TONIGHT: Lexus B’way Series, the gay perspective: “Les Miz”

As I did last fall for Hair, the Lexus Broadway Series has invited me back — and has for the entire season — to offer some insights from a gay perspective on their current production.

And that production is Les Miserables.

I have to say, this is the show I have least looked forward to profiling — not because I don’t like it, but because it is a challenge with a show that predates the word “gay.” But I’ll give it my best shot.

Here’s how it works: If you signed up for the “gay series” already, you probably got an email blast reminding you about the chat. If you didn’t, you can still come — just buy a ticket to tonight’s performance. (I liked this production, too — you can read my review here.) The talk will be in Hamon Hall, to the right when you enter the Winspear, starting about 7 p.m. I’ll even take questions if you have any.

And I’ll see you in March at In the Heights!

 

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

GLBT Broadway pre-show chat at ‘Hair’ tonight

‘Hair’ raising experience

How gay is the musical Hair? Find out at this special performance as the Lexus Broadway series presents GLBT Broadway in Hamon Hall. The pre-show event features Dallas Voice LifeStyle Editor Arnold Wayne Jones discussing issues of gender identity and sexuality within the counterculture musical.

DEETS: Winspear Opera House, 2403 Flora St. 7 p.m.  $30–$150. ATTPAC.org.

—  Rich Lopez

Best bets • 09.23.11

Saturday 09.24

Spend the weekend with Candis
We were excited to see trans actress Candis Cayne land the juicy role of Carmelita Rainer on Dirty, Sexy, Money and then sad to see it go after two seasons. Now we can see the actress/entertainer up close as she comes to Dallas. Cayne performs at Dish’s Drag Brunch on Sunday, but first she headlines the Rose Room.

DEETS: The Rose Room (inside S4), 3911 Cedar Springs Road. 11 p.m. Caven.com.

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Tuesday 09.27

‘Hair’ raising experience
How gay is the musical Hair? Find out at this special performance as the Lexus Broadway series presents GLBT Broadway in Hamon Hall. The pre-show event features Dallas Voice LifeStyle Editor Arnold Wayne Jones discussing issues of gender identity and sexuality within the counterculture musical.

DEETS: Winspear Opera House, 2403 Flora St. 7 p.m.  $30–$150. ATTPAC.org.

………………….

Friday 09.30

Pride is hilarious
As Tarrant County Pride gets underway, Open Door Productions takes part with comedian Suzanne Westenhoefer. Her Semi-Sweet show will be the comic highlight of Pride in Cowtown

DEETS: Sheraton Hotel, 1701 Commerce St. 8 p.m. $25–$30. OpenDoorProductionsTX.com.

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

—  Michael Stephens

A good head on his shoulders

For actor Matt DeAngelis, the flower power musical ‘Hair’ isn’t just a time capsule — it’s a reminder of the transformative effect of theater

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

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HAIR
Winspear Opera House,
2403 Flora St.
Sept.. 20–Oct. 2
ATTPAC.org

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Matt DeAngelis wasn’t even alive when the hippie Summer of Love took place, but for the last two years, he’s happily relived it eight times a week as one of the original cast members in the Tony Award-winning revival of Hair.

“I didn’t know a lot about the show before I was cast in it,” says the 28-year-old Boston native who now makes his home in New York. “I’m sort of a contemporary rock musical theater singer and always have been, so when I started doing Hair I said, ‘How did I miss this for this long?’ But my parents never listened to it — they didn’t listen to the Beatles either, so I missed that, too.”

DeAngelis and other members of the original cast bring the show to that reddest of reds when they open at the Winspear Opera House Tuesday as part of the Lexus Broadway Series. In fact, this company is coming directly from the New York production, where they spent the summer.

That means DeAngelis was in New York when same-sex marriage was legalized in the Empire State. To commemorate it, three gay couples wed on the stage of the St. James Theatre while the Hair company looked on.
“I was standing center stage for that,” DeAngelis boasts. “A doorman and usher at different theaters were one couple, an actor whom I didn’t know and a playwright were another couple, Terri White and her longtime girlfriend got married — Terri’s a legend in our industry. It was fantastic!”

