STAGE BRIEFS

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The Night of the Iguana. As if we need further evidence that Rene Moreno is Dallas’ best director, we have this remarkable production as Exhibit A, pictured right. Tennessee Williams’ last great play is set in tropical Acapulco, so most productions emphasize its steam sexuality. But Moreno — at least in Act 1 — discovers Williams’ biting humor, staging the action with the pacing of a farce. He saves the sultry stuff for Act 2, allowing the melodrama to sneak up on it.

Set at a run-down motel in the off-season, it features a hurricane, a failed clergyman (Ashley Wood, appropriately manic) tied to a hammock, a slutty proprietress (Cindee Mayfield, who could unleash a whole new career as a bad girl) and an underaged nymphomaniac. Hey, it is Williams.

It clicks along so spritely, with the cast (including Elizabeth Van Winkle, and Terry Vandivort delivering his best performance in years) capturing the exaggerated Southern melody or Tennessee’s over-wrought dialogue, you get easily lost. Imbuing a classic with fresh energy is one fine feat.
Contemporary Theatre of Dallas. Through Mar. 4.

Pluck the Day. It’s been almost 10 years since Second Thought Theatre produced Pluck the Day, a comedy about quirky Texans set entirely on a ramshackled porch littered with beer cans and forgotten dreams. The original was a longish two-acter about lost 20somethings.

The revisions by STT’s co-artistic director, Steven Walters, of his rambling play tighten a lot of the action, but the major accomplishment is one that the calendar gets the most credit for: The maturing of the characters. Now they are in their 30s, when the malaise of realizing your best years were more than a decade back really sets in.

The men at the center are an unusual trio, despite their similar upbringings. Duck (Clay Yokum) is a dumb, married redneck and proud of it; Fred (Mike Shrader) is his bachelor counterpart, about to pop the question; and Bill (Chris LaBove) the smart gay one who has hung around this one-stoplight town for far too long. But just how gay is Bill?

The plot revolved around a did-they-or-didn’t-they plot you might have caught on Three’s Company, but there’s a sweetness to it all and a full share of laughs, especially when Duck — who wouldn’t know a metrosexual if he gay-bashed him — wonders why Bill isn’t attracted to him. Been there.
Second Thought Theatre. Through Feb. 26.

stage-2-2Bring It On: The Musical. Talk about the power of the pyramid: Cheerleading onstage kicks ass. Oh, say what you will about it being a cheesy faux-sport practiced by mean girls (there’s a lot of that here, no question) — when you see a man in a tank-top and shorts do a running back-flip across the stage, it’s hard not to fall in love.

Or at least in serious, serious like, which is the reaction you’ll have to Bring It On, pictured left. While based on the teen rom-com, the touring production now at Fair Park creates its own story about Campbell (Taylor Louderman), a flighty senior cheer goddess and team captain gerrymandered into an inner city school district. In predictable fashion, she rallies the hip-hop girls (including one sassy black trans, given an overdose of spunk by Gregory Haney) into turning their dance crew into a cheer squad.

Like Legally Blonde, or even Hairspray, it’s a sunny, silly story about the redemption of a teen queen through the power of (fill in the blank: Law, cheerleading, dancing). But like Wicked, it’s also underhandedly smart, with a catchy, contemporary score and clever lyrics.

The tour hasn’t made it to Broadway; it probably doesn’t need to go there. New York audiences probably imagine themselves too sophisticated to appreciate a musical about cheering; here in the hinterlands, we’re not ashamed to stand up and rah-rah at impressive displays of athleticism that come with singing as well. Go, team!
Dallas Summer Musicals. Through Feb. 26.

The Secret Life of Girls. Thank God I don’t have kids — and am not one anymore. Dallas Children’s Theater tackles teen bullying in its studio production, but not in a way you might expect. There are no hate crimes here, nor even an obvious hero or villain, just continually readjusting cliques among teen girls. It’s the darker side of Bring It On, where sniping doesn’t warrant a “snap!” but leads to cutting and bulimia. Though gay issues are not directly addressed, it’s an instructive and shockingly timely show (followed by a therapist-led talk-back) that all families can walk away from with new insights into how hard it can be to grow up.
Dallas Children’s Theater. Through Feb. 26. Suitable for teens and adults.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

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

—  Kevin Thomas

Heart and beat

David Guetta delivers the same ol’ dance shtick while Chad D surprises

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

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1 out of 5 stars
NOTHING BUT THE BEAT
David Guetta
Capitol Records

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DJ and producer David Guetta is smart at handling hip-hop and rap artists on top of dance beats. He creates a flow that is easy to dance to and the songs aren’t anything more than a party in the space of three to four minutes. But that formula repeats itself in Nothing But The Beat, which shows no real imagination.

