Cocktail Friday: The Nostalgic Hawaiian

Nostalgic Hawaiian

Nostalgic Hawaiian

I was in Maui last month, and not long after I returned — like, 45 minutes — I started missing the island life. The cool breezes. The coconut candy. The sunsets. And the adult beverages.

Well, I wouldn’t allow myself to forget island life. So I decided to create a rum-based cocktail full of fruity flavors that reminded me of Maui. A friend dubbed it “the Nostalgic Hawaiian,” and I think that fits. It’s a great summer refresher.

1.5 oz. Havana Club Anejo Clasico Puerto Rican rum

1/4 oz. Creme de cassis

2 oz. lilikoi (passion fruit) juice

1/2 oz. mango nectar

1/4 oz. Coco Lopez

Fresh strawberries, de-stemmed

Marachino cherries

Making it: Combine all the ingredients in (plus a splash of cherry juice) a blender with ice. Pulse a few times to blend and froth. Strain into a coupe or margarita glass rimmed with sugar (optional). Garnish with cherries or other fruits.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Tasting notes

cowboy-ribeye--(1)

Unless you’re a Walloon, you probably don’t know that July 21 is Belgian Independence Day. Why is that important? Because Meddlesome Moth marks the occasion by designating July 18–22 Belgian Beer Week at the Design District gastropub. Each day will feature a different tapping of unique or interesting beers (from pale ales to sours), as well as a daily flight of five beers ($20) from the same family of brewers: The Duvel Single, and the Ommegang Rosetta (a brand new fruit-flavored powerhouse), and a trio of consecutive vintage quadrupel ales from 3 Philosophers ( 2011, ’12 and ’13).

Fans of the now-departed Stephan Pyles restaurant may be lamenting that while his new Flora Street Cafe continues to serve the signature blue corn muffins, other favorites from the old menu are not available there. True enough. But his other Uptown eatery, Stampede 66, is picking up some of the slack. Four of the most beloved dishes are migrating to the menu there, including the famous bone-in “Cowboy Ribeye,” pictured; the tamale tart with peekytoe crab; the Southwestern Caesar salad; and the Heaven & Hell cake. All are now available on the dinner menu.

Steel, the gayborhood sushi spot, has added new summer lunch items to its menu, including crispy rock shrimp, Thai crunch salad, Vietnamese buns and pad Thai. Lunch is served Monday–Friday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Uptown has a brand-new eatery: Next Door at 2908 McKinney Ave. is a chef-driven restaurant and bar overlooking the neighborhood from its second-floor patio. We’ll share a sneak-peek of chef Paul Niekrasz’s menu soon.

The Southern California-based fast-casual chain El Pollo Loco has about 400 locations — none of them in North Texas… yet. That’ll change next month with two locations opening in the Mid-Cities, followed by “five to seven more” by the end of the year, including in Dallas proper. The chain is known for its grilled bone-in chicken served whole, in burritos, tacos and bowls. But the chunky guacamole is the draw for me.

DFW Restaurant Week — when more than 100 local restaurants offer fixed-price menus ($35 or $45), with a portion of proceeds benefiting the North Texas Food Bank and Lena Pope — runs from Aug. 15–21 (though some places extend by a week or two). But reservation day is July 18, so get ready to line up on Monday to book your favorite, or the most popular, restaurants on the list.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 15, 2016.

—  Craig Tuggle

Maddening man

Cheyenne Jackson CD shows vocal chops, but stumbles on song selection

Cheyenne(1)

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Executive Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

Judges on shows like American Idol often disparage singers by saying their voices are “too cabaret,” or “too Broadway.” It’s a puzzling criticism, because it’s no criticism at all. Broadway and cabaret are incredibly important and successful genres of music that not only endure, but delight and even excite. (Hamilton, anyone? Or ever heard of Streisand?) The implication of such snipes is that because such styles are not radio-friendly “pop,” not “contemporary,” not “hip, young” music, they have no musical value on a singing competition show.

Screw that. Such ignorant critiques merely reveal a lack of imagination on the part of judges. Heck, one of the Idol arbiters in the last years was Harry Connick Jr., whose main genre derives from imitating the Big Band era of the 1940s. Pop music is what we make of it.

Cheyenne-Jackson-CD-CoverSo it is no insult to say that Broadway veteran Cheyenne Jackson’s new album, Renaissance, projects an old-school commitment to “classic” music. From its opening song — “Feelin’ Good,” popularized by retro crooner Michael Bublé but originally written for the 1960s musical Stop the World, I Want to Get Off — Jackson shows an unabashed appreciation for a flamboyant, bombastic show-stopper. With his 22-piece backing orchestra, Jackson demonstrates a facility and great vocal ability in a variety of genres. The message is clear: musical chops are what matter. It’s the singer, not the song.

Well, sort of.

An individual song is one thing; Jackson shows clarity and power on “Feelin’ Good,” and most of the other tracks included. But the mark of great album is cohesion — a carefully curated lineup of numbers that join together into a theme. A compilation of favorite songs is just a vanity project without direction.

Truth is, Renaissance is an expansion of a series of concerts Jackson gave “inspired by the music of the Mad Men era.” But that’s an unwieldy and wide net — Mad Man took place over the course of the entire ’60s, a decade as musically diverse and constantly changing as any has ever been. Even the TV series moved from underground jazz clubs in its pilot to acid rock hippie music by its series finale seven seasons later.

How do you thread that needle? The answer is: Not all that successfully.

A strangeness emerges in the interplay of his song selection. The brassy second track on the album, “Americano,” swings like an old-school standard. Jackson’s phrasing is clear and his voice catchy,  although his reliance on clarity almost comes in the way. His diction is so precise, it lacks the sense of spontaneity that the best jazz must have. “Angel Eyes” is a moody, haunting number — the kind Nelson Riddle used to arrange to great effect — but it seems out of place here. (He could have accomplished more with the intoxicating mystery song “Nature Boy.”)

“Something Stupid” (the comically romantic ballad creepily popularized as a duet between frank Sinatra and his daughter Nancy) is a perfectly pleasant duet with Jackson and pal Jane Krakowski, although it would have been nicer if he had paired up with another man to give it a proper gay twist — the chance to improve upon an inherently silly song and turn it into a modern gay anthem was sadly missed. “Besame Mucho’s” slow samba doesn’t meld well with the with the jazzy swing, or the Broadway blow-out, of the other numbers.

|“I (Who Have Nothing)” sounds as if Jackson may be auditioning to sing the title track in Quentin Tarantino’s next film. I’d actually love to see that happen. His voice is spectacular, but this CD is more compilation than concept album, an audition reel that proves the artist’s talent … but not his judgment.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 15, 2016.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

EXCLUSIVE: Uptown Players’ 16th season announced

Coy Covington BOWUptown Players, which opens the third mainstage production of its 15th season tonight, has lined up its 2017 slate of productions — as usual consisting of two plays, two musicals and a fundraiser show — but a few curveballs are headed this way as well.

First, the next season will begin at the Kalita Humphreys Theater this November (rather than in 2017), with their first-ever production of Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches (Nov. 4–20). Tony Kushner’s Pulitzer- and Tony-winning reverie about the AIDS crisis is often considered one of the towering theatrical achievements of the 20th century. Cheryl Denson, who direct tonight’s show, It’s Only a Play, will helm it. Uptown Players co-founder Craig Lynch also assures me that the company plans on doing the follow-up, Angels in America, Part Two: Perestroika, the following season.

That will likely be followed in March 2017 by the latest incarnation of Broadway Our Way (March 3–5). The annual revue is a fundraiser for the company.

The next mainstage show will be It Shoulda Been You (March 24–April 9), a romantic musical that ran on Broadway in 2015. At a wedding, secrets are revealed, lesbian relationships unveiled, promises broken and more. The will be followed in the summer by the first-ever UP production of La Cage aux Folles (July 14–30), the flamboyantly joyous and colorful musical about a gay couple who own a drag club and their efforts to hide their business from their son’s conservative in-laws.

The final show of the season will be the regional premiere of Charles Busch’s comedy The Tribute Artist (Aug. 25–Sept. 10). Once again, Coy Covington, pictured, will take over the cross-dressing lead role as a female impersonator whose deception leads to chaotic hijinks.  (This production is slated for Bryant Hall on the Kalita campus, although it may move to the main building depending on the decisions made by the Dallas Theater Center, which retains right of first refusal over the space.)

Aside from the early start to the season, a few other specials emerge. First, Uptown’s Pride Performing Arts Festival will return (right after The Toxic Avenger), to coincide with Dallas Pride. Second,UP will once again team up with the Turtle Creek Chorale for a concert production of a musical — this time, Titanic (May 5–7). It will be performed at the City Performance Hall.

Finally, Lynch said there is “room on the calendar” for a Christmas show in December 2016 (following Angels), although one has not been selected yet.

Individual tickets are $25–$55, and season subscriptions are also available. Visit UptownPlayers.org for more.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Tiara en fuego

As she prepares to pass her title to a new queen, reigning Miss Gay Texas (and Miss Gay America) Asia O’Hara reflects on her amazing successes

Miss_Gay_America_2016_Asia_Ohara_May_2016_by_Kristofer_ReynoldsARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Executive Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

The work of a pageant queen in never done. Especially when you’re overseeing some of the biggest pageants in the country.

That’s what it’s like for Asia O’Hara. The former Miss Gay USofA (and former Miss All American Goddess) is the current titleholder of both Miss Gay America and its feeder contest, Miss Gay Texas — considered the top national and the top statewide drag titles in the nation. And if you think being a pageant queen is all tiaras and lip gloss, well, you couldn’t be more wrong.

“Miss Gay Texas is the largest preliminary [to Miss Gay America in the fall], so I travel from city to city [across Texas] to administrate and facilitate the competition,” she says moments after stepping off an airplane. “Nothing is as labor-intensive [as the Miss Gay America system] because of all the duties and rules. I maintain quality control, I’m the score tabulator, I perform. And I do that nationally as well.”

It’s enough to make a queen feel like Cinderella.

But if being, arguably, the No. 1 drag superstar in the nation not crowned by RuPaul sounds like a “be careful what you wish for” scenario, it has also been a tremendous honor for O’Hara.
And by next week, she’ll be passing the torch to another starlet. The finals for Miss Gay Texas return to Dallas starting with prelims from July 19–21, with the coronation of the 2016 champion at the Rose Room on July 22.

“It’s going to be a really interesting year, because we have a mix of those who are familiar with the system and those who haven’t competed in it before,” she says. “A few have been competing off-and-on for a decade while for others, this is their first state-level contest. That offers the audience and the judges a wide array of contestants and a very good pageant experience.”

Even in the time Asia has competed, the world of pageants has changed.

“Especially in the America system, we pattern ourselves after mainstream entertainment, music and fashion, so we are kind of at the mercy of mainstream artists — that kind of drives our industry,” she says. “Ten years ago, the industry standard was new and organic and eclectic. Now, we have a more feminist thread with a strong, almost masculine presence onstage: Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Demi Lovato — stars who are not as dainty and feminine as we’re used to. To harness that [style] then make it look like female impersonation and not look like men in dresses takes a lot of finesse.”

Then again, learning the craft of drag is less underground. We have Drag Race. We have YouTube and Etsy. “You can learn to mix music and emulate characters and sew by Googling it,” O’Hara notes. “It’s given [next-generation contestants] an edge.”

But nothing can make you a champion without an innate appreciation for the essence of creating a new persona and selling it onstage. Contestants are judged by the style of their costumes, but also the fit, how well the color complements their complexion; how their hair works with the shape of their face, and how confident they appear, from their shoes to their nail polish.

Knowing “the look” is something O’Hara has done since she first began doing drag more than a decade ago. For most of that time, she’s designed her own costumes, though she turned her designs over to others to make for her. Around 2011, the company that made her garments asked if she would be interested in working for them as a designer.

“I didn’t do any sewing or construction or pattern-making, but I started to learn there about fabrics and textiles,” she says. “Then I went to work for a textile company and started making my costumes. A colleague asked me to make a costume for her daughter’s dance recital. [After initially resisting], she said, ‘You have a God-given talent — and don’t put it on a back burner.’” Now, O’Hara’s day job keeps her busy styling looks for other people.

It’s a good way to stay within the orbit of the pageant world when her reign ends — first with this month’s contest, then in October when her term as Miss Gay America passes.

“You know, we call ourselves ‘forever’ Miss Gay Texas instead of ‘former.’ It is something you are forever. I’ve realized that I’m not really stepping down, I’m helping induct a new member into our legacy and add a new jewel to the crown. Mine will always be there, but with hers next to mine.”

And this may well be her last year actively on the pageant scene. Although there are two more national contests she has won, “nothing is as prestigious as Miss Gay America, which has been going on for 40 years… and USofA is a close second. So while we all gravitate to things we have been successful at, I won’t be jumping into another pageant,” she says. “After [I step down], I will find some time to build some greatness in my personal life. I will force myself to focus on other aspects of my life. I want to be more well-rounded.”

And that’s how you win the interview portion, folks.

Miss Gay Texas finals take place July 19–21, with the finals at the Rose Room, 3911 Cedar Springs Road, July 22. MissGayAmerica.com/Miss-Gay-Texas-America.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 15, 2016.

 

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Thunder role

Out actor Eric LaJuan Summers, a scene-stealing boy among ‘Dreamgirls’

Eric-LaJuan-Summers,-Kristen-Bond---Photo-by-Karen-Almond2
ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Executive Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

Eric LaJuan Summers is tearing it up, stealing scenes left and right as the James Brown-ish soul singer James “Thunder” Early in the Dallas Theater Center’s production of Dreamgirls. But despite all the attention, he’s always looking for the next great opportunity. Maybe… Deena Jones?

He kids, he kids… but kinda not.

When Summers started his career as an actor, he imagined himself as the staid, reliable, even dull leading-man type. The first time he auditioned for Dreamgirls, he was shooting for C.C. White, the studious songwriter.

“I’ve always been the serious one — the cute younger brother with a heart of gold,” he says of his self-image. But others saw something else.

“You should try out for Thunder Early,” the casting director suggested. That’s not really his persona, Summers countered. The casting director just shook her head.

“When you learn what your real type is, you’ll never stop working,” she counseled.

Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 2.55.38 PMTurns out she was right. Summers’ flamboyant turn Thunder Early gives the production a lot of its humor and sexual energy. And it’s just the latest role that shows his facility with over-the-top performances. Prior to Dreamgirls, Summers was with the Broadway production of Motown The Musical, portraying such irrepressible performers as Rick James, Jackie Wilson and Marlon Jackson. Before that, he auditioned for the role of Little Richard in the feature film Get On Up, but was deemed too old to play the teenaged version of the R&B legend (though his singing voice is in the film).

So tackling Thunder Early wasn’t much of a stretch. It’s the kind of over-the-top soul singer he’s become accustomed to. And he has a lot of inspirations to draw from.

“People always say the character is based on James Brown, but I add in some Little Richard, some Marlon, some Jackie,” Summers says. And audiences go wild, especially when the character goes off-book and drops trou during his Vegas number. Hey, a little exhibitionism never hurt anyone.

“Eric is a hoot and a great flirt,” says Joel Ferrell, his director for Dreamgirls. Told this, Summers feigns mock surprise.

“My mother saw the show and after she said, ‘So you don’t act anymore — you just show up and be yourself?’” he says. “I said, “How dare you! [Thunder] is a womanizer — I’m not!’ ‘That’s the only thing,’ she said.”

All of which leads to his desire to try something new and different. He thinks he could get the Celine-esque hand choreography of Deena Jones down. Or really anything that shows the chops he has.

“One of my favorite things about my first Broadway show [Aida] was, I had a death scene, I had a sword fight …  I want to do something serious. On a show like Will and Grace, I’m always Jack and Karen; I think it’s time to be the Will.”

That might be Summers’ goal, but audiences know what they like. And a little Thunder never hurt anybody.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 15, 2016.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

BREAKING: DMA appoints out scholar Agustin Arteaga as new director

Versión 2Agustin Arteaga, currently the director of the acclaimed Museo Nacional de Arte (MUNAL) is Mexico City, is the new Eugene McDermott Director of the Dallas Museum of Art, the museum just announced. He replaces Max Anderson, who stepped down suddenly last fall.

“He brings an international perspective to the DMA,” says Catherine Marcus Rose, president of the museum’s board of trustees. He brings more than 30 years of experience to the role.

Arteaga will be relocating to Dallas with his husband, Carlos Gonzalez-Jamie, in September.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Emmy nominations: What’s gay about ’em

TRuPaulhe Emmy Award nominations were revealed this morning, and once again there are several nomination of particular interest to the gay community.

Once again Transparent — the Amazon Studios series about a male-to-female trans woman who transitions late in life (and starring last year’s Emmy winner Jeffrey Tambor) — is nominated for outstanding comedy series, along with Tambor (lead actor), Judith Light and Gaby Hoffman (supporting actress), Bradley Whitford (guest actor) and Melora Hardin (guest actress). Creator Jill Solloway, who won for writing last year, is nominated again this year as best director of a comedy series. Transparent will compete against some other gay faves: The Netflix series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, HBO’s Veep and ABC’s Modern Family.

Leading actress in a comedy series is a powerhouse category this year. Last year’s winner Julia Louis-Dreyfuss (Veep) is up against  out actress Lily Tomlin (Grace and Frankie), Amy Schumer (Inside Amy Schumer), Laurie Metcalf (Getting On), Tracee Ellis Ross (Blackish) and Ellie Kemper (Kimmy Schmidt). Tituss Burgess from Kimmy Schmidt is nominated as supporting actor in a comedy as Kimmy’s flamboyant roommate.

Burgess will be up against Louie Anderson, who gives an amazing cross-dressing performance as Zach Galifianakis’ mom in FX’s Baskets. Andre Braugher, who plays a stiff but gay police captain on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, is also nominated, as are Keegan-Michael Key in the now-canceled variety series Key & Peele; previous winners Ty Burrell from Modern Family and Tony Hale from Veep; and Matt Walsh from Veep. In addition to the Transparent women, supporting actress in a comedy includes out actress Kate McKinnon for her many roles (especially Hillary Clinton) on Saturday Night Live.

Downtown Abbey and Game of Thrones are the big contenders in drama series (both are former winners). Tatiana Maslany, who plays a number of clones (including one transgender) on Orphan Black, is up for leading actress against Taraji P. Henson in the very gay Empire and Viola Davis in the equally gay How to Get Away with Murder.

Limited series is full of interesting contenders as well, with the Ryan Murphy-produced The People vs. O.J. Simpson going against the second iteration of American Crime, which this season was about a gay teen. Courtney B. Vance and Cuba Gooding Jr. are both up for leading actor for People Vs., playing Johnnie Cochrane and Simpson. Out actress Sarah Paulson is nominated as leading actress in the same for playing prosecutor Marcia Clark. Sterling K. Brown, David Schwimmer and John Travolta are up for supporting actor. Paulson is also up for supporting actress for the latest American Horror Story: Hotel.

RuPaul’s Drag Race finally made it into the final list, with RuPaul up for best reality show host. She’s up against Jane Lynch for Hollywood Game Night, and others. Gaycation with Ellen Page is up for best non-fiction series.

You can see the full list here. The winners will be announced in September.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

New costume reveal for Kid Flash

The Flash -- Image: FLA03_KidFlashPub -- Pictured: Keiynan Lonsdale as Kid Flash-- Credit: Cate Cameron/The CW -- © 2016 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.So, I like The CW’s The Flash, although the Flash himself doesn’t quite do it for me. I was spoiled by John Wesley Shipp’s beefcake version of the superfast superhero, so the scrawnier Grant Gustin doesn’t resonate quite as much for me. So I’m delighted to see that The CW has released the first photo of Keiynan Lonsdale — already onboard as Wally West, and now besuited as Kid Flash. Even though he’s also on the leaner side, nonetheless there seems to be a little more “there” there.

Kid Flash debuts with the third season premiere in October.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WATCH: A documentary series about trans pioneers you really should see

Star3On Thursday, the Emmy nominations will be announced, and among the contenders is a webseries of documentary shorts called We’ve Been Around. Lasting just five minutes apiece, the episodes each have a different narrator, a different subject, but the same style and topic: Pioneers of the transgender community, from Sylvia Rivera and Marsha Johnson’s courage during the Stonewall riots to obscure trans people like gospel singer Little Axe and Civil War soldier Albert Cashier. And what’s great about the series is, you don’t have to wait for it to come on: The entire series is available on the Internet … and you can watch them all here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones