DSM gives at-risk teens a behind-the-scenes look at ‘Kinky Boots’

Next week, the Tony Award-winning, highly empowering musical Kinky Boots — about a drag queen who helps save a struggling shoe manufacturer, and opens some eyes in the process — returns to Fair Park Music Hall, courtesy of Dallas Summer Musicals. Among those who will be attending one of the first performances will be about two dozen folks who probably have never even seen a play, not to mention one of this caliber … and with this message.

Next Thursday, 25 at-risk LGBTQ youth (ages 12–18) will be treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of Kinky Boots. DSM has teamed with the Resource Center‘s Youth First program to expose these teens to the power of theater and the inner-workings of a major national tour. It’s an insight few sophisticated theatergoers get a chance to experience. Among the activities will be a backstage tour, a meet-and-greet with DSM staff, a boxed dinner, free tickets to the performance and a past-show Q&A with members of the cast. And they will also get an idea of career opportunities in show business, and how to be fabulous while doing so.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

‘Missing Richard Simmons’ Podcast ends, but the mystery remains

When the Podcast Missing Richard Simmons dropped on Feb. 15 — barely a month ago — it landed precisely on the third anniversary of the last time the guru of fitness and self-love had been seen in public. He had called into the Today Show a few months back, he had posted items (apparently) on social media, and some of his closest colleagues had said they had seen him in person and he seemed “fine.” But the mystery remained: Why had someone famous for nearly 40 years for getting intimately involved in the lives of his followers — a man who had developed a cult where a hug was more effective than a criticism, where he continued to teach his regularly aerobics class in Beverly Hills, open to anyone — why had he just disappeared? No “thank you for your support, I’ve decided to retire” tweet… no “I’m closing my studio and everyone is invited to sign up for their last class with me” sign outside Slimmins… not even, it turned out, a phone call to many of his dearest friends, nor press release from his management explaining himself. He ghosted us, and one of his friends — gay filmmaker and novice Podcaster Dan Taberski — set about with Missing Richard Simmons to figure it out.

It attracted my attention, in no small part, because I have recently written a piece about my ex, who has also vanished without a trace. Taberski and I wanted to know the same thing: Was this person alive? Lucid? Safe? Healthy? Or had he just grown tired of us — of the world — for his own reasons and walked back into the shadows. Had be pulled a Greta Garbo: He just vanted to be let alone.

The Podcast was always planned for six weekly episodes, and according to Taberski, he started not knowing where he would finish. But each Wednesday for five weeks, we have waited to hear what he had unearthed, from claims of elder abuse (Simmons is now 68) to stories he had grown a beard a la Howard Hughes (could Mason jars or urine be far behind?) to worries over suicidal depression after the death of his beloved Dalmatians.

I had planned to write a post this morning teasing the finale, which was set to drop tomorrow. But then Taberski snookered us all, and the final episode of MRS came out last night, nearly 48 hours early. Taberski did it, he said, because of “developments” that made it important to get out there asap.

And… and…? Well, that’s the way a Podcast ends: Not with a bang, but with a whimper.

Nothing really new in the finale. No confessional face-to-face with Richard. No stunning reveal that he has transitioned into a female (I have posited, jokingly, that he had secretly become Kellyanne Conway). No sad, grainy photo that revealed he was on his death-bed. Nope. Taberski concluded that Richard had simply decided he had spent enough time in the spotlight and wanted to be out of it. Entirely. Without explanation. He’d given enough of himself.

It was not a disappointment to hear that, but you can’t call it wholly satisfying, either. We love a mystery, but we also love the witness-stand-confession, the “A-ha!’ moment, the Bond villain summary. Real life isn’t so tidy, especially when you start in the middle with nothing more than a microphone and your curiosity.

Richard Simmons is a private citizen now, no explanation required. Don’t like it? Well, go sweatin’ to the oldies and get over it.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Got a favorite bartender? Tell them to prove it

For the 11th year, Bombay Sapphire Gin is sponsoring the international Most Imaginative Bartender Competition, seeking to find the best mixologist in the world at turning a simple adult beverage into a work of art. Bartenders from Dallas, Houston New Orleans and Austin can face off in one of 12 regional competitions, until a dozen finalists are pegged to go to England later this summer.

If you have a favorite mixologist, or you are one, why not make the effort to check out the competition here. Entries will be accepted through April 13. Good luck!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Things to do in Dallas tonight

If you still haven’t seen Moonlight, the gay black Oscar winner for best picture, then you have your chance tonight with United Black Ellument, the gay black project of the Resource Center. And you can see it for free — U-BE is teaming with DFW FUSE to host a screening tonight, not at their Deep Ellum location but at RC’s new headquarters at 5750 Cedar Springs Road. The program (which includes a raffle) runs 7–10 p.m.

Dallas Blooms, the annual celebration of colorful flowers at the Dallas Arboretum, is in full glory now, but tonight you can enjoy the scenery and sit wine and nosh on treats with the first-ever Food and Wine Festival. Find out more about it here.

Jaap van Zweden will lead the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in a concert starting tonight and going though Sunday featuring the music of Brahms. Learn more here.

Theatre 3’s production of the awesome but rarely-revived musical Passing Strange picks up with more performances tonight and continuing through next weekend. Get tickets here.

Cirque du Soleil’s dazzling circus Kurios — Cabinet of Curiosities, pictured, continues through March 26 under le grand chapiteau in the parking lot of Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

It’s Pi Day — what’s your favorite #NerdDessert?

Today is a nerd holiday — coming, not ironically, exactly one month after Valentine’s Day: March 14, or 3.14, aka “Pi Day” (in honor of the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter). Of course, it rhymes with “pie,” so pie is a popular dessert today. But I started wondering: What other snacks might a nerd enjoy, any day of the year?

Here are some I came up with. Add your own, #NerdDessert or #NerdSnack.

Lorna Doone by Frank Herbert

Rice Krispies Trapezoids

Oreo Borealis

Hershey’s light touching of the lips to indicate affection

Ginger Snapchat

Three Mouseketeers bar

Lemon three-dimensional chess pie

Worlds of War Kraft Mac n Cheese

Chocolate chip Cookie Lyon

Stephen Hawking Cake (during Lent only)

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

‘Hamilton’ actors will be featured artists at DTC gala

Harcourt in ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ at DTC.

The Dallas Theater Center’s Centerstage Gala, it annual fundraiser and frou-frou social event, will take place on May 6, but we already know who the featured entertainment will be.

Two actors from the Broadway production of Hamilton — ensemble member Elizabeth Judd, and Sydney James Harcourt, who played multiple roles including understudying Aaron Burr (and who previously performed in musicals at the DTC, pictured) — will be headlining the event.  Local DJ Spinderella will provide the after-party music.

Individual tickets are $1,000 and after-party tickets from $175. You can learn more here.


—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Street’s Fine Chicken to open second, fast-casual location this summer

Street’s Fine Chicken, the Street Family spot that opened last year in the long-standing Blackeyed Pea space on Cedar Springs, will open a second location this summer, the company announced this afternoon.

A more fast-casual incarnation of the sitdown-service gayborhood location, the new chicken joint will be located near the intersection of Inwood Road and Forest Lane, according to Marco Street. The company’s Liberty Burger is already a success at that location, he said.

Much of the menu will remain the same, and the spot will offer whole chickens and cater to take-out orders.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Heart of dumbness: The King-sized fiasco that is ‘Skull Island’

What I looked like yelling at the screen about midway through ‘Kong: Skull Island.’

I defy anyone to find 90 second of continuous dialogue in Kong: Skull Island that make even a tiny bit of logical sense. For that matter, I defy anyone to find 90 seconds of continuous dialogue. The filmmakers seem so unsure of their storytelling abilities, that they inject explosions as often as possible to mask the total absence of ideas or reason.

We’ve seen bad movies like this before, overloaded with scene after scene of pointless, repetitive and confusing action set pieces — usually we call them “Transformer movies” — but somehow it feels much more offensive when done under the brand of King Kong.

Skull Island does a huge disservice to the Kong legacy, which got its start with 1933’s essential original film and lovingly updated in Peter Jackson’s faithful but ambitious 2005 remake. Both of these films were divided into three acts: The Heart of Darkness-esque journey to the island; the aboriginal monster adventure once they get there, and the cross-species love story and tragedy of Kong’s demise in NYC. This film bears no resemblance to its source material at all, and the muddled result is nonsense. It’s neither prequel, sequel nor remake; indeed, it does not appear to exist in a world where prior Kong lived.

The prologue takes place in 1944, near the end of WWII, when an American and a Japanese pilot both crash-land on Skull Island, the first outsiders to encounter the land that time forgot. (There’ no indication they know of the events of 1933, which should have been known to them, which erases the original from the film’s timeline.) Cut to 30 years later, and the U.S. is involved in Vietnam. A kooky fringe scientist (John Goodman) gets military funding to investigate the newly-discovered Skull Island, and a group of Army commandos (led by Samuel L. Jackson) and civilians (Tom Hiddleston joins Goodman & Co.) delivery them to the atoll where nothing goes well.

If you didn’t pick up on the heavy-handed ‘Heart of Darkness/Apocalypse Now’ allusions already, here’s a shot that does the lifting for you.

Of course nothing goes well: The soldiers are lied to (why?), the scientists appear to not be interested in actual science (why drop incendiary device instead of landing) and Kong — now about the size of the Empire State Building — destroys the invaders in an over-long attack sequence that is impossible to follow. (How many helicopters are there? How many men die? And how does a strapping 20-year-old soldier expire on impact while a morbidly obese 65-year-old Goodman gets off with barely a scratch?)

If you sensed that director Jordan Vogt-Roberts had the least amount of affection for Kong, or the characters, you might overlook some of the confusing carnage, but he’s clearly got a hard-on only for the special effects, which he wields like a toddler with a Tommy gun. This is pretty derivate war movie detritus at its best, like those rip-off Rambo movies of the 1970s, where the film may be in color but everything else is in black-and-white.

Even the screenplay’s lame efforts to enrobe the plot with the aura of legitimacy — HiddlestonHeart of dumbe’s character is named Conrad and John C. Reilly’s is Marlow, in a clear evocation of Apocalypse Now (the poster art connects the dots for anyone too dim to pick up on the allusions) — backfire, as this effort is half-hearted at best, and merely reminds you what a fiasco this is; it’s never a good idea to remind audiences of better films.

Hiddleston appears to be a charisma-free zone, whose body acts like a black hole of personality, dragging all enthusiasm into its gravity well and condensing it into an inky, micron-sized molecule of concentrated boring. He makes everything around him look bad.

The lone exception is Reilly, as the surviving flyboy from 1944 finally given a shot at getting off the island. His wacky comic energy (the role was originally intended for Michael Keaton, and you can feel Beeltejuice’s hands all over it) entertains when everything else does not… which is mostly all the time.

Post-credits, there’s an add-on scene (which you can probably figure out if you pay attention to the credits, which give Tokyo’s Toho Studios their due) where you finally realize why the filmmaker shat all over the Kong brand: It’s in service to a new Cinematic Universe to leverage properties into one mega-movie that goes on forever. It doesn’t matter whether the ape survives until the end — Warner Bros. killed him in the conception.

Begins previews tomorrow night in wide release.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones