“American Idiot” tonight at the Winspear

Three’s company

Direct from Broadway, the smash-hit musical American Idiot tells the story of three lifelong friends, forced to choose between their dreams and the safety of suburbia. Their quest for true meaning in a post 9/11 world leads them on the most exhilarating theatrical journey of the season.

Based on Green Day’s Grammy-winning multi-platinum album, American Idiot boldly takes the American musical where it’s never gone before. The result is an experience Charles Isherwood of The New York Times declares “thrilling, emotionally charged, and as moving as any Broadway musical I’ve seen this year!”

— ATTPAC.com

DEETS: Winspear Opera House, 2403 Flora St. Through May 20. ATTPAC.org.

—  Rich Lopez

REVIEW: ‘Hair’ — The mane event

You could sense of a lot of the shock and discomfort from the audience at the Winspear Opera House as a bunch of half-naked hippies descended into their seats, swigging from their chardonnay glasses and grabbing their crotches (and hugging audience members) and handing out flowers like veterans at an airport. The ’60s were before a lot of these folks were born, and most of the ones who lived through it valeted for 25 bucks in Lexus Red Parking, so they are perhaps less receptive to the communal, pot-smoking free-love message of the play than audiences a generation ago. And in fact, after intermish — which begins with 20 fully frontally naked men and women wagging their business — virtually the entire row of seats in front of me cleared out, presumably to go pray for all us sinners who hung around for Act 2.

That’s the magic of Hair.

This production, which arrives direct from closing on Broadway, is full of the energy and the spirit of the original, which set the culture on its ear in 1968. That’s been awhile, of course, and what has often been called the definitive “rock musical” seems less rockin’ than, say, Spring Awakening, written by an actual rock musician, or Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson or American Idiot. We’re uses to loud numbers and nudity onstage now.

But also, not. The message of the show — trippy, anti-war and pro-youth, sexually frank and equally fluid — is, in an era of talk about “job creators” and “Obamacare” and FoxNews, equally radical, even if the songs have entered the realm of show-tune classics more than hippie anthems. It feels oddly relevant again — especially as it deals with the draft, on the morning of the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” All the sexual liberation and “what-makes-a-good-American” talk has renewed depth.

The production itself is fun, though it suffers a lot as it always has from  problems — a long Vietnam fantasy in Act 2, marginal character development, rituals like draft-card burning that may not resonate with an audience weaned on an all-volunteer Army — though the bromance between Claude and Berger, and the hot, heroin-chic bodies of the men, add a layer of homoeroticism that you’re kinda glad makes the audience a bit uncomfortable. It’s good to shake people up sometimes. Peace out.

Through Oct. 2. Attpac.org.

 

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

New season of Lexus Broadway Series to include ‘Hair,’ ‘Les Miserables,’ ‘American Idiot’

Billy Joe Armstrong

Dallas is finally getting some excellent shows … and some familiar ones return … again.

The Lexus Broadway Series, which was launched with the opening of the Winspear Opera House in 2009 as a national tour series to compete with Dallas Summer Musicals, released its new season. It kicks off around Pride Weekend with the revival of Hair (which on Broadway starred Gavin Creel, the openly gay actor who performed at Black Tie Dinner last year). The sexually fluid show has been a staple for 40 years, but the revival was singled out for praise.

That’s followed in December with the return of Les Miserables, a terrific if bombastic mega-musical which nonetheless gets revived a bit too often. (The original 1987 Broadway production closed in 2003 … only to be revived on Broadway again in 2006.) I’m a fan, but even I’ve grown weary of it.

Then things get cookin’ — though we have to wait almost a year. Next March, Dallas finally gets In the Heights, a not-too-gay urban hip-hop musical with a Latin beat about Dominicans living in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. That’s where my family lived when I was a boy; the set of the show was actually the subway stop I used to get off at. The music is phenomenal. It won a lot of Tony Awards in 2008; when I saw it on Broadway, Rosie O’Donnell was sitting next to me.

In May, the music gets even edgier with American Idiot, the rock musical based on the music of the neo-punk band Green Day. Again, not an especially gay show, except that the group is very gay-friendly and frontman Billy Joe Armstrong likes to get naked a lot (pictured). Plus, Tommy Tune told me a few weeks ago it was one of his favorite new shows — an unlikely endorsement, which should intrigue musical enthusiasts.

The series ends with another old saw, Jersey Boys — again, a fun musical that has been around for a while about the founding of the Four Seasons.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Starvoice • 02.11.11

By Jack Fertig

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAYBillieJoeArmstrong1

Billie Joe Armstrong turns 39 on Thursday. The Green Day frontman has grown into quite the artist since his early punk rock days. From 1994’s brash Dookie to the epic American Idiot in 2004 and now Broadway based on the latter album. He came out as bisexual in ’95 to The Advocate but now refrains from talking about his personal life out of respect for his wife.

………………..

THIS WEEK

The Sun lining up with Neptune in Aquarius, and in a rare combination of aspects with Uranus (for the last time in our lifetime!), offers an unusual boost to intuitive clarity.

………………..

AQUARIUS Jan 20-Feb 18
Birthday splurges carry hidden costs. Think ahead. Take time out to consider where you’re going in life. Maturing is a process of adaptation. Aging offers opportunities for insight and liberation.
PISCES  Feb 19-Mar 19
Take time out from worldly demands. You need to be able to charge your batteries to intuit the big changes coming up both globally and personally. Trust your instincts and act on them.

ARIES Mar 20-Apr 19
Enjoy the company of good friends; talk about where you expect to be in 10 or 20 years. That triggers hunches about the future. Talking about them gives a clearer vision of what will be.

TAURUS Apr 20-May 20
The future is uncertain. Don’t let that worry you. Focus on what you really want and expect of life. That will alleviate concerns about your career and give direction in your planning.

GEMINI May 21-Jun 20
Believe in yourself. Even that may be difficult while you are in the midst of redirection, but look into your own heart, your own guiding light, to see what you know to be true.

CANCER Jun 21-Jul 22
Discuss your fantasies with your partner — or someone you can trust. Something new is likely to come up. You may not be ready to act on it, but at least consider the notion and what’s behind it.

LEO Jul 23-Aug 22
The bedroom is a great place to clear up misunderstandings. Be willing to let your lover lead you to places and positions you’d never considered. Return the favor. It’s about trust and empathy.

VIRGO Aug 23-Sep 22
Your ideas at work are brilliant, but support is a problem. Let others think they had some part in your ideas if you don’t mind giving up some of the credit.

LIBRA Sep 23-Oct 22
Being a team player does include some actual play. Morale-building fun-and-games help you get into better sync with your colleagues. Even solo, new techniques will improve your game.

SCORPIO Oct 23-Nov 21
Scandals open quite a can of worms. In the end it could prove very healing, although the catharsis could put some big bumps on the path to resolution.

SAGITTARIUS Nov 22-Dec 20
Confusion is the first step to enlightenment. Remember that when things get a little crazy. Their deception is probably not deliberate. Be patient, forgiving and alert.

CAPRICORN Dec 21-Jan 19
A choice between diplomacy and honesty tests your values. Being kind is a mistake. Gentleness and finesse will be appreciated while pussyfooting and sugarcoated lies will not.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 11, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

From Broadway to broadcast: London staging of musical ‘Fela!’ comes to Angelika screens tonight

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  |  Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

When Stephen Hendel first approached out choreographer Bill T. Jones about directing Fela!, Hendel’s hoped-for musical about the life and work of Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, Jones had absolutely no experience on Broadway.

But that was OK — neither did Hendel.

“I’d never produced a musical — not any theater show — before. And this was the first time [my wife] Ruth and I had lead-produced before, though Ruthie is a Tony voter. And the show was out of left field from the mainstream fare on Broadway,” Hendel says by telephone from New York.

This week, the culmination of their efforts will be seen by the largest audience ever, as Fela! airs as part of the National Theatre Live series of stage productions filmed for moviehouses opens at the Angelika, starting tonight.

The path was one of mutual enthusiasm by relative novices. Hendel was put in touch with Jones through a mutual acquaintance. Hendel had already spent several years trying to generate interest in his idea for a non-narrative musical overloaded with dance and tribal rhythms. And Jones was very interested.

“I could see he was really, really brilliant and that many of the themes — of an artist in society, of being a political artist and being a black man — were all issues will had spend him career exploring and living. We agreed when and if I got the rights [to the music and story], Bill would direct and choreograph the show.”

It took nearly a year for that to happen. In the interim, Jones got an agent who secured him choreography duties on an off-Broadway play called Seven. One of the hopefuls was not cast, but Jones loved his energy. He would eventually originate the role of Fela on Broadway.
Jones, for his part, made an impact as well, winning an Tony Award for choreographing Spring Awakening and becoming a hot property in the theater community. And Hindel got him started. (Hendel himself has continued his theater work, co-producing American Idiot, another outside-the-box, Tony-nominated musical from last season.)

