‘Ave. Q’ hosts Halloween sing-along

T2 Ave QTheatre 3 has brought back its hit musical Avenue Q — the show with the singing puppets having sex and cursing up a storm — through November, but the best time to see it might be tonight: That’s when the theater is hosting an audience costume party and sing-along. If you’re familiar with the show, you know you’ve always wanted to chime in during “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” and express your agreement that the Internet is, in fact, for porn, or discuss that beard Canadian “girlfriend” who lives in Alberta …  no, her name is Alberta, she lives in Vancouver … Anyway, you get the point.

There’ll be a costume contest as well, so superfans should feel free to show up as Lucy the Slut or even the Bad Idea Bears. But it’s not a bad idea to get your freak on. (Furries welcome as well.)

Curtain is at 7:30 p.m. For tickets, click here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

This week’s takeaways: Life+Style

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It’s feeling like a charitable weekend around the gayborhood.

First, there’s the LifeWalk team the Elizabeth Trail’rs (sponsored by Dallas Voice) that is raising money for the October AIDS walk with a pool party at the Belmont Hotel on Sunday. Drop off a $20 donation and enjoy the sun and water, as well as cocktails, food, a 50/50 raffle and more. It starts at 1 p.m.

That leaves you time to head over to Mario’s on Lemmon Avenue until 4 p.m. for another Sunday Funday fundraiser: a happy hour benefiting the Lone Star Ride in September. If you can, try squeezing in Bagels & Booze at JR.’s with drag performances.

Even if you aren’t raising money, you can still enjoy some cocktail parties — both at the W Hotel. On Friday, Dick’s Night Out arrives at the Ghostbar from 6–10 p.m. with DJ Brandon Moses, pictured, spinning; then on Saturday, Lush Mixer takes place from 7–10 p.m. at Cook Hall, also at the W.

And you can say goodbye to one campy gay play and hello to another; Avenue Q finally ends its 100-plus performance run at Theatre 3 on Sunday. Then Monday is the official opening night of the hilarious musical Xanadu, which features roller-disco!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

T3 gives final extension to ‘Ave. Q’

It doesn’t suck to be Avenue Q. The show is almost certainly the second longest running Dallas production in history; it started in June for a planned four-week run; that was soon extended to 10 weeks and now, with a just-announced  extension to Dec. 9, will have run 23 weeks before closing — second only to another T3 show, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, which ran more than two years after its initial opening.

Theatre 3 is promising that this extension of Avenue Q will be its last. And we believe them. Why? Because T3 has already announced another show in the downstairs Theatre Too’s 99-seat auditorium …. the latest revival of I Love You, You’re Perfect.

The very gay show — which included the 51-year-old theater’s first float in Dallas’ Pride Parade, a kind of wedding processional for its two gay characters  — won awards from the Dallas-Fort Worth Theater Critics Forum last month.

The first performance of the extension, on Nov. 2, will kick off with a sing-along version. Come on… you know the Internet is for porn.

Get tickets here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

DFW Theater Critics Forum bestows annual honors

B.J. Cleveland, center, won a best actor award from the DFW Theater Critics Forum, along with its director, Michael Serrecchia.

It was a banner year for Theatre 3 at the annual Dallas-Fort Worth Theater Critics Forum luncheon, with three shows — The Farnsworth Invention, Superior Donuts and Avenue Q, which is still running — collectively garnering 10 awards, the most for any company. The star of Donuts, Van Quattro, also received the Emerging Artist Award.

It was a love fest for love, too, as partners Michael Serrecchia and Michael Robinson were both recognized for Avenue Q — Serrecchia for directing, and Robinson for designing the puppets.

Terry Vandivort, a staple at Theatre 3 for decades, received an award for his performance at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas in its The Night of the Iguana, alongside co-winner Ashley Wood. The show was also recognized for Rene Moreno’s direction. Moreno was additionally cited for directing August: Osage County at WaterTower and Coriolanus at Shakespeare Dallas.

Uptown Players received several nods as well: For B.J. Cleveland’s leading role in The Producers, wrapping up its run this week (as well as Serrecchia’s direction), and for Lulu Ward’s performance in last year’s Pride Performing Arts Festival for The New Century. (I declared her 2011′s Actor of the Year for the role.)

The gay-penned surprise hit musical Bring It On was the clear favorite among national tours.

In total, 30 shows were recognized and 41 awards given by the participating critics: Arnold Wayne Jones, Dallas Voice; Elaine Liner, Dallas Observer; Mark Lowry, Perry Stewart and Martha Heimberg, TheaterJones; Lawson Taitte, Dallas Morning News; Lance Lusk, Lindsey Wilson and Liz Jonhstone, FrontRow/D Magazine; Alexandra Bonifield, CriticalRant; and Punch Shaw, Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Here’s the complete list:

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

This week’s takeaways: Life+Style

Make Cathey Miller's new art show part of your week.

You can breathe now. It is officially the weekend, so no more blaming the July 4 holiday for a janky week. It’s a big theater week, with openings in Dallas and Fort Worth. You might fit in some reading with Carsen Taite’s new book and head over to Oak Cliff for a new art show by lesbian artist Cathey Miller.

—  Rich Lopez

REVIEWS: DTC’s “Joseph,” T3′s “Ave. Q”

Sydney James Harcourt as a buff Joseph. (Photo courtesy Karen Almond)

The problem with the Webber and Rice musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat has always been its roots as a kids’ Sunday school pageant. It was written to be 20 minutes of Bible education set to music; when they decided to expand it, you could tell where they were padding. The result is tuneful, light enjoyment — 70 minutes of anachronistic songs about the Old Testament. But there’s never been a lot of meat to it; it’s a sing-along show with a Broadway attitude.

Or at least it used to be. Joel Ferrell, who directs and choreographs the version now playing at the Dallas Theater Center, has found a way around Joseph‘s weaknesses. First, the DTC has licensed the extended score, including a mega-mix curtain call medley that reiterates the entire score in digest form.

Second, he’s given a shape to the story it has always been in desperate need of: Instead of the show just being what it is, we now have a reason for it. A group of school kids trudge through a museum with a stern security guard (Liz Mikel). One of the children is fascinated by a copy of the Torah, and the guard takes note. She tell him the story of Joseph and his 11 brothers, and as she does, the stage opens into a Pee-Wee’s playhouse of colorful stagecraft; the kid even imagines himself as the baby brother in the tribe. This conceit does more than bookend the play: It explains to hip weirdness the show has always wrestled with, specifically, songs (and some characters) that seem unexpectedly modern. Why is Pharaoh be portrayed as Elvis? It makes sense if a 21st century child projects his ideas onto a story. And it gives Ferrell the chance to ratchet up the disconnects. The brothers now are skateboarding iPod junkies in baggy shorts and ball caps.

The change does two important things: It raises the energy level of the show, and it allows Ferrell to mount one of the gayest family musicals you’ll ever seen. (Maybe those are the same thing.)

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Your curtain speech at “Avenue Q” delivered by Jac Alder … but which one?

When Avenue Q opens tonight following its weekend of previews, there will, as ever, be a curtain speech delivered by Theatre 3′s long-standing co-founder and executive producer, Jac Alder.

The question is, which one?

As I reported in this week’s edition, Michael Robinson and his team built a monstrous 36 puppets for the show … and one of them is of Alder himself.

So who will deliver the speech? Apparently, both: Alder will voice the reminder to silence your cell phones and drunk plus-ones, but someone else will be pulling the strings … or manipulating the hand.

This could start a trend. I’m sick of seeing the same folks trot up every show telling me how to behave — I already know, but increasingly, the folks sitting next to be don’t seem to. Maybe if they heard the same from a foam head, they’d actually pay attention.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Whitty banter

Gay ‘Ave. Q’ scribe Jeff Whitty builds a pyramid of laughs in cheer-full musical ‘Bring It On’

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CHEER UP | Whitty swore off writing musicals — but changed his mind to take on two new ones.

Jeff Whitty will probably spend the rest of his life living down the legacy of creating the musical that turned Muppets … sorry, puppets — into sexed-up losers. Avenue Q became the surprise hit of the 2003-04 Broadway season, sweeping the Tony Awards (including one for Whitty’s book) and forever changing our view of Sesame Street.

One of Whitty’s collaborators on Q went on to co-write The Book of Mormon, but Whitty himself has been busy as well, opening two musicals in the past 13 months, including the cheerleading comedy Bring It On: The Musical, which opened this week at Fair Park.

The gay librettist, who is also an actor (he’s in rehearsals to appear in a play he wrote, in which he’ll star in drag — a first) chatted about his love of cheerleading, his failed promise never to do another musical and the filthiest show he’s ever seen.

Arnold Wayne Jones

Dallas Voice: Here’s something the librettist never hears: My favorite thing about Avenue Q is not actually on the cast recording, it’s the name of a character, Miss Thistletwat.  Jeff Whitty: Thank you. I was in Paris with one of the [French] producers and we had this great lunch with champagne at 1 in the afternoon and everything. I asked her, “How did you translate the name of Miss Thistletwat?” She got really embarrassed, but she told me; it would translate as, like, Miss Grassmuncher, which [is slang there] for lesbian.

I also love when Kate fingers Princeton. That’s the audience’s fault — they are putting that in, I don’t actually say it. There are actually only 13 swear words in Avenue Q, and they are carefully placed — like five “fucks”, one “pussy” and four “shits” …. By the way, I’ve seen four international productions of Avenue Q and Paris was the filthiest. Kate rimmed Princeton. Even to me, that’s a little much.

Since last year, you’ve opened two other musicals: Tales of the City and Bring It On, which is now in Dallas. I didn’t want to do another musical after Avenue Q after learning how hard they are. I said no to everything for quite a while. Then on a plane to London [while watching DVDs of the miniseries Tales of the City], suddenly a bolt of lightning struck that said there could be this really chewy, big musical made out this material. I know Jake Shears of Scissor Sisters [who co-wrote the score] and we opened last spring. The show was not finished and we didn’t have enough previews to nail it, but we’re figuring out what the next step for that show will be.

Your colleagues on Bring It On are composer-lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda, who did the barrio hip-hop musical In the Heights, and Tom Kitt, who composed Next to Normal, a musical about mental illness. Who said, “Wow, those guys would make a great team to write a musical about cheerleading.” It’s a funny story, how that evolved. I have been wanting to do a cheerleading musical since 2004. Real athletic cheerleading is amazing to watch, if you see it on ESPN; plus, it has a built-in performance component that is so helpful in a musical. A cheerleading structure is perfect and it’s something you can see live that a lot of people haven’t.

My agent knew [of my interest] and told me about Bring It On; I said “Sign me up!” I’d never done a movie adaptation but I was totally onboard. Plus at the first meeting, the [producers] said they’d be interested in doing an original story instead of basing it on the first movie or one of the four [direct-to-video] sequels, so this was a huge opportunity. [Director] Andy Blankenbuehler had choreographed In the Heights [so he had worked with Lin-Manuel]. So that’s how that came together.

It’s a different style for you, too, not just Miranda and Kitt. Yes, Tales is full of angel dust, pot-smoking and child pornographers and Avenue Q is called the “potty-mouthed puppet musical.” So I really wanted to do a musical I could bring my nieces to. There are these warnings of sexual content, but really?

All three of the musicals have been excruciating. You have to get all of these disparate parts to have this one sensibility and have cohesion. I was working with great collaborators [in Bring It On], people I loved to be in the room with. When they start to click they are truly exciting. It’s been a great

Here’s a very gay question: Among you, Miranda and Kitt, who has the bigger Tony Award? You ever whipped ’em out and compared? They actually made the stand bigger since I won! But I’d say Tom [Kitt] wins, because he has a Pulitzer, too.

Where do you keep your Tony?  I have this trophy collection I pick up from flea markets — weird, old stuff, like senior body building trophies. So my Tony sits among all those.

You’re the only gay guy on the creative team for Bring It On. Do you still like to gay it up? It is a musical, after all.  Absolutely, I always try to put gay characters in my shows. I didn’t wanna go with a cliché in Bring It On, but without giving anything away, you’ll see there’s a character there that’s definitely a first-of-her-kind in a musical. I found a fresh take.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 17, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

GIVEAWAY: Tickets to “Bring It On: The Musical”

We like our cheerleading competitions enough on ESPN, but when they fall and break something, it’s just too much to bear. So we’ll opt for a musical. From the movie screen to the stage,  cheerleading rivals learn there’s more to life then human pyramids and herkies in Bring It On: The Musical. The show has major Broadway cred behind it, as well. Check out this roster of creatives behind it: Tony Award-winning writer Jeff Whitty (Avenue Q); Tony Award-winning composer Lin-Manuel Miranda (In The Heights); Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning composer Tom Kitt (Next to Normal) and lyricist Amanda Green (High Fidelity); Tony Award-winning orchestrator Alex Lacamoire (In The Heights); and Tony Award-winning director/choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler (In The Heights).

Sounds like fun, right? You could check it out yourself. We have a pair of tickets to give away for the opening night of Bring It On at the Music Hall at Fair Park. Here’s what you do. Just list us five different types of cheerleading jumps (we gave you one already) along with your name and contact info, put “Gimme a T” (you know, for tickets) in the subject line and email us here. The winner will be drawn next week.

Good luck.

—  Rich Lopez

NY MARRIAGE UPDATE: T-Minus 56 hours

As the number of people living in jurisdictions with marriage equality doubles this weekend, here are some of the things going on around New York to celebrate — and protest that state’s new law:

Niagara Falls will be lit in rainbow colors on Sunday.

• To avoid delays and confusion, New York City will limit the number of marriages on Sunday to 764. Licenses will be distributed through lotteries for specific slots in each of the five NYC boroughs. The lottery opened on Tuesday and closed today at noon. Winners will be announced Friday. A lottery — what a great way to ensure the sanctity of marriage.

• Sunday will be a record day for marriages in New York City. The previous record was set on Valentine’s Day in 2003, when 621 opposite-sex couples wed.

• Rod and Ricky, the same-sex puppets who meet and fall in love in Avenue Q, plan to be among those in line for marriage licenses at City Hall.

• In Albany, Mayor Jerry Jennings will marry up to 10 couples at city hall right after midnight. A state Supreme Court judge will be at the Common Council chambers to waive the 24-hour waiting period.

• Mayor Bloomberg said he doesn’t expect people to be camping out in line waiting for marriage licenses. He says it’s not like buying an iPad 2. Right. Priorities. After all, which is more important?

—  David Taffet