Everything’s coming up roses for Darius-Anthony Robinson, a veteran gypsy of theater striking out with his one-man cabaret
Darius-Anthony Robinson never intended to become the sassy, sashaying drag actor he has become, but when you are as fabulous as he is, you kinda expect something like that would happen.
“To audition for that show, I sang ‘I’d Rather Be Sailing’ from A New Brain,” Robinson explains. “I was very straight-laced and serious — I even danced.
Shortly after that, I got a phone call saying, ‘What do you think about playing Trix, the Aviatrix?’” Not aviator, mind you — aviatrix. He accepted. “To this day, Denise Lee jokes that I stole that role from her.”
Since then, Robinson has been a go-to guy for the head-bobbin’, shade-throwin’, tart-tongued black gay comic relief — as often as not, in a dress: NeNe Leakes in Uptown Players’ Re-Designing Women spoof; Tootie in their Facts of Life spoof; and, he has said, “as soon as the Kinky Boots producers call, I’m there.”
It used to be that he wanted those roles but never got them — for some reason.
“I am the nelliest guy ever, and yet I would get cast in these straight-guy roles. I really just want to play gay onstage. Just goes to show, be careful what you wish for — I’m not only gay, but a woman.” Even his current role, in Uptown Players’ The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told (which plays through this weekend) was written with a woman in mind.
“She’s the stage manager, calling all the cues. I get to sashay across the stage and yell out lines. She acts as the creator of all. Basically, I’m God,” he says.
So, typecast again.
It’s been a long time coming. The Dallas native has been in the spotlight, one way or another, for most of his sentient life. He attended Booker T. Washington arts magnet as a dancer/singer, and finished up his bachelor’s at SMU as a dance major. He even toured in a “Chitlin Circuit” play called Dreams (alongside Liz Mikel) in his teens.
And he almost gave it all up. When he was playing The Lion in Garland Civic Theater’s production of The Wiz several years ago, he had basically decided to give up performing.
“It’s hard being young and growing up in the theater — I thought, ‘I don’t know if I want to keep doing this.’ But there was a little African-American girl who saw me in the show, came up to me and said, ‘I want to be the Lion when I grow up — I wanna be just like you.’ So I figured maybe I should keep doing this.”
Hair was his big Dallas re-emergence, but he hopes to show audiences a brand new side with his show, which he’s calling This Time: A Holiday Evening with Darius-Anthony. Best of all?
“I don’t wear any skirts! I do bring a couple of tiaras out, but getting a chance to put on a suit and use the imagination is good. People sometimes forget I am a singer.”
He named it This Time because “I really want to show myself at a new place in my career and my life — as an adult and seen as an adult,” he says. “I’m getting a chance to go back to the basics — like singing, which is how I started.”
And since Christmastime is his favorite holiday — “and because it is the gayest holiday” — December seemed perfect for it … even though he’s had to rehearse for it in between calls for Fabulous Story.
He has help from pal Denise Lee, whom he calls “my spirit guide — my mother willow tree. She offers encouragement because sometimes I go on this kick that it’s too much. She’s there to say there’s no turning back.”
He describes the cabaret as “a mix of Liza with a Z and Dean Martin holiday special” — certainly one of the more intriguing concepts for an “evening with” show. He promises showtunes, jazz numbers and gospel songs, “plus drinking my whiskey and singing.” (He’s not kidding: Among the numbers will be “The 12 Drunk Days of Christmas.” And Robinson is a Method actor.)
“Vonda K. Bowling is my music director and I get to be backed up with some really great musicians. It’s almost like a Christmas soiree — nothing is taken too seriously,” he says.
Except that the show itself represents an important milestone.
“I feel like this is just the season I’m in — a nice time for me,” Robinson says. “It’s a chance to do some really great things — and the next phase is going to be very exciting!”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 13, 2013.