‘Kurios:’ Holy chitty-chitty bang-bang!

The cool thing about Cirque du Soleil shows is they are all completely different and totally the same. There are costumes and contortionists and clowns, music and musclemen, jokes and juggling. But what sells each show is not just the energy and the style and the wow-factor, but the talents of the individual artists. Think you know how to spin a Yo-Yo? Watch someone who gets paid to do and you’ll probably feel like you’re auditioning right after Meryl Streep.

The latest from CdS, Kurios — Cabinet of Curiosities (now through March 26 at Lone Star Park) is as dazzling as you’d expect; if the gauge the successful of a show is how many times you shout out “Holy shit!” then this one is NC-17.

The concept is glamorously retro — a steampunk street fair populated by men (and, I think, a few women) with pencil-thin moustaches and Brilliantine-slicked hair, aviator-goggled daredevils and women in long gloves and velvet gowns (including one who stands barely 2 feet tall). It’s like Terry Gilliam’s Brazil come to life onstage.

Holding it all together is a protean master of ceremonies, who conducts a flea circus or invisible acts, woos a woman in the audience with animal impersonations (among them a T-rex — and he weighs about 90 lbs.) and generally goofs like the reincarnation of Charlie Chaplin.

He’s a wonderful ringmaster, but hardly the only delight. There’s also the tandem Russian strap artists (two well-muscled acrobats whose act is beautiful and kinda sexy), a quartet of contortionists who, paradoxically, seem made of both rubber and steel; trampolinists who soar so high they could be regulated by the FAA. There’s a lot of creativity at work here; the chair-climbing act (a staple of Cirque) is modified so that the artist not only climbs up, but another climbs down; a hand-puppet act that makes clever use of the camera; and inventive sound effects. There were only a handful of acts that didn’t astonish me, and they were mostly early on. But it’s the entire experience — the big top, the popcorn, the red carpet — that set Cirque du Soleil apart from an ordinary performance. It really does feel like magic.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Preview the Oscar contenders tonight at the Magnolia

The Academy Awards will be presented next Sunday, and you probably have your favorites. But what are their chances with the only people who matter — the academy voters? Once again, the Magnolia Theatre in the West Village is hosting a panel discussion of the likely winners in all the major categories. And it’s all free. Just show up by 7 p.m. at the Magnolia and sit n. Oh, and I’ll be one of the panelists!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Cocktail Friday: Happy National Margarita Day!

The Sex and the City girls have their cosmos, but in Texas, it’s the margarita that we worship more. It’s so Texasy — potent, tequila-centric and diverse. National Margarita Day is on Feb. 22 (right after Taco Tuesday — good thinkin’!), and are restaurants are celebrating with their own specials and specialties. Area Del Frisco’s Grilles (including Uptown) will be offering their pomegranate marg (made with Camarena reposado) for $6 during happy hour. Cantina Laredo in Addison serves its Perfect Patron Rita, pictured, Saturday–Thursday for $8 (and will even hold a tequila dinner on Feb. 23). Hopdoddy burgers is selling thweir signature margs for $5, from the classic frozen to the doble fina. There’s even a new restaurant, T. Blanco’s Mexican Cantina in Addison, that opens on Feb. 22 with a ribbon cutting and margarita toast.

Be sure to find your favorite marg on Wednesday and toast the signature tequila cocktail … before a wall with Mexico and a tax makes them difficult to secure.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

John Tesar packs his knives on ‘Top Chef’ finale

Dallas chef John Tesar made it all the way to the Top Chef finale, only to get booted just before the end.

Part 1 of the 2-part finale of the cooking competition series aired last night, with the three finalists — also including Sheldon and Shirley — were joined by recently-eliminated chef Brooke to pair a tequila cocktail with a local Mexican dish. (Most of the season was set in Charleston, S.C., but the finale moved south of the border.) Tesar, who runs the steakhouse Knife in The Highland, was critiqued for making a too-plain margarita in the challenge that overwhelmed his caldo.

This was his second stint on the show — this season pitted veterans with newcomers. The finale was comprised entirely of veterans (and only one newcomer even made it to the top 8). Tesar did much better this time.

Now I’m rooting for Sheldon.

Oh, and the episode where they has to make margaritas aired less than a week before National Margarita Day. Come back to InstanTea later today for places to check out for a good marg this week. And maybe ask for one at Knife as well.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Come see Dallas’ best beards (no, Tom Cruise’s girlfriend is not among them)

Brent Baxter is a local photographer who decided about two years ago to do a book about Dallas men and their great facial hair. The project was such a success, last year he decided to put out a 2017 edition. The Best Beards in Dallas Vol. 2 includes about 20 local North Texans in all their bearish bushiness … and among them is… well, me. Now, look — no one is thinking of me as a replacement for ZZTop. But as Brent said, it’s not all about the beard, but the man who wears it. Hey, I can deal with that.

You can pick up a copy of the book, meet some of those profiled in it (including yours truly) and enjoy a party with live music, all at once. The event starts as the doors open at 6 p.m. at The Rustic Saturday, with the show starting around 8 p.m. Admission is free, and you can RSVP here. Hope to see you there!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Darren Woods out as general director of Fort Worth Opera

Darren-K.-Woods-(Hortensius)Darren Woods, the out leader of the Fort Worth Opera for the last 16 years, has been axed, according to multiple reports as well as a release from the FWO.

About 10 years ago, Woods began a series of innovations at the oldest opera company in Texas, including converting to a festival format (several weeks of continuous operas in repertory rather than a season spread out over several months), as well as the commission of new works, the mounting of local premieres, and edgy series aimed at generating new interest in opera by younger audiences.

The release from the board of directors praised woods for his “energy and artistic vision,” while saying a “fresh perspective” was needed to invigorate an ageing business model. A national search for a new general director will begin immediately.

This comes just months before the new festival is set to commence, including a specific outreach to the Latino community.

He has championed unusual artistic choices, often with gay content … sometimes with success, sometimes not so much. The opera version of Angels in America didn’t resonate, although Before Night Falls, about gay Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas, scored with audiences and critics. He also greenlighted an opera based on queer poet Allen Ginsberg’s words, Phillip Glass’ Hydrogen Jukebox.

Woods was a trained opera singer in his own right; four years ago, he even took a signing role in a production of Daughter of the Regiment.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

DMA expands this season’s Arts & Letters live with Chelsea Clinton

For more than two decades, the Dallas Museum of Art’s Arts & Letters Live program has brought in many authors, activists and artists to talk about their work in a seminar-like session. This season’s lineup was just expanded, however, to add two more writers: Christina Baker Kline, author of Orphan Train, will discuss her latest A Piece of the World on April 3. But even more exciting is the “get” of Chelsea Clinton, who will appear on April 23 to discuss her book It’s Your World

Tickets are currently on sale for DMA members ($40) and will open to the general public on Wednesday. VIP tickets are available for the evening event with Chelsea Clinton and include reserved front-section seating, a paperback copy of It’s Your World and a “fast track” pass for the booksigning following the event; VIP tickets are $55 with discounts for students and DMA members. Order online at DMA.org/tickets or call 214-922-1818.

 

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Grammy winners include many gay faves

The Grammy Awards broadcast doesn’t feature all that many handing-out of trophies (which is frustrating for those of us who care about, oh you know, the winners). I mean, they have time for two performances each by Bruno Mars and Adele (three for Adele, if you count her post-F-bomb do-over) and lame bits by overrated host James Corden, but can’t even do a scroll of winners? It’s why I hate the show in general… though having Laverne Cox as a presenter and Kayne leaving empty-handed almost made it worth it.

But in between musical performances — including a baby-bumped Beyonce that will surely be the most talked-about appearance of the night — they did reveal a number of recipients, many adored by (or part of) the LGBT community. (Since there are nearly 100 categories, I’ll limit myself to the biggest ones and those of the most interest.)

Early on, the late David Bowie proved a favorite with four wins for his final album, Blackstar, which dropped last year just days before his death. The androgynous legend won for best rock performance and rock song for the eponymous single, best alternative music album and best engineering. (The album also took best recording package.)

Adele took the three top prizes of the night, including album of the year (and pop vocal album for 25, as well as song of the year (awarded to the composers) and record of the year (to the performer and producer) for “Hello,” plus best pop solo performance. Best pop duo/group performance went to Twenty-One Pilots for “Stressed Out.”

Best music video was no surprise: Beyonce’s “Formation.” (Lemonade also took urban contemporary album, though in her acceptance speech, Adele all but gave it to her for album of the year.) But her sister Solange proved a winner, too, when “Cranes in the Sky” took best R&B performance.

Best new artist went to Chance the Rapper, who spent an inordinate amount of time thanking god for his win. He also won best rap performance for “No Problem” and rap album for his debut disc. Drake won best rap/sung collaboration for “Hotline Bling,” which also took best rap song.

Best country performance (duo or group) went to the pairing of Arlington natives Pentatonix (with gay members) with queer icon Dolly Parton for “Jolene.”

The best spoken word album went to Carol Burnett for In Such Good Company. Best comedy album went to Patton Oswalt for Talking for Clapping. (He bested, among others, Tig Notaro and Margaret Cho.) Best world music album went to cellist Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble for Sing Me Home. Cast recording of a musical went to The Color Purple.

Best soundtrack for visual media (movie or TV) went to John Williams’ score to The Force Awakens. Best song written for visual media went to Justin Timberlake and company for “Cant Stop the Feeling!” from Trolls. It’s also nominated for an Oscar, but it bears noting, La La Land was not eligible this year.

Best traditional pop vocal album went to Texan Willie Nelson for Summertime: Willie Nelson Sing Gershwin. Best rock album went to Tell Me I’m Pretty from Cage The Elephant. Best dance recording went to The Chainsmokers for “Don’t Let Me Down.” Best dance/electronic album went to Flume’s Skin.

Best engineered album classical went to the recording of gay composer John Corigliano’s opera, The Ghosts of Versailles, which also took best opera recording.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

DSO announces stellar lineup for Jaap van Zweden’s final season

In May of next year, Jaap van Zweden will conduct his final concert as music director of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, capping off 11 seasons with the classic music company.

Van Zweden’s planned departure was announced more than a year ago, and it will be another year-plus before his last wave of the baton as artistic leader of the DSO, but there are plenty of other performances until then, as just revealed in the DSO’s release of its 2017–18 season.

The season starts on Sept. 14 and 17 as he leads Mahler’s 5th Symphony. (He’ll also lead the DSO gala concert on Sept. 16.) He will then conduct Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto and “Eroica” Symphony No. 3 (Sept. 28–Oct. 1). He will end 2017 conducting celloist Alisa Weilerstein in Prokofiev and Schumann (Nov. 24–26). He returns in 2018 conducting the Lebeque sisters in piano pieces by Phillip Glass and Bruckner (Fe. 2–3), and immediately returns to conduct Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 (Feb. 8–10) and Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 (Feb. 23–25).

Van Zweden will conclude with a flurry of three ambitious concerts in close succession: Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 (April 26–28), a complete concert version (including vocals) of Wagner’s opera Die Walkure (May 18–20) and finally the legendary Symphony No. 9 by Beethoven (May 24–26).

That won’t be the entire lineup from the DSO, however. In addition, there will be violinist Hilary Hahn (Sept. 21–24), with James Diaz on organ, performing Sebelius, Dvorak and more; pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet (Oct. 19–22) performing Debussy and Ravel; a performance of Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini (Nov. 2–5); Saint-Saens’ Organ Symphony No. 3 (Nov. 16–19); Rachmanioff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 (Jan. 11–13, 2018); Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with soloist Nicola Benedetti (Jan. 18–21); Tchaikovsky’s “Pathetique” Symphony No. 6 (Feb. 15–18); Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 (March 8–11); the complete lineup of Bach’s six Brandenberg concerti (March 22–25); and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2 (April 12–15).

There will also be a Pops Series (beginning with Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue), and include movie music, a Christmas concert and Broadway legend Bernadette Peters.

Season packages go on sale today, starting at $119. Visit MyDSO.com.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Dallas Voice has lost one of its own: Joey, our company’s gentle mascot

If you’re out on the community and happen to be around a Dallas Voice rack on a Friday, chances are you’ve bumped into our distribution manager, Linda, and her constant companion, Joey. A miniature Chihuahua, Joey has become our de facto mascot over the last five years or so. He’s always in the latest clothes and loves to be held. He’s simply the best goodwill ambassador Dallas Voice has ever had.

But tiny as he is, Joey was unable to fight back when a stray dog attacked him today. He died as a result.

We’re all pretty upset here at the office, not the least being Linda, his mommy. My own Chihuahua, Popeye, often visits Linda and Joey and they get along like gangbusters.

If  you knew Joey, hold him in your heart tonight. Maybe make a donation to a shelter — or better still, adopt from one. And if you see Linda, give her an extra long hug. In fact, give anybody you see one. We could all use it about now.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones