Whitty banter

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


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

Best Bets • 02.10.12

KC_Sparkle_ShirtFriday 02.10

Your life will suck without her
Kelly Clarkson kinda got a raw deal at last week’s Super Bowl. The Burleson native  killed the crowd singing the national anthem, but everyone keeps talking about halftime. We can make it up to her as she headlines her night in town. Matt Nathanson opens.

Verizon Theatre
1001 Performance Place, Grand Prairie
7:30 p.m. $25–$50


Tuesday 02.14

Your funny Valentine
If chocolates and flowers aren’t your kinda thing, maybe a good laugh is. Spice up Valentine’s Day with comedy. Paul Varghese was named the Funniest Comic in Dallas and headlines this Valentine’s show taking the pressure out of romantic expectations, and going for a laugh. But candy and champagne are included just to seal the deal.

Backdoor Comedy
8250 N. Central Expressway (in the Doubletree Hotel)
7:30 and 9:30 p.m. $28


Tuesday 02.14

They’re here, they cheer
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. But awesome choreography and high school drama add to the fun.

Music Hall at Fair Park
909 First Ave. 8 p.m. $15–$80.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 10, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

How Tyler Wilson Got Into Cheerleading: He Loves Backflips

Ohio's 11-year-old Tyler Wilson, who had his arm broken by classmates for being a cheerleader without a vagina, is The Awesome. So is his mom Kristy. Good Morning America helps regular folks understand his plight with a Glee reference.


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—  John Wright

Cheer up!

Gimme a P! Gimme an R! Gimme an I! D! E! What does it spell? Cheer Pride Dallas wants you to know

RICKY BRADLEY | Contributing Sports Writer  thesportsfag@sportsfags.com

Cheer Pride Dallas

SISSY-BOOM-BAH | Former high school or college cheerleaders Bobby Bridgwater, Ashley Horton and Will Green now show the power of the pyramid for Cheer Pride Dallas. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

Considering that Dallas is home to the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, the National Cheerleading Association headquarters and several all-star and high school national championships meets, it’s no wonder the gays have their own sense of rah-rah-sis-boom-bah. In fact, cheering is nowhere more effervescent than at Dallas Pride Cheer, Dallas’ open — but mostly gay — cheer squad.

Under the leadership of Bobby Bridgwater, DPC is enjoying a renaissance of sorts. (Gimme an R!)

Over the past few years, DPC has re-organized and now is a non-profit cheerleading organization raising money for several causes. During the past year alone, DPC has cheered and raised money for charities such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation and organizations benefiting individuals suffering from HIV/AIDS, cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.

Its philanthropic diversity better reflects DPC initiatives to open up to those outside the gay community — which, according to Bridgwater, is more indicative of the diversity on the squad itself.

When it started as Cheer Dallas, the members were all gay Now, about a third of the 25 core members are straight. DPC even cheered at the hetero-filled, alcohol-fueled Greenville Avenue St. Patrick’s Parade earlier in March — a significantly different crowd than DPC has encountered in Oak Lawn.

“At the Dallas Pride parade, people are throwing money at us, putting money in our bucket,” Bridgwater says. “Along Greenville Avenue, people are throwing tortillas, Jell-O shots and beads. And they reach into your buckets to see what you are giving them!”

Differences aside, the squad managed to raise nearly the same amount of money on Greenville as they do annually during in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Pride (which, when considering the size of the two crowds, is a testament to the giving nature of the gay community).

With their spirit aimed squarely at helping others through tumbling, twisting and dismounting, DPC’s fundraising efforts for Make-A-Wish helped them secure a corporate sponsorship from Maggiano’s Little Italy. But with its roots securely anchored in Dallas’ gay community, DPC is feverishly preparing for their next big appearance: They will be teaming up with cheer squads from San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago, Sacramento and New York at San Francisco Pride later this month, to raise money for the Positive Resource Center in San Francisco.

Bridgwater, who’s been cheering since 1992 and was a member of the University of North Texas’ 2000 collegiate cheerleading national championship squad, says the DPC is actively seeking both new and experienced talent. And while they welcome new members joining in time for this month’s event in San Francisco, the team really wants long-term members to lead the cheers at Dallas Pride in September.

“Of course, we’re always looking for experienced tumblers and fliers,” Bridgwater says, “but if someone doesn’t know how to do certain things we can use them as a base or spotter until we bring them along.”

Getting up to speed with the all-volunteer DPC squad can take months but considering they have several cheerleading company staff members on board and one can routinely spot a 50-year-old woman at the top of their high-split pyramid, they’ve got the experience to bring new people along.

Practice is at the Pride All-Stars Gym, 16837 Addison Road, Addison, Sundays from 6–9 p.m. For more information on joining, visit DallasPrideCheer.org.


Gang Bangkok

Gang Bangkok

The sound of the Turtle Creek Chorale against a pumping club music BPM is perhaps only for the imagination. We may never see Jonathan Palant lead his gents through a concert of classics by the likes of Black Eyed Peas or Technotronic. Maybe we don’t want to. But that doesn’t mean the Chorale can’t throw down.

The unlikely pair of the Chorale and a circuit party happens Saturday night with One Night in Bangkok, a club event benefiting the TCC at the Brick — and promoter Dannee Phann is putting it all out there. One Night is really an entire weekend.

The event starts Friday with a VIP and host party, but the main celebration happens Saturday with Los Angeles DJ Roland Belmares taking over the Brick turntables. After that, you won’t want to put away your dancing shoes just yet.

While Saturday is the centerpiece, Sunday has an impressive lineup, too. And what’s a circuit party without the ever popular tea-dance?

Hottie Austin DJ Timmy G, pictured, throws down Sunday at 5 p.m. That gives you enough time for a major disco nap. Paul Kraft Productions hosts the after-party at The Club with DJ Brandon Moses from 1 a.m. to after sunrise — just in time for breakfast taquitos.

Now in its fourth year, One Night in Bangkok has successfully donated significant numbers to the Chorale. In 2009, the event raised $17,500 for the organization. This year, with hopes of surpassing that number, proceeds from sold tickets will also benefit the Resource Center Dallas.

Obviously this won’t be the time the Turtle Creek Chorale mixes up their traditional work with club music, but One Night in Bangkok has put it in our minds. Just sayin’.

— Rich Lopez

The Brick, 2525 Wycliffe Ave., Suite 120. $12–$15. BrickDallas.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 18, 2010.

—  Dallasvoice