Combining theater and activism seems like a perfect fit for a show like Hair.

“Gay rights are important to theater people, ya know? Gavin Creel, who was our original Claude [and who performed at last year’s Black Tie Dinner], inspired us to do a bunch of work with Broadway Impact. We did a big benefit in London, we marched on Washington for the marriage equality rally. We have such a special group of producers — they lost $150,000 to let us go to Washington. But it’s such a special cause for our company, because right is right. We’ve all taken the message of Hair and the idea of advocacy for what you believe in.”

Don’t expect to see similar commitment ceremonies on the stage of the Winspear, though.

“To me, marriage isn’t symbolic — it is real,” DeAngelis says. “I wish we could [perform a same-sex marriage] every night in every city. But that was really just a victory lap for us: It said in the biggest metropolis in the U.S., you can get married. If it wasn’t legal it wouldn’t have mattered.”

Hair is a slightly formless musical, set in 1967 (before the madness of 1968 — the assassinations of MLK and RFK, the escalation of the war in Vietnam) where free-love (including then-provocative issues of interracial dating and homosexuality), drug use and counterculture attitudes are vigorously embraced. Still, some of the controversy over it, especially its notorious nude scene, puzzles DeAngelis.

“I think it’s an incredibly powerful moment in the context of the show. We had one walkout where a woman grabbed her daughter and stormed out. People get all bent out of shape because we took our clothes off for 30 seconds, and it’s not even sexual. But we do far more offensive things in the show with our clothes on: humping, drug use, language. I sing a song called ‘Sodomy’ — though granted, people walk out during that too,” he laughs.

A show like this may be a good fit in gay-friendly NYC, but DeAngelis likes the idea of bringing the message to the people, and not just preaching to the choir.

“Not always playing to a liberal New York audience is sort of the point of the show for us,” he says. “It’s such a message show; taking it to the people is important. Just because you come see Hair doesn’t mean you need to leave as a flower child. We say what we have to say and confront people. If we change a few minds, that’s awesome, but what we really want to do is force people to think about it.That’s the art form. Theater is important — I couldn’t do it for a living if I didn’t believe that. It really has an impact on people, shining a light on the darkest of corners.”

And, like few other musicals, Hair certainly does let the sunshine in.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Applause: Broadgay at Winspear

Lexus series adds queer event to upcoming season of musicals

What’s gay about ‘Jersey Boys’? The GLBT Broadway subscriber series at the Winspear will tell you.

The Lexus Broadway Series offers a muscular lineup of shows that feature classic stories and contemporary rock ‘n’ roll. But they go one step further in the 2011-12 season with the stage equivalent of special edition DVDs, featuring enhanced performances and pre-show engagements for subscribers — including its gay patrons.

Dallas Voice Life+Style Editor Arnold Wayne Jones will host a conversation every second-week Tuesday about 45 minutes before each show. The series, called GLBT Broadway, will highlight the appeal for queer audiences for the shows in the series. The discussion will touch on issues of gender identity and sexuality in regards to the show and the teams behind them. Some — such as the season lead-off, Hair — might be easier to analyze from a gay perspective than, say, Jersey Boys, but that’s part of the fun of the series.

The season starts with Hair, which won the Tony in 2009 for best musical revival. Youth in 1960s America are all about peace, love and understanding — including nudity and homosexuality — in this iconic musical. Sept. 20–Oct. 2.

The epic Les Miserables follows with a new 25th anniversary production. Dec. 20–Jan. 1.

Best musical Tony winner In the Heights details the immigrant experience as characters find a new life in their new country. March 13–25.

Alt-rockers Green Day went Broadway with American Idiot, touted as a mashup of a rock concert and staged musical. May 8–20.

The season concludes with Jersey Boys and Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Classic hits like “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” tell the tale of this well-accomplished music group from the ‘50s. June 12–July 15.

Other subscriber series include Broadway University, hosted by SMU theater professor Kevin Hofeditz which will explore themes of the show and its place in theater history (every second Saturday matinee) and Broadway Uncorked (every second-week Wednesday), where an expert sommelier will host a wine tasting based on the show. We wonder what American Idiot’s wine will be.

— Rich Lopez

For more information on the Lexus Broadway Series and its enhanced performances, visit ATTPAC.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 26, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

‘Hair’ single tickets go on sale today

The Lexus Broadway Series at the Winspear kicks off its new season around Dallas Pride with the local premiere of the recent B’way revival of the sexually liberated hippie musical Hair, which on Broadway starred out actor Gavin Creel (who appeared last year at the Black Tie Dinner here). Individual tickets go on sale today at 10 a.m. Opening night is always fun, but I might suggestion getting seats for the second-week Tuesday performance. That’s the day the Series has selected as, for want of a better word, “gay night” at the Winspear, with s special pre-show talk and reception. I’ll tell you more about that later…

And just how gay is this 42 year old show? Pretty damn gay. In fact, last week after New York officially began permitting same-sex marriage, the stage of the Broadway production of Hair was host to three ceremonies. Don’t expect those on the floor of the Winspear, though….

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

On his toes

IMG_0467From ‘Black Swan’ to ‘Billy Elliot,’ Fort Worth’s Kurt Froman lives to dance

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

When you step into a room with Kurt Froman, you’re so struck just by this gay man’s boyishly handsome face, it crosses your mind the only thing better than chatting with him is if there were two of him. And, to an extent, there are.

Froman, a Fort Worth native, is an accomplished dancer and choreographer. And so is his twin brother. They even pursued the same dream: Leaving Cowtown as teenagers to attend the School of American Ballet in New York.

DANCE 10 LOOKS… 10 | Fort Worth native Kurt Froman, above at the Winspear, has the daunting task of keeping the ever-pubescing cast of Billys, left, in tip-top dance form. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

 

But for this Froman at least, the similarities end there. Even though they used to dance together, Froman has never felt competition with his twin  —“I always think we are so obviously different,” he says — though he admits having a doppelganger who was equally proficient at the same endeavor put him through “a delayed adolescence. We did everything together.”

At least until 2002. That’s when Kurt “left school to do Movin’ Out on Broadway.”

The dance musical, directed and choreographed by Twyla Tharp, was a huge hit and helped Froman establish his break out. Since then, he’s done more Broadway (Pal Joey), TV (Saturday Night Live — he played a Versace boy) and, most notably, the film Black Swan, in which he played the male dancer’s understudy and served, behind the scenes, as associate choreographer. His principal responsibility: Teaching Oscar winner Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis how to move like ballerinas.

“I am a huge fan of Darren Aronofsky,” he says of Black Swan’s director. “To get to work alongside him and [Portman and Kunis] was an amazing undertaking.” (He even had input into the script, developing a dancer who is losing their grip.)

But Billy Elliot, which opens next week at the Winspear as part of the Lexus Broadway Series, represents something new for him: His first national tour.

“When I heard it was coming to Broadway, I sent [them] a reel,” Froman says. “I said, ‘This is a show I definitely want to be a part of.’”

Based on the 2000 film, it tells the story of a working-class British boy who, at the height of unease during the Thatcher regime, makes the unpopular decision to study ballet — something that does not sit well with the men in his community, and gets him labeled a sissy. Elton John co-wrote the songs, including “Expressing Yourself,” an anthem to individuality. The show won 10 Tony Awards in 2009, including the first-ever threefer, with all the boys who alternated playing Billy sharing the best actor trophy.

As resident choreographer, Froman’s job is a daunting one. Most people who travel with shows as a director or choreographer merely keep the vision accurate and help replace the occasional actor whose contract ends. (Froman also understudies the Older Billy role.) But this Billy has five Billys. It’s not just that the role is physically demanding; it’s that all of the boys are at incipient puberty and grow out of the role quickly. Still, teaching the kids is sometimes easier than the adults.

“There’s no ego there,” he says. “They have everything to learn and nothing to unlearn. They need me to make them look the best they can.”

Even if the kids are easier to work with, Froman is still tickled to be touring with Broadway diva Faith Prince in a featured role.

The one-two punch of Billy and Swan this year, though, has been eye-opening for Froman. He sees the depth to both, from “the neverending mindfuck of being a great dancer always subject to being replaced by someone younger [in Swan]” to the passion that drives Billy, Froman can personally relate to what’s being portrayed. Now that he’s in his 30s, many dancers younger than he are coming up the ranks. So, his work with Billy aside, he’s looking forward.

There’s still a lot more he’d like to do: “I’m excited for the next phase of my life, what’s next on the horizon,” he says. “I’d like to have kids.”

And maybe, like Billy, they’d be as interested in dance as Dad.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 3, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

New season of Lexus Broadway Series to include ‘Hair,’ ‘Les Miserables,’ ‘American Idiot’

Billy Joe Armstrong

Dallas is finally getting some excellent shows … and some familiar ones return … again.

The Lexus Broadway Series, which was launched with the opening of the Winspear Opera House in 2009 as a national tour series to compete with Dallas Summer Musicals, released its new season. It kicks off around Pride Weekend with the revival of Hair (which on Broadway starred Gavin Creel, the openly gay actor who performed at Black Tie Dinner last year). The sexually fluid show has been a staple for 40 years, but the revival was singled out for praise.

That’s followed in December with the return of Les Miserables, a terrific if bombastic mega-musical which nonetheless gets revived a bit too often. (The original 1987 Broadway production closed in 2003 … only to be revived on Broadway again in 2006.) I’m a fan, but even I’ve grown weary of it.

Then things get cookin’ — though we have to wait almost a year. Next March, Dallas finally gets In the Heights, a not-too-gay urban hip-hop musical with a Latin beat about Dominicans living in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. That’s where my family lived when I was a boy; the set of the show was actually the subway stop I used to get off at. The music is phenomenal. It won a lot of Tony Awards in 2008; when I saw it on Broadway, Rosie O’Donnell was sitting next to me.

In May, the music gets even edgier with American Idiot, the rock musical based on the music of the neo-punk band Green Day. Again, not an especially gay show, except that the group is very gay-friendly and frontman Billy Joe Armstrong likes to get naked a lot (pictured). Plus, Tommy Tune told me a few weeks ago it was one of his favorite new shows — an unlikely endorsement, which should intrigue musical enthusiasts.

The series ends with another old saw, Jersey Boys — again, a fun musical that has been around for a while about the founding of the Four Seasons.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Stage: Year In Review 2010

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | jones@dallasvoice.com

1-GE6_81212010 proved to be an oddly uninvolving season at the theater.

The tours, even the good ones, were often retreads of past shows (I love Avenue Q and Wicked, but have seen them already — a lot) or dreadfully overproduced, crap (the unwatchable Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the appalling Shrek).

Local companies tried to be creative, with mixed results. There were high points — and when they were high, they were spectacular — but mostly it was middle-of-the-road stuff and disappointing, unfulfilled promise. And when things were bad, as they were with the disastrously under-realized reinvention of It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s Superman! at the Dallas Theater Center, they almost made me red-faced with rage. But there was still enough to warrant a “best of” list, and here they are.

10. August: Osage County and 9. Spring Awakening (Lexus Broadway Series). The two best tours of the year were both part of the new series at the Winspear. Neither was quite as good as the New York productions, but August, with its epic take on the family dynamic, and Awakening, with its frank, modern spin on sexual yearning, made the hassles of going to the Arts District worth the effort.

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WINNER’S CIRCLE | Fort Worth’s Circle Theatre managed two of the best shows of the year: ‘Opus,,’ left, and ‘Bach at Leipzig,’ both of which made classical music exciting.

8. The Beauty Plays (Dallas Theater Center). Give credit to the DTC for tackling three Neil LaBute plays often relegated to more “alternative” theater companies by putting them in rep in the 99-seat Wyly black box. These are uncomfortable plays to watch, with the versions of Fat Pig and Reasons to Be Pretty outlapping The Shape of Things, but the series itself was a welcome bit of daring programming.

7. SubUrbia (Upstart Productions). Taking on its second Eric Bogosian play in a year, and on the heels of This Is Our Youth, Upstart showed an admirable facility with modern plays about aimlessness.

6. Boom and 5. Charm (Kitchen Dog Theater). Two vastly different comedies — Boom, a futurist tale about a gay guy wanting to repopulate the world, and Charm, a period piece about a feminist icon — turned basically unfunny ideas into beautiful, almost surrealist bits of whimsy.

4. Our Town (WaterTower Theatre). After a few disappointing seasons, WaterTower got back on track with this American classic. Defying conventional wisdom that it’s an “easy” piece of sentimental tripe, director Terry Martin fathomed its iconic, homespun realism. It’s a more peculiar piece than it gets credit for, and the realization here was exquisite.

5-Charm-PR-George-&-Margaret-copy
FEMINISM GONE WILD! | Tina Parker, right, played an independent woman in 19th century America in Kitchen Dog’s aptly named ‘Charm.’

3. My Fair Lady (Lyric Stage). The best musical on the list was Lyric Stage’s gussied-up, NEA-granted, original orchestrated mounting of one of theaterdom’s crowning glories. (It’s probably the best book of a musical ever written … which you can attribute to Shaw.) Magnificently costumed and designed, and directed with panache by Cheryl Denson, it was like a time machine to 1954, and proved why Steven Jones is North Texas’ finest theater producer.

2. Bach at Leipzig and 1. Opus (Circle Theatre). Fort Worth had it all over Dallas (and Irving!) with the two best shows on the year. In Bach, playwright Itamar Moses conceived of his play — a comedy about Baroque composers — as a theatrical fugue, and director Robin Armstrong made it happen with gorgeous sets and a cast that understands that farce is more than pie-throwing, but the melding of wordplay and swordplay in equal doses. But Circle Theatre also claimed the best show of the year, also about music, with Opus, in which a gay couple’s breakup nearly ruins a famed string quartet. If all classical music were this enchanting, Mozart will still be on the pop charts.

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ACTOR OF THE YEAR

The stage — especially local theater — is a great medium for actors to stretch themselves. There were some strong ensembles this year, in both of the top plays, Bach at Leipzig (especially Steven Pounders and Andy Baldwin — and excluding the actor who played Bach himself, who missed his only cue) and Opus, as well as the three leads in the No. 3 show, J. Brent Alford, Kimberley Whalen and Sonny Franks in My Fair Lady. Terry Martin made a good Stage Manager in Our Town, but it was the performances he elicited as the director from Joey Folsom, Maxey Whitehead and Ted Wold that stood out most. Folsom was strong, too, in SubUrbia. Tina Parker led a great cast in Charm with her patented wide-eyed energy.

DTC_031010_FATPIG_dress_078Sometimes what most impresses you, though, is someone good in a show that doesn’t deserve it. Morgana Shaw made Closer to Heaven a hoot (despite a deeply problematic script), and Gregory Lush’s flamboyant turn in Sherlock Holmes in the Crucifer of Blood gave the show a jolt. Wendy Welch transformed the likeable revue Forbidden Broadway’s Greatest Hits into the comic highlight of the fall. And the up-and-down revision of Henry IV was made hilarious with the return to the DTC of Randy Moore. R Bruce Elliot’s interpretation of Beethoven in 33 Variations almost saved that rambling show. Almost.

But the actor who I will judge 2010 by will always be Regan Adair. He took on two roles in DTC’s Beauty Plays  — Fat Pig, where he played a conflicted yuppie (pictured above with Christina Vela), and Reasons to Be Pretty, as a working class lech — so vastly different you could hardly recognize him from show to show. His way with Shakespearean dialogue in Henry IV and his harried but touching take on Bob Cratchit in A Christmas Carol showed how effortlessly he can assault a variety of genres.

Adair is moving away from Dallas in 2011 — a terrible loss to our artistic community; he’s been a frequent finalist on my year-end list. But even if he weren’t leaving, he deserves to be recognized as the actor of the year.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 31, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas