Before you see Melissa Etheridge at the Majestic, read this

Last month we ran an interview with music legend (and gay icon) Melissa Etheridge. Next week, the lesbian rocker will be performing live in Dallas at a concert at the Majestic. (You can get tickets here.) Before you see her in concert, though, you might wanna check out the interview, in which she talks about how she relaxes before a concert, dealing with the Trump presidency how she feels about gay activism. Read it here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

ATTPAC hosts a Broadway Bar Crawl on Greenville Avenue Thursday

We don’t really need a reason to go on a bar crawl, but hey, what better reason than to sing a showtune.

Earlier this week, the AT&T Performing Arts Center released its lineup for the 2017–18 season (I wrote about it here). To commemorate the shows in its season, host Rob McCollum will lead guests on a walking tour that includes The Libertine Bar, Truck Yard, Blind Butcher and HG SPLY Co. There will be free cocktails, bites and sign-ups for raffles and prizes. We said it was free, right? Just remember to RSVP here.

The tour starts at 6 p.m. at the Libertine and ends around 8:30 p.m. Come on out!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

BREAKING NEWS: ‘Fun Home’ to open ATTPAC’s 2017 season

The Dallas Summer Musicals snared what is certainly the most-anticipated theatrical tour of the next few years — the already-announced Hamilton. But what is probably the second biggest musical tour will be coming to Dallas thanks to the AT&T Performing Arts Center … and you won’t have to wait until 2018 to see it. Fun Home, the multiple-Tony-Award-winner, including best musical, will open ATTPAC’s 2017-18 season, the organization just announced.

Set in a funeral home, Fun Home it tells the story of a girl who comes to understand her own sexuality… and that of her father. It will kick off the five-show season, running Sept. 13–24 at the Winspear Opera House.

Fun Home will be followed by two familiar musicals — Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas: The Musical, Dec. 5–17 and immediately after Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I, Dec. 19–31. There’ll be a bit of a break until The Humans, a comedy that won a best play Tony nomination last year, May 9–20, 2018. Finally, Bright Star — a bluegrass musical co-written by Dallas native Edie Brickell and comedian Steve Martin — will end the subscription series June 12–24.

In addition, two additional shows will be presented outside the season subscription: the 20th anniversary of Riverdance, March 20–25, and the ever-popular Jersey Boys, May 22–27.

Season tickets can be purchased here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Come to Pride Night with ‘Hedwig’ at the Winspear tonight

My full review of Hedwig & the Angry Inch will not appear until later today or early tomorrow, but this is all you need to know: The show is amazing, and tonight promises to be even more amazing, as the Dallas Voice and Cathedral of Hope have paired with the AT&T Performing Arts Center to sponsor Pride Night, an LGBT-specific party-and-performance. Arrive by 6:30 p.m. to enjoy signature cocktails, a live DJ, cast appearances, a raffle and dancing until midnight (of, and you can check out the performance from 7:30–9:15 as well with tickets, here). Learn more about the party here, and check out the paper (in print or online) for the official review. Cheers!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

STAGE REVIEW: ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’

Curious-IncidentWe are in the era of post-modern theater, like it or not. And I don’t always like it.

Theater is a dynamic art form, and three cheers for experimentation and finding the “new normal.” But for about the last decade, plays have relished a little too much in reminding us that they are plays, while trying to turn a “night at the theater” into a sensory overload. Projected sets. Ear-splitting musical cues that occur suddenly. Lighting designs that approximate film editing more than staged-scene transitions. Sometimes, some combination of these work (American Idiot, The Lieutenant of Inishman, Chinglish); sometimes they don’t (Dirty Dancing springs horribly to mind).

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, now at the Winspear Opera House, falls generally into the “plus” column of these po-mo plays, though it feels more sizzle than steak. Based on Mark Haddon’s book (for years, the biggest-selling book in British history), it tells the story of 15-year-old suburban kid Christopher. Christopher is “special needs” — the word “autism” is never used, though it’s clear he falls on the spectrum of savants with underdeveloped social skills. Christopher hates to be touched (even by his parents), he cannot tell a lie (though he proves himself adept and selective truth-sharing), he’s good at math but not at metaphor (he’s able to sit for his “A levels” — roughly the equivalent of SATs in the U.S. — two years early, but doesn’t understand when people say “I’ve got my eye on you” or “you’re the apple of my eye”). His manias conspire when he discovers the brutally murdered dog of a neighbor, and determines to figure out who committed the crime. (The reveal is not at all surprising.) This leads him, in Act 2, to run away to London in search of a different set of answers.

The novel, which is told from Christopher’s perspective, is an “unreliable narrator” book, a chance to see the world through the unique eyes of its complex protagonist. The play can’t do that exactly, so Christopher’s story — in the form of his journal — is read aloud by his teacher (with repeated references to the fact we are actually watching a play about that story); we get inside Christopher’s head by the use of sound, movement and lighting effects that turn the electrified cube that is the set into a puzzle box. It’s as loud and weird to us as the world must seem to Christopher.

That works effectively… for about half the 150-minute performance time. When Christopher is set loose in London — navigating the tubes, wandering the streets, encountering strangers — it turns into an almost psychedelic nightmare that makes its point long before the adventure ends.

It’s that awkward admixture — Act 2 begins with a nerve-shattering drum beat, without so much as the lights dimming to warn you to put away your cell phone — that makes Curious a slight conundrum: You appreciate it more than you enjoy it.

CuriousIncident1181rThe same was true, to be frank, with director Marianne Elliott’s last stateside production, War Horse. (Curious is the longest-running new play on Broadway to open since 2000; War Horse is No. 2.) War Horse used life-sized puppets to tell its prosaic story of a boy and his quadruped; Curious uses similar “wows” to tell its story of a boy and his pet rat. But for both, the equation adds up to less than the sum of its parts; the pacing drags, and the effects lose their punch eventually. (The same is true of the full-frontal male nudity in Naked Boys Singing.)

Before the gimmicks overstay their welcome, however, you’re delighted and intrigued by the stagecraft, which employs Tony-nominated choreography to move Christopher around his environment, a protean stage of hidden doors and LED lights and primary colors that set and re-set the mood. But it all meanders eventually, until you’re not entirely sure what you’ve seen. On opening night, the audience jumped up in applause at the end, appropriately impressed by the energy and creativity. That is, the audience members still there — a fair amount of attrition occurred during intermission. Whether the defectors missed out on the full impact or got the point quickly and moved on it anyone’s guess.

At the Winspear Opera House through Jan. 22.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

The ‘Curious Incident’ of movement choreographer Steven Hoggett’s career

When people think of “choreography,” the first image that comes to mind is probably of arabesques and plies, pirouettes and chorus line kicks.

Steven Hoggett has none of that.

“I’m actually trained in English literature, not dance,” the Brit quips. “But I did choreography as soon as I realized I could not make a living at English.”

“Make a living” undersells what he does. For much of the last decade, Hoggett has been in-demand in the U.S. and the U.K. for his unique take on choreography — usually more along the lines of “director of movement” and “stager of dances.”

“I honestly don’t really know [why that’s my niche],” he admits.” Certainly in terms of work, here in the States I have been doing more movement that [traditional choreography].” It started with his work on the Green Day jukebox musical American Idiot. “Producers and directors saw that work as not the traditional step-ball-change. Since then, I never tend to get the jobs that require the particular tropes and methods [of dance choreography]. There’s a lot of boys [in New York City] who do that kind of job very well. So I tend to get this sense of [being hired] for less orthodox shows, because what I do is not choreography in the strictest sense of the word. And I’m very happy with it.”

Consider this: Among his credits are not only American Idiot (which itself was a compelling and edgy but far-from-traditional musical), but also Once (the Tony Award-winning, based on the Oscar-winning Irish film, set almost entirely in a pub), Rocky The Musical (doing fight choreography), the plays Peter and the Starcatcher and The Crucible, and the reason we are talking, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which opens Wednesday at the Winspear Opera House for a limited run.

Curious, based on a book that was, until 50 Shades of Grey, the top-selling novel of all time in England, concerns a teenaged boy, Christopher, who lives on the autism spectrum. He noticed everything, and sets out to solve the mystery of the killing of his neighbor’s dog. Much of the story is told from his skewed perspective of the world, so it was up to Hoggett and his collaborator, Scott Graham, to integrate that sense of disconnect with the movement in the play.

How do you do that, though, without all the musical cues that come with a score?

“All of that is as easily attributable to a script as to a score — there’s a textual rhythm, looking for the rhythm in the dialogue or the narrative. But also, what are the gaps — what’s not on the page that needs to be there? We let choreography tell a story, and Curious has lots of that kind of opportunity. It’s one single boy’s world viewpoint.”

He faced similar challenges on Once, which Hoggett says the create team considered “a play with some songs in it, as opposed to a group of songs with no book to it. There happened to be moments where it lifted itself into song and then came down into a play. To my mind, it was about being as delicate as possible — slight choices instead of rash choices. Movement should be threaded through the narrative.”

One element of his kind of work is a mixed blessing — Hoggett tends to work with actors “who have a proclivity for movement as part of the storytelling more that ‘dancers’ — in fact, in America, I have yet to work with ‘dancers.’ So you have to create a physical palette for everyone in the room. No one can do what the think they can do on Day One, so it’s always a clean slate, always a fresh start. On the other hand, I can never rely on anything physically in my cast, so it’s always about thinking on your feet. But it doesn’t feel intimating. I love it.”

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time plays Jan. 11–22 at the Winspear Opera House, 2403 Flora St. Tickets available at ATTPAC.org.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

David Sedaris returns for Arts & Letters Live

David-SedarisIn tomorrow’s Dallas Voice, I have an interview with Patricia Cornwell, lesbian author of the Kay Scarpetta mystery novels, who is closing out the Dallas Museum of Art’s Arts & Letters Live Series next week. And at the same time comes word of the spring A&L series, and the return — for an eighth time — of gay humorist David Sedaris.

Sedaris will appear at the Winspear Opera House on April 28, reading new and unpublished material as part of the museum’s 26th anniversary of live readings. Pre-sale tickets are now available to members of the DMA, KERA and the ATTPAC Circle. Tickets go on sale to the general public on Nov. 14, starting at $35. You can buy them here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

ATTPAC, DTC add open captioning for the hearing impaired

Hand making P signLast month, we ran a story about Don Jones, who for decades has been the American Sign Language interpreter for the Turtle Creek Chorale. We also mentioned how Theatre 3 was leading a push to sponsor real-time deaf interpretation during certain performances.

Now the AT&T Performing Arts Center and Dallas Theater Center are getting into the act as well. In conjunction with the Theatre Development Fund, ATTPAC and DTC will provide open captioning — similar to the supertitles at an opera, with all the dialogue, lyrics and sound effects projected on the side of the stage — at select performances of shows. The first was last Sunday at A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, but the DTC will do it four more times this season: At the new musical Bella: An American Tall Tale (Oct. 6), at A Christmas Carol (Dec. 11), at The Christians (Feb. 12, 2017) and at the world premiere Hood (July 16). ATTPAC is expected to add more dates as shows come available.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

REVIEW: ‘A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder’

GGLAM Tour 3In the 1940s and ’50s, Britain’s Ealing Studios dominated the landscape of sophisticated dark comedies. The Man in the White Suit, The Lavender Hill Mob and The Ladykillers all starred the great Alec Guinness as the deadpan anti-hero in outrageous adventures that were far top smart to just be labeled farces. One of Guinness’ best roles, though, was actually eight roles: All the family members (young/old, male/female, gentle/wicked) tapped as victims of a murderous social-climbing illegitimate heir to an hereditary earldom in the cultural commentary Kind Hearts and Coronets. A comedy about murder? It might not have been the first, but it remains one of the best, and gave Guinness a signature turn at creating multiple memorable characters with abandon. (In recent years, no one but Eddie Murphy has really tried to replicate that feat, or at least done so successfully.)

The 2014 Broadway musical A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder isn’t a carbon-copy of the Ealing film (the ending is different, and of course it’s a musical), but it’s just as withering in its dissection of the British classes… and it gives actor John Rapson free rein to horse around as all the members of the D’Ysquith family, soon to be knocked off by young, ambitious Monty Navarro (Kevin Massey), the disinherited black sheep of the D’Ysquiths who wants to become earl so he can marry his gold-digging girlfriend … even though he’s actually falling for his distant cousin.

This production, at the Winspear through Sunday, had the good sense to be as fluffy and delightful as cotton candy, with a stage-within-a-stage that adds a layer of artifice: It’s an old-style English music hall, a vaudeville of jaunty songs and colorful costumes and sets. (The show it most calls to mind for theater queens might be The Mystery of Edwin Drood.) Nevertheless, writer Robert L. Freedman sneaks in some saucy political commentary among the one-liners. It’s a fanciful and clever show, a bright respite from the summer heat.

At the Winspear through Aug. 28.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

An amazing ‘Cabaret’ … and the chance to meet the cast

CabaretProvidence Performing Arts CenterIt’s been a few years since the 1998 version of Cabaret — reimagined by directors Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall, before either became name-brand big-time movie directors — has been on tour. A similar C-named musical by composers Kander and Ebb (Chicago) has rarely stopped touring, and the differences are apparent: Chicago is a sexy-glam satire of pop culture, filtered through a theme of murder; Cabaret is more of a tragedy-with-music, a prequel of sorts to the Holocaust as Germans fiddled while Berlin burned. Almost without fail, just as a song ends and the audience is primed for an ovation, the sinister Master of Ceremonies (Randy Harrison, exploding with sexual charisma) intercedes, flirtatiously reminding us, “You thought that was cute? These people are doomed.” That’s a lot for a musical to handle.

But not, truth be told, unwelcomed. We’re now inured to “serious” musicals, from Les Miserables (political revolution) to Spring Awakening (sexual revolution), often with characters doing appalling things (even being openly gay!) … but in 1966, when Cabaret debuted (barely a generation after the end of WWII), it was scandalous but compelling. It’s still an amazing show: Set in Weimar Germany during the interregnum, as the Nazis were coming to power and an American writer, Cliff (a stand-in for Christopher Isherwood, who wrote the stories on which it is based) and the grotesquery of a society robbed of its dignity and how it can turn cruel, even evil. And the songs! It’s crammed with metaphor and comedy, and this production — a revival of the 1998 version staged by the Roundabout a few years ago, and now amazing audiences at the Winspear — is an unmissible opportunity, performed with great skill. It’s as unforgettable as it’s ever been.

Note: If you come tonight’s show, June 1, you can even learn more about the behind-the-scenes. I’ll be hosting a post-performance Q&A with Randy Harrison and other members of the cast in Hamon Hall immediately following the performance. You can even get a special discount on tickets if you go to ATTPAC.org/cabaret and enter the code “Voice.” See you tonight!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones