J.T. Rogers: Oslo

Paula Vogel: Indecent

This is the first time two women have been nominated in this category. Vogel and Nottage have both won Pulitzer Prizes for best play, but have never had one of their plays appear on Broadway before.

Best Leading Actress in a Musical:

Denée Benton: Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812

Christine Ebersole: War Paint

Patti LuPone: War Paint

Bette Midler: Hello, Dolly!

Eva Noblezada: Miss Saigon

Best Leading Actor in a Musical:

Christian Borle: Falsettos

Josh Groban: Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812

Andy Karl: Groundhog Day

David Hyde Pierce: Hello, Dolly!

Ben Platt: Dear Evan Hansen

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BREAKING: DTC wins Regional Theatre Tony

Posted on 01 May 2017 at 2:54pm

This just in from Brad Pritchett, director of marketing and communications for Dallas Theater Center (and DVtv host):

Dallas Theater Center has won the 2017 Regional Theatre Tony Award. Brad said on Facebook, “We will be receiving the 2017 Regional Theatre Tony Award in New York City on June 11 and I couldn’t be more proud of our staff, our board, our artists and our audiences. For those of you who don’t know what this means, it’s like the Superbowl, Oscars or Grammy’s for theater. It’s huge. Like real huge.”

Congrats to Brad and all our friends at DTC.

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OPERA REVIEW: ‘Norma’

Posted on 26 Apr 2017 at 7:30am

Marina Costa-Jackson and Elza van der Heever in ‘Norma.’ Photo by Karen Almond

During intermission at the Dallas Opera‘s opening night of Norma, one of my seat-neighbors turned to me and said, “My only complain about this production is the title — ‘Norma’ just seems like a name out-of-place in the ancient world.” “Yeah,” I said. “How about The Real Housewives of Gaul.” She chuckled, not because she was being nice, but because it’s true. Norma (sung by soprano Elza van den Heever) is a Druid high priestess in Roman-occupied France who has been carrying on an affair with the Roman overlord Pollione (tenor Yonghoon Lee), though he pledges himself to the virginal Adalgisa (Marina Costa-Jackson). When the women compare notes, and both realize that Pollione is both father to Norma’s children and Adalgisa’s betrothed. You can hear the collective grumble in the audience as they expect one of the women to up-end a table and sing the newly-discovered aria “Oh no she betta don’t!” as Maury Povich reveals who, in fact, is the real baby daddy.

But, like Debbie and Liz, Norma and Adalgisa don’t take out the betrayal on each other, but on the man who done them wrong. Suddenly, it’s less Teresa Giudice and more Witches of Eastwick.

Norma isn’t a comedy, but it does has some stirring melodrama that feels as real and current as realiTV. It’s humanity is what anchors it. But its music is what makes it soar. Bellini’s gift for bel canto is that even the heels and low-register male voices, as well as the women, simply delight your ears with their powerful and lovely singing. They could be referring to the fishmonger’s wife cleaning out the toilet, and you’d roll your eyes in ecstasy.

The production is as gorgeous to look at as it is to listen to. John Conklin’s protean set, beautifully lit by Thomas C. Hace so that it literally transforms the locale and the mood without moving a stick of furniture, evokes all the passion of the story, as well as its danger, with enviable ease. There’s also a whiff of lesbian attraction between Norma and Adalgisa, which complicates and illuminates the plot and character development. It;s too bad the show wasn’t a sell-out on opening night — an opera this good deserves to be seen by as many people as possible.

At the Winspear Opera House, 2403 Flora St. April 26, 29 and May 7.

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BREAKING: WaterTower announces 2017-18 season

Posted on 25 Apr 2017 at 12:01pm

Today, WaterTower Theatre announced its first season under the direction of new artistic director Joanie Schultz, pictured. The five-show main season will include the following:

Pride and Prejudice (Oct. 13–Nov. 5). An adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel, which Schultz will direct.

Elliot, a Soldier’s Fugue (Jan. 26–Feb. 18, 2018). A regional premiere from Pulitzer Prize winner Quiara Alegria Hudes, which looks at the effect of war on a Puerto Rican family.

Bread (April 13–May 6), a world premiere from native Dallasite Regina Taylor. It’s set in Oak Cliff.

The Last Five Years (June 8–July 1). A two-hander musical where a could work out where their relationship went wrong… in reverse. Directed by Kelsey Leigh Ervi.

Hand to God (Aug. 3–26). A Tony favorite from a few years ago, this play tells the story of a young man who allows his Christian puppet to roil his suburban Texas community. Schultz will direct.

In addition, two non-season presentations will be offered. The Great Distance Home, a world premiere conceived and directed by Ervi, will be the theater’s holiday show, Dec. 1–17. Then the Out of the Loop Festival appears to give way to Detour: A Festival of New Work, which takes place March 1–4, 2018.

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