Nicki Minaj and Flo Rida bring their talents to the opener, “Where Them Girls At.” The beat is distinctly Guetta but that formula is already showing. Minaj comes up short here, ripping off a TLC flow and playing more as an accessory.

That changes with “Turn Me On.” Minaj goes into Rihanna territory, singing and rapping. There’s no surprise that she can carry a note, but she proves she can hang with any singer out there. This ends up being one of the better tracks.

With “Sweat,” Guetta re-imagines Snoop’s “Wet” single against a sampled beat to amazing effect. Guetta shines here — not with hip-hop generics over a disco beat, but working magic with Minaj and Snoop to create something exciting. His innovation is off the charts.

It’s too much for the last track to save the album, but it’s a glorious attempt. Guetta teams with Sia on “Titanium.” Collaborative lyrics elevate this song to a higher level than any previous track, as Sia brings her clever writing to the table and ends up with as much a voice in this song as Guetta does.

But so much is wrong with Beat that it ends up being a beat down. What Guetta is good at is producing listenable disco. It’s never too obscure or techno, but it’s always the right sound to get a good jog to or sweat it up on the dance floor.

His collabs with Taio Cruz, Chris Brown and Usher are fine but forgettable. He handles Cruz and Ludacris well in “Little Bad Girl,” and Brown and Lil’ Wayne’s skills make “I Can Only Imagine” work as a song and not just a mix. Although Guetta did help Usher lose a lot of R&B cred on “Without You,” it’s embarrassing to hear Usher reduced to this Coldplay/Keane/OneRepublic styled track. This is where Guetta’s mistakes happen. He keeps masturbating to hip-hop and R&B stars, and he’s missing vital aspects that would make his own songs sound better.

He remembers his gay boy listeners with equally unimpressive diva-esque tracks save for Sia. You would think that wouldn’t happen with Jennifer Hudson on “Night of Your Life,” but the song is amateurish and never lives up to her talent. Guetta gives Jessie J the chance to shine in “Repeat;” she doesn’t.

When Guetta isn’t embarrassing himself, he goes way obnoxious on the Will. I. Am track “Nothing Really Matters,” which is more of a yawner than the Black Eyed Peas’ last album. And “I Just Wanna F” with Timbaland and Dev is an exercise in stupidity.

Even with the stronger tracks, this Beat is a dud.

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2.5 out of 5 stars
THE HUMAN LINK
Chad D
Independent

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Chad D is an indie musician based out of New York who’s 2011 release The Human Link garnered him two OutMusic Award nominations. He’s party pop and rap with a message — a whole lot of them. But his ambition makes up for the rough edges.

In the first four tracks, D lays down energetic beats with different stories. “The Story Begins” opens the album in high-energy synth mode with one of the deepest bass beats. The lyrics could graduate a level, but D throws in surprises such as a guitar solo that comes out of nowhere.

“The Human Link” and “Ask and Tell” lean more to his rap stylings, which need some fine-tuning. In “Link,” he’s choppy, but gets more fluid with “Ask.” I don’t even think he’s trying to be Eminem, but he’s clearly the white-guy rapper and a much better singer. “Ask” seems to be the epitome of his intentions with an in-your-face tune about gay issues. But the platitudes are a bit obvious which makes the song miss its mark.

It would be easy to dismiss “T.G.A. (The Gay Anthem)” as drivel. He raps quickly over what sounds like a sampled “Under the Boardwalk” beat. His Michael Jackson “whooos” are misguided and yet he creates a reliable hook and runs with it.

He hits his stride in “Ocean Blue Love.” The song is crazy catchy and his vocals overlap with note maturity. While I don’t mind his rapping so much, “Ocean” is proof that vocalizing is a better forte for him. He could still refine his voice, but he’s more emotive when singing.

D lost me at the title of “Life is a Ride,” which reminded me too much of “Life is a Highway,” a song I loathe. I muddled through rap stanzas like dance with me/ touch my body/ getting’ naughty but OK, my head bopped along. The chorus burst in and Chad D pulled me in. I don’t get into intentionally cheerful songs but the chorus earwormed its way into my head and I was fine with that.

Chad D isn’t afraid to give his strong queer perspective. As he matures, his songwriting should become more refined, but it’s his heart that drives The Human Link and he’s put all of it here.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 23, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens