William Blake returns for cabaret show with Denise Lee

Blake LeeFull disclosure, here: Both William Blake and Denise Lee love me. I know, cuz they’ve said so. Will something come of it? Never say never.

To say I love them, though, would be superfluous — everyone does. Denise, the sultry powerhouse; Blake, the lilting crooner. Blake’s a local, but has spent much of the last decade tearing up the cabarets on NYC. He’s back home, though, for a one-night-only performance with Lee at the Uptown Theatre in Grand Prairie on Tuesday called, natch, My Baby & Me. In addition to great songs, you’ll hear awesome stories about their careers and even get to much on some appetizers. But nothing is more appetizing that hearing these songbirds.

Get your tickets here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

REVIEW: Denise Lee’s ‘The Divas of American Music’ at the Winspear

With the Grammy Awards coming in less than three weeks, this coming Friday brings Dallas Voice’s annual Music Issue, so leading up to it, we’re gonna set the mood with reviews and interviews of trendsetting musicmakers all week long. First up: Denise Lee.

Broadway has told us for decades that life is a cabaret (old chum), but you got a sense for that being true inside Hamon Hall at the Winspear last night. That’s where before an enthusiastic crowd Denise Lee, one of Dallas’ reigning doyennes of song, celebrated her personal divas, from songwriters like Dorothy Fields (“No one ever remembers the lyricist,” she clucked, especially when they are women — she noted that the Songwriters Hall of Fame contains only seven women inductees) to stylists from Carole King to Barbra Streisand.

“This is a hard business,” Lee observed from the stage. But she makes it look easy.

Anyone familiar with Lee knows that her personality is casual and unfussed. She joked about her wardrobe malfunctions (“It’s amazing what you can do with Super Glue,” she sighed) and toyed with the mike stand; when she needed to refer to some written notes, she removed a paper from her bra (“these aren’t just to look at”). It was as friendly and warm and engaging as an evening with a friend and a bottle of wine.

But none of it would have mattered without the songs. Lee performed everything from “America, the Beautiful” to Lady Day’s “Strange Fruit,” to songs from Bonnie Raitt, Nina Simone (a roiling version of “Mississippi Goddam”), Joni Mitchell. Of course there was Aretha. But whoever popularized them first, the songs were all Lee’s own. She’s our diva.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

‘Mama’s Party’ cabaret at Tucker’s Blues

Get your cabaret fix to start off the week

Even if it is the beginning of the work week or the new year, Monday nights are a Dallas must thanks to Amy Stevenson who hosts Mama’s Party. Every Monday, local musicians and actors come together for a night of song and for a mere pittance. Where else could you get an array of major stage talents performing an ample night of music for cheap? Oh, oh, we know the answer!

DEETS: Tucker’s Blues, 2617 Commerce St. 7 p.m. $5. MamasParty.com or look them up on Facebook.

—  Rich Lopez

Last chance to see ‘Lucia di Lammermoor’ at Dallas Opera

This week, we have an interview with soprano Pat Racette, who will be doing a special cabaret concert for Dallas Opera season ticketholders Wednesday, but not the planned full-scale opera she had been set for. That means you have to wait until the spring for the second production of the TDO season. But there’s still time to catch the last performance of its season premiere, Lucia di Lammermoor, which will be performed Sunday at 2 p.m. As I said in my review, it’s a marvelous show. Visit DallasOpera.org for tickets. Heck, maybe even sign up for a season and see Racette perform.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

‘West Side Story’ cast at Mama’s Party tonight

The cast of the Broadway national tour of West Side Story, onstage through this weekend at Fair Park, will take their night off to perform at Amy Stevenson’s cabaret fundraiser  Mama’s Party on tonight.  The event raises money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, which provides funds to our local agencies.  The evening, featuring local musicians as well as cast members singing some of their favorite songs, will be ar Tucker’s Blues, 2617 Commerce St. Doors open at 7 p.m. with an cover charge of $5 (cash only).  There will be prizes for raffle tickets and some auction items as well.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Enter, stage left

After a decade, Uptown Players, Dallas’ gaylicious theater troupe, finally gets its Pride on with Performing Arts Fest

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GAY PLAY BUFFET | Uptown Players’ inaugural Dallas Pride Performing Arts Festival features musicals, plays, staged readings, comedy and cabarets, including, ‘Beautiful Thing,’ left, ‘Last Sunday in June,’ below and ‘Crazy Like Me,’ above.

Seeing how Uptown Players always gives Dallas theatergoers a big gay outlet, it would only seem natural that as the city celebrates Pride in September, the troupe would be in the thick of things, presenting some of their gaycentric shows while the rainbow flags are unfurling.

But that has rarely been the case, and the big hold-up was always limited space. Now that Uptown calls the Kalita Humphreys Theater home, the company finally can go all out, as it will with its inaugural Dallas Pride Performing Arts Festival.

“It’s something we’ve been wanting to do for a long time,” says producer Craig Lynch. “I’m excited to do two weeks of shows that really celebrate the community and to have the opportunity to see it all come together.

With 11 different performances spread across two weekends, Uptown will be able to showcase shows in both the main stage and the upstairs black box theater, Frank’s Place. Juggling drama, comedy and even cabaret, Lynch feels that Uptown, even after a decade, will put the company on the map with a larger audience.

“I’m excited to get some people in here that may not have been here,” he says. “I think people will be able to say, ‘There’s a great theater company here and we need to come back.’ And it’s another way to bring the community together and sort of remember our roots.”

Lynch also thinks it’s a nice alternative to the usual night out.

“Hey, you’ve seen one shirtless twink, you seen ‘em all,” he says.

So true.
— Rich Lopez

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MAIN STAGE

Crazy Just Like Me directed by Coy Covington. Simon, Mike and Lauren find that the love of their lives may not be who they thought it would be in this musical. Stars Alex Ross, Kayla Carlyle, Angel Velasco, Corey Cleary-Stoner and Ryan Roach. Sept. 9, 11, 14 and 16 at 7:30 p.m.

lead-2Beautiful Thing directed by B.J. Cleveland. The story of two teenage boys who discover their love for each other and the optimism that goes with it. Based on the popular indie film, the production benefits Youth First Texas. Sept. 10 and 15 at 7:30 p.m. and Sept 17 at 2 p.m.

Pride Cabaret Concert: From Chopin to Show-tunes featuring Kevin Gunter and Adam C. Wright. This musical cabaret takes a whirlwind look at theater music. Sept. 13 at 7:30 p.m.
Amy Armstrong and Freddy Allen close the festival with their brand of music and comedy. Sept. 17 at 7:30 p.m.

FRANK’S PLACE

The Facts of Life: The Lost Episode directed by Andi Allen. The 2009 cast, including Paul J. Williams as Mrs. Garrett, reunites for this spoof of the 1980s sitcom. Sept. 9 and 14 at 8 p.m. and Sept. 10 at 9:30 p.m.

The New Century directed by Andi Allen. Allen teams up again with Williams alongside Marisa Diotalevi for this new Paul Rudnick short play of tales of gay men and the women who love them. Sept. 10 at 3 p.m., Sept. 11 at 5:30 p.m. and Sept. 17 at 4 p.m.

A Taste of Beauty staged reading is a workshop of a brand new musical by Jeff Kinman, John de los Santos and Adam C. Wright. Audience feedback is encouraged. (Staged reading.) Sept. 10 at 6 p.m.  and Sept. 11 at 8 p.m.

Asher, TX ’82 written and directed by Bruce Coleman. This world premiere by Coleman finds four youths in Texas confronted with violence and how it affects their lives forever. Max Swarner (Equus) and Drew Kelly (Forbidden Broadway’s Greatest Hits) are among the cast. Sept. 11 at 2 p.m. and Sept. 17 at 6 p.m.

Click/A Midsummer Night’s Conversation directed by Kevin Moore. These two shorts by Austin playwright Allan Baker are presented in conjunction with Asher. In Click, two guys try to hook up online but for different reasons. In Midsummer, a same-sex couple finds its time to get real honest with each other. Sept. 11 at 2 p.m. and Sept. 17 at 6 p.m.

Last Summer at Bluefish Cove directed by Cheryl Denson. A key work to lesbian literature, this play by Jane Chambers tells the story of an unhappy married woman discovering a newlead-3 world with a fresh set of friends who all happen to be lesbian. (Staged reading.) Sept. 12 at 7:30 p.m. and Sept. 16 at 8 p.m.

Last Sunday in June directed by Rick Espaillat. This Jonathan Tolins play follows the perfect gay couple on a not-so-perfect gay Pride day. The cast includes Chris Edwards, Jonathan Greer, Lon Barrera, Rick Starkweather, Robert L. Camina, Jerry Crow and Lee Jamison. Sept. 13 and 15 at 8 p.m.

—  Kevin Thomas

Applause: Stage pink

Queer highlights from the upcoming theater season

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer

Anticipation should be strong for the upcoming theater season in general. Ambitious shows like Giant, The Tempest, West Side Story and Hairspray all dot the stage horizon.
But we also like to see some of our own up there. As we look over the upcoming offerings from local theater companies, we always ask, “Where’s the gay?”  In addition to Uptown Players’ first  Dallas Pride Performing Arts Festival, here are some of the others.

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Fall

Although the Dallas Opera canceled the opera she was set to star in, lesbian soprano Patricia Racette will still perform at a TDO gala. (Photo Devon Cass)

Singer-songwriter Duncan Sheik gave an indie music flair to the musical adaptation of the 1891 play Spring Awakening. Set in 19th century Germany, Awakening follows a group of youths as they discover more about themselves and their rapidly developing sexuality.

The original Frank Wedekind play was controversial in its day, depicting abortion, homosexuality, rape and suicide. Now the show just has an added rock ‘n’ roll score. Along with Sheik’s musical perspective, Steven Slater wrote the book and lyrics in this updated version which debuted in 2006 on Broadway and won the Tony for Best Musical. Terry Martin directs.

WaterTower Theater, 15650 Addison Road., Addison. Sept. 30–Oct. 23. WaterTowerTheatre.org.

It’s almost un-Texan if you’re gay and not familiar with Del Shores’ tales of Southern discomfort.  Southern Baptist Sissies and Sordid Lives are pretty much part of the queer vernacular in these parts, but Shores got his start way back in 1987.

How will those northern folks take to Shores work (And by north, we mean past Central Expressway past LBJ)? Jeni Helms directs Daddy’s Dyin’: Who’s Got the Will for McKinney Repertory Theatre this fall. As the family patriarch suffers a stroke, the Turnover family gathers as they wait for his death. This family may just put the fun in dysfunctional.

McKinney Performing Arts Center, 111 N. Tennessee St., McKinney. Sept. 30–Oct. 7. McKinneyRep.org.

WingSpan Theatre Co. will produce one of the greater comedies of theater-dom this fall: Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, with Nancy Sherrard sparring over the gay wit’s price bon mots as Lady Bracknell.

Bath House Cultural Center, 521 E. Lawther Drive. Oct. 6–22. WingSpanTheatre.com.

Although A Catered Affair might sound a bit like My Big Fat Greek Wedding, it has the added flair of Harvey Fierstein’s wit. That’s because he wrote the book for the show alongside John Bucchino’s music and lyrics. The play is based on the Gore Vidal-penned 1956 film The Catered Affair starring Bette Davis.

When Jane and Ralph decide to get married, Jane’s mom Agnes wants to put on an elaborate spectacle of a wedding. The truth is, she can’t afford it and Jane isn’t all too thrilled about a huge affair. As in most cases, the wedding planning is more about the mom than the daughter and Agnes soon realizes the fact. Jane’s Uncle Winston — the proverbial gay uncle — is left off the guest list and is rightfully pissed. But as most gay characters, he rallies to be the voice of reason and support.

Theatre Three, 2800 Routh Street, Ste.168. Oct. 13–Nov. 12. Theatre3Dallas.com.

Lesbian soprano Patricia Racette was going to be featured in the production of Katya Kabanová but unfortunately the show was canceled by the Dallas Opera. But fear not. Dallas will still get to bask in the greatness that is her voice as Racette will perform An Evening with Patricia Racette, a cabaret show with classics from the Great American Songbook for a patron recital.

Winspear Opera House, 2403 Flora St. Nov. 9. DallasOpera.org

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Spring

Nancy Sherrard will star as Lady Bracknell in WIngSpan Theater Co.’s fall production of Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Importance of Being Earnest,’ perhaps the greatest comedy ever written by theaterdom’s gayest wit.

Kevin Moriarty directs Next Fall for the Dallas Theater Center next spring. Written by Geoffrey Nauffts, the play centers on Luke and Adam, a couple with some unusual issues. What’s new about that in gay couplehood? Not much, but when Adam’s an absolute atheist and Luke’s a devout Christian, the two have been doing their best to make it work.
The comedy played on Broadway in 2010, garnering Tony and Drama Desk nominations. And now Dallas gets to see how, as DTC puts it, “relationships can be a beautiful mess.”
Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd. April 13–May 6. DallasTheaterCenter.org.

Perhaps the most surprising queer offering this next season is Theatre Arlington’s production of The Laramie Project. The show usually creates quite a stir — at least it did in Tyler, thanks to Trinity Wheeler — so how will this suburban audience handle it? Doesn’t matter. Props to T.A. for taking Moises Kaufman’s play about the tragic bashing and death of Matthew Shepard to its community.

Theatre Arlington, 305 W. Main St., Arlington. May 18–June 3. TheatreArlington.org.

Usually the question with MBS Productions is “what’s not gay?” Founder Mark-Brian Sonna has consistently delivered tales of gay woe and love that are sometimes silly and sometimes sweet, but always a laugh.

This season is no different. Playwright Alejandro de la Costa brings back drag queen Lovely Uranus in The Importance of Being Lovely. The last time we saw Uranus, Sonna wore the stilettos and pink wig in last season’s Outrageous, Sexy, (nekkid) Romp.  This time around, Uranus graduates to leading lady status as the show is all about her as audiences follow her through the changes she makes in her make-up, wigs and men.

Stone Cottage Theatre, 15650 Addison Road, Addison. July 16–Aug. 11, 2012. MBSProductions.net.

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

—  Michael Stephens

A Brit abroad in Dallas

Doug Mayo may like Dallas more than a native Texan.

The Australian-born travel writer, now living in Great Britain, has visited as part of the Tavern Guild’s international journalists’ tour on several occasions; the last time, in April, he ended up staying a week longer than anyone else.

And the entire time he was here, Mayo had a look on his face like a kid in a candy shop. And he knows it.

“I love Dallas,” he gushes on a rare break from sightseeing. “Dallas is all about the people — I’ve met the nicest people in the world here. I could actually live here quite easily.”

Even during the Texas summer? Well, for Mayo, it’s less about the weather than what it has to offer.

“It’s probably not as much of a culture shock as moving somewhere else,” he says. “[People] don’t equate Dallas with culture, but you appreciate wine, cabaret, the arts. The performing arts district is out of this world —the Wyly and the Winspear are amazing. And for me, it does seem to be a Democratic state, considering that there are some Republican presidents from here.”
So what does an Aussie by way of England find so appealing about Dallas? Just give him a second to count the ways.

“The Round-Up is just surreal because it’s such a Dallas thing — there’s something about it that is distinctively ‘Texas,’” Mayo says. “You don’t realize it, but you won’t find something like that in London.”

The Book Depository is a draw as well, as is some of our architecture: “My last tour, we toured the construction of Cowboys Stadium. It’s a phenomenal building.” He even enjoyed going a bit west to Cowtown to see the cattle drive and inspect Bass Hall before trips to Billy Bob’s and the Rainbow Lounge, all of which he loved.

And what about the food? Well, that might be the easiest sell of all.

“Central 214’s my favorite,” he says. “[Chef] Blythe Beck can work out a way of chicken-frying anything.”

That’s Texas all right.

— A.W.J.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 17, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

‘Cabaret’ at the Wyly tonight

Life is a … oh, you know it
This doesn’t look like your usual Liza version. The Dallas Theater Center stages the Kander and Ebb musical Cabaret, and by the looks of their ad campaign, it’s going to be sizzling. Sure Sally Bowles is the central character, but weren’t you always intrigued by the mysterious master of ceremonies? We’re even more so now.

DEETS: Wyly Theatre, 2400 Flora St. Through May 22.Sundays at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. $10–$80. DallasTheaterCenter.org.

—  Rich Lopez

Out soprano who’ll headline Dallas Opera’s 2011-12 season releases ‘It Gets Better’ video

Patricia Racette

Operatic soprano Patricia Racette released an “It Gets Better” video that she made with her partner, Beth Clayton. They filmed their piece at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

As Arnold Wayne Jones reported last week, Racette will star in the second production of the Dallas Opera’s 2011-12 season, a revival of the company’s 1997 production of Leoš Janáček’s Katya Kabanova, written in 1921. The show runs Oct. 28 and 30, and Nov. 2, 5 and 13.

She will also at the Winspear Opera House in a recital for patrons, the opera announced on Jan. 13:

An exclusive patron recital on November 9, 2011, “A Cabaret Evening with Patricia Racette,” featuring the luminous Ms. Racette performing selections from the Great American Songbook in the intimacy of the Winspear Opera House.

Racette has appeared in Dallas before when she starred as the heroine in the 2004 production of Jenůfa.

—  David Taffet