The journey from New York stage to London stage to, this week, movie screens across the world, was a surprisingly natural progression.
“We opened on Broadway and got amazing reviews, and the National Theatre [in England] came to see it. Nick Hytner, their artistic director, called me to talk about bringing it to the Olivier Stage in London, so we created a production for the National,” Hendel says. He then learned that the National was beginning its second season of broadcasting stage works from its and other London stages to movie theaters across the world.

Hendel was in. The version airing this week at the Angelika Film Centers in Dallas and Plano was shot with nine cameras at the London shortly before Fela! closed its original Broadway run earlier this month. That means the broadcast is the only way an American can see the show for the time being.

“It’s like having the best seat in the house every minute, only you get things you can’t see sitting in a Broadway house,” Hendel says. And it is just one more way people in the U.S. can experience a musician Hendel has long loved but most people have never heard of.

“People thought we were crazy [doing the show] — who’s ever heard about Fela Kuti and would want to see a show about a Nigerian they’d never heard of?” he says. “It has been a big challenge making audiences aware of what it’s about and why it’s so entertaining and important. We want people all over the world the see the show and why we’ve spent eight or nine years working on it. It’s been a total joy and a total thrill.”

Still, Hendel says the cinema version does not replace seeing it live, which he hopes will happen; he is planning to announce soon a U.S. and international tour to start mid-2011.

Until then, though, the Angelika’s the place to be.

Fela! airs at the Angelika Mockingbird Station Jan. 19 and 20, and at the Angelika Plano Jan. 22 and 23, at 7 p.m. Visit AngelikaFilmCenter.com for details.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Queer Music News: Melissa Etheridge does Broadway; Elton John shows off new baby

Billboard reports that Melissa Etheridge will step into Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong’s role in the Broadway rock musical American Idiot. The show is based on the band’s landmark album. Armstrong agreed to do the show himself for a run of 50 dates in spurts, but is now taking a small break:

Etheridge, best known for her song “Come to My Window,” will play drug dealer “St. Jimmy” from Feb. 1 to Feb. 6. Armstrong, the composer and co-author of the musical, returns Feb. 10.

The high-octane show follows three working-class characters as they wrestle with modern life. One joins the Army, one becomes a father and one descends into a drug-fueled life – thanks to St. Jimmy.

Says director Michael Mayer: “This character is seductive, thrilling and dangerous. Melissa Etheridge is all that and so much more.”

Elton John and David Furnish grace the cover of Us Weekly showing off their new family pictures. Ain’t that cute?

On the cover of the new issue out Wednesday (Jan. 19), John and Furnish are photographed with their new bundle of joy, Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John.

“I’ve never felt anything like it in my life,” says John of holding his son for the first time. “You’re so awestruck. What can you say? You take it in. The feeling, the joy, the warmth of his body, his breathing … I will never forget that experience ever.”

—  Rich Lopez

Concert week continues with Green Day at Superpages

Punks can be gay friendly too

Sixteen years ago, the punk rock trio’s CD Dookie took the music world by storm, reminiscent of the brash Beastie Boys a decade earlier. Since then, they’ve kept a strong edge but matured into one of today’s more important bands.

So what could three punksters from Berkeley have in common with the queer community? A lot.

With their breakthrough, they hit the road with queercore band Pansy Division as the opening act. Despite Division’s newfound exposure, not all fans were fond of the gays. Green Day singer Billie Joe Armstrong took time to defend the band and at some points, even threatened not to go on if people weren’t giving Division due respect.

Green Day did the ultimate queeny step by turning the landmark 2004 album American Idiot into a Broadway musical. The show ended up with Tony nominations and the punks even performed on the 2010 telecast.

Clearly, Green Day has some good gay mojo.

DEETS: With AFI. SuperPages.com Center, 1818 First Ave. Aug. 26 at 7 p.m. $20–$85. LiveNation.com.

—  Rich Lopez

Tony Awards recap

Sean Hayes both hosted the Tony Awards Sunday night and was a nominee for his performance in “Promises, Promises,” but he also was a sassy lightning rod for politics. Hayes made the least news ever last March when, just before his Broadway debut opened, he officially came out as gay. (In other news, the sun set last night.)

Hayes was then the target of a weird thinkpiece in Newsweek (by a gay author, no less!) who claimed that when gay actors come out, they ruin the illusion that they could be straight for audiences; Hayes was singled out as not convincingly playing a hetero man in the musical. His co-star, Kristin Chenoweth — who also has appeared on “Glee,” another target of the article — was vocal in her disdain for the piece.

Without addressing the article directly, Hayes began his hosting duties with a Tipper-and-Al-style prolonged lip-lock with Chenoweth that seemed to establish, for home audiences, that kisses look real when the actors are good. Despite my criticism of the cast recording, these actors are good.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones