Things to do in Dallas tonight

If you still haven’t seen Moonlight, the gay black Oscar winner for best picture, then you have your chance tonight with United Black Ellument, the gay black project of the Resource Center. And you can see it for free — U-BE is teaming with DFW FUSE to host a screening tonight, not at their Deep Ellum location but at RC’s new headquarters at 5750 Cedar Springs Road. The program (which includes a raffle) runs 7–10 p.m.

Dallas Blooms, the annual celebration of colorful flowers at the Dallas Arboretum, is in full glory now, but tonight you can enjoy the scenery and sit wine and nosh on treats with the first-ever Food and Wine Festival. Find out more about it here.

Jaap van Zweden will lead the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in a concert starting tonight and going though Sunday featuring the music of Brahms. Learn more here.

Theatre 3’s production of the awesome but rarely-revived musical Passing Strange picks up with more performances tonight and continuing through next weekend. Get tickets here.

Cirque du Soleil’s dazzling circus Kurios — Cabinet of Curiosities, pictured, continues through March 26 under le grand chapiteau in the parking lot of Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

‘Kurios:’ Holy chitty-chitty bang-bang!

The cool thing about Cirque du Soleil shows is they are all completely different and totally the same. There are costumes and contortionists and clowns, music and musclemen, jokes and juggling. But what sells each show is not just the energy and the style and the wow-factor, but the talents of the individual artists. Think you know how to spin a Yo-Yo? Watch someone who gets paid to do and you’ll probably feel like you’re auditioning right after Meryl Streep.

The latest from CdS, Kurios — Cabinet of Curiosities (now through March 26 at Lone Star Park) is as dazzling as you’d expect; if the gauge the successful of a show is how many times you shout out “Holy shit!” then this one is NC-17.

The concept is glamorously retro — a steampunk street fair populated by men (and, I think, a few women) with pencil-thin moustaches and Brilliantine-slicked hair, aviator-goggled daredevils and women in long gloves and velvet gowns (including one who stands barely 2 feet tall). It’s like Terry Gilliam’s Brazil come to life onstage.

Holding it all together is a protean master of ceremonies, who conducts a flea circus or invisible acts, woos a woman in the audience with animal impersonations (among them a T-rex — and he weighs about 90 lbs.) and generally goofs like the reincarnation of Charlie Chaplin.

He’s a wonderful ringmaster, but hardly the only delight. There’s also the tandem Russian strap artists (two well-muscled acrobats whose act is beautiful and kinda sexy), a quartet of contortionists who, paradoxically, seem made of both rubber and steel; trampolinists who soar so high they could be regulated by the FAA. There’s a lot of creativity at work here; the chair-climbing act (a staple of Cirque) is modified so that the artist not only climbs up, but another climbs down; a hand-puppet act that makes clever use of the camera; and inventive sound effects. There were only a handful of acts that didn’t astonish me, and they were mostly early on. But it’s the entire experience — the big top, the popcorn, the red carpet — that set Cirque du Soleil apart from an ordinary performance. It really does feel like magic.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

PHOTOS & REVIEW: Cavalia Odysseo

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Cirque du Soleil has been around so long, its brand has become a style — even shows not put on by CdS seem like it. That’s the case with Cavalia Odysseo, an equine-driven arena show that combines the familiar acrobatics of Cirque with the majesty of horsemanship. It’s remarkable.

But it’s not just its uniqueness that excites you. Odysseo is a jaw-dropping spectacle, as surprising as being on safari, but with popcorn. The production is an awesome mix of acrobatics, visual effects (an IMAX-ish widescreen projection system that turns the big top outside the DrPepper Arena in Frisco into everything from the savannas of Africa to the mountains of Europe to the stars in the heavens) and the power of wild animals. It’s also sexy as hell, as the slideshow below can attest. And definitely worth the drive up the Tollway.

Odysseo has extended its run, and will be in North Texas through Feb. 22 before heading to its home base in Toronto and Montreal.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

For ‘Holidaze’ creator Neil Goldberg, life is but a Cirque Dream

Throughout the 1980s and ’90s, Neil Goldberg was incredibly famous in corporate America … and virtually unknown to the public at large. He wasn’t a CEO or banker or lawyer; he specialized in parties. Huge, lavish soirees that were common … at least until the Dot-Com bubble burst and belt-tightening became the order of the day.

Goldberg still stages huge events for private clients, but for more than a decade he has become more famous as the man behind Cirque Dreams, a theatrical enterprise that puts on lavish spectacles in shows across the globe. His signature Christmas show, Holidaze, plays at the Winspear through Sunday.

The journey from party planner to impresario isn’t such a big one — especially not considering where he started. Growing up in an Orthodox Jewish family, Goldberg stood out from an early age. Rather than showing an interest in becoming a physician or businessman like his brothers, Neil was the gay one who wanted to be a scenic designer. He did that for years, from window designs to stage productions. A theatrical spirit is in his blood.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

REVIEW: “Michael Jackson Immortal”

The immense cheesiness of the show is embodied in this overblown campy moment from the show, which is lip-synched.

Michael Jackson Immortal did something no other Cirque du Soleil show has ever done: Bored me.

Cirque truly is a magic-maker, having almost single-handed reinvented the concept of the circus, turning it into something unmissable rather than might-as-well. The trick of Cirque shows is that they combine the simple elegance of feats of athleticism with beauty and muscularity, while employing cutting edge technology in startling ways. Its best shows — Ka and Love, two of the permanent shows in Las Vegas — seamlessly wed plot, engineering and the human form.

Immortal does none of that. Yes, there are some pyrotechnics (the best of these, an indoor fireworks display, comes too little, too late) but the entire production feels conceived as an after-thought, some second-tier acts tacked on to boring choreography and muddled production values.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson Immortal show tonight

Remember the time

Dallas Michael Jackson fans will come close to the real thing tonight thanks to Cirque du Soleil’s tribute to the singer. But this is far beyond any regular tribute show. Cirque brings its thrilling reputation to the game making Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour both a concert and an experience. With the three-year anniversary of his death this week, the show even seems more poignant to his fans. And don’t expect to sit, applause and repeat for this Cirque event. They want to rock with you.

Read more about the show here.

DEETS:

—  Rich Lopez

This week’s takeaways: Life+Style

The Bruce Wood Dance Project has three more performances of the choreographer’s new show at Booker T. Washington in the Arts District, including an encore of the first program, which debuted last night (with Gary Floyd providing beautiful vocals to the stunning new “I’m My Brother’s Keeper”). Wood is up to his old tricks: The technical beauty of classic ballet combined with the muscular physicality of modern dance plus Wood’s own unique contributions of humor and an emphasis on the potential of the male form. Don’t miss it — it ends this Sunday.

Also over this Sunday is Oklahoma! at Lyric Stage; don’t miss it, either (you have a busy weekend ahead of you!). As we’ve come to expect, director Cheryl Denson has crafted a massive and engaging piece of classic theater with a huge cast, full orchestra and dazzling sets. You have more time to see Jersey Boys at the Winspear Opera House — it’ll be around almost another month — but it’s just as unmissable.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Cirque du Soleil’s “Quidam” in Frisco

Little girl lost

Zoe is a a lonely, little girl with a huge imagination. A big enough one to create magical characters, leaping acrobatics and a even a ringmaster by the name of John. This is Cirque du Soleil’s Quidam which has landed in North Texas for a quick stint. The always stunning spectacle even features some local flavor in the name of Mark Ward, from Denton, who portrays the ringmaster.

DEETS: Dr. Pepper Arena, 2601 Avenue of the Stars, Frisco. Through March 11. $51–$100. Ticketmaster.com.

 

 

 

—  Rich Lopez

The princess and the KING

Rihanna can’t seem to get from under that ‘Umbrella’, while Cirque du Soleil extends Michael Jackson’s legacy with ‘Immortal’

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STRAIGHT TALK | Rihanna returns with her strangeways in her sixth album ‘Talk That Talk.’

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Rihanna is a workaholic, pumping out albums faster than Black Friday shoppers busting out the pepper spray.

She was still finding her voice after 2009’s forgettable Rated R, but 2010’s Loud was a success.

She’s back in fine form with Talk That Talk, her new CD. But there’s more potential than perfection here; perhaps it could have been better if she took more time between releases.

Rihanna sings of naïve love with clichéd perspectives on this, her sixth album.

And while the lyrics work, the delivery doesn’t. Starting with “You Da One,“ she takes a page from Beyonce’s book a la 4.

There’s no onslaught, but instead a chill groove with some reggae touches on this decent opener. Although it instills an (unannoying) earworm, it gets messy in its structure.

Energy courses through Talk with “Where Have you Been.” It begins as a dance tune but veers into weird, house music tones. After discovering “da one,” she’s asking where have you been all my life. But producers Dr. Luke and Cirkut (Ke$ha, Flo-Rida) ruin the beat with a mish-mash of breakdowns pulling the song off its trajectory.

The album’s lead single, “We Found Love,” is addictively produced by writer Calvin Harris. The tone, while strong, feels like it would be more at place in the early ‘90s … but that’s not so bad. The keyboards are refreshing and even though the lyrics don’t stray far from the we-found-love-in-a-hopeless-place center; it’s the album’s strongest early offering.

Jay-Z doesn’t add much other than ego to the title track, but it’s here where Rihanna switches from blind love to an assertive woman eager to please. She submits to her lover with tell me how love to you, tell me how to hold you / I’mma get it right on the first try for you. The dancehall groove works and continues into “Cockiness (I Love It),” which leaves little to the imagination with lyrics like suck my cockiness / lick my persuasion. But she starts trying too hard, like Christina Aguilera on Bionic. It doesn’t help the song is poorly constructed.

The songs balance out Talk starting with “We All Want Love.” As straightforward pop, it adheres to a clean structure, which is a reprieve from the schizophrenia before. The lovey idealism returns more so with “Drunk on Love.” Feeling  hopelessly romantic, she’s also creepy-weird. When she moans about craving love, you think if you got in a relationship with her, a restraining order is not out of the question.

Still, the track stabilizes the album, as does “Roc Me Out,” the CD’s best track. Rihanna brings the intensity of her bigger hits. She may never have another “Umbrella,” but this one comes close.

She channels some Janet Jackson in the sexified flirtation “Watch n’ Learn,” but closes with the gorgeous ballad “Farewell.” She’s in broken-up stalker mode with lyrics like even though it kills me that you have to go / I know I’ll be sadder if you never hit the road. Talk about a no-win sitch. But it ends this chapter of Rihanna on a high note.
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Speaking of Jacksons, Michael makes a sort of return with Immortal, the soundtrack to Cirque du Soleil’s newest Vegas-style show celebrating the King of Pop. The album recalls his work from the Jackson 5 up to 2001’s Invincible, his last solo album. (Thankfully, none of the 2010 embarrassing posthumous release Michael is in this mix.)

While the majority of the songs are still by Jackson, they have been reworked, remixed or reimagined by Rihanna producer Kevin Antunes. The double disc of 29 songs is a gloriously clean listen to some of the biggest hits in music.

Where this could easily have been an exploitation of his work (and maybe it is), it only feels like respectfully updated versions of pop classics. When Fergie and Kanye West did their remakes for Thriller’s 25th anniversary, they were almost blasphemous; here, they are merely amplified with tweaks that never take away from that Jackson hit-making magic.

The subsequent tracks of “Gone Too Soon” and “Childhood” display his tender voice in crystal clarity and are tear inducing because they remind he’s no longer here. The added spoken word could have come across as cheesy, but it works.

Immortal reads like a greatest hits with all the obvious inclusions. “Smooth Criminal” retains its power but in shorter time; the “Beat It/State of Shock” coupling is just short of brilliant; and the “Immortal Megamix: Can You Feel It/Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough/Billie Jean/Black or White” belongs more on the dancefloor than onstage.

Given all the hits on here, there is a surprising omission with “Rock With You.” As big of a song as that was, it doesn’t get its own redux. But Antunes clearly has a love for Jackson and this collection lifts the singer far above any controversy or strangeness that plagued him and instead reminds of both his genius and his legacy.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 2, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Kylie vs. Of Montreal tonight

Gay fans win either way

Kylie Minogue with DJ Erik Thoresen

When this show was announced, there was a collective squeal from the gays. Minogue has never been Madonna or Britney, but she’s built a following that rivals both. Her concerts have a reputation of being visual spectacles as well that apparently rival the likes of some Cirque du Soleil shows. That alone is worth the ticket. Station 4 DJ Erik Thoresen was tapped to be the opening entertainment so this big pop-stravaganza also has big time local ties.

DEETS: Verizon Theatre, 1001 Performance Place, Grand Prairie. May 18 at 8 p.m. $50–$125. Ticketmaster.com.

Of Montreal

While Of Montreal is too smart to be considered a party band, their brand of indie dance music is something more than infectious. The high energy and trippy lyrics get into your soul and skin and turn you into a dancing monster. OM is perfect for the mid-sized venue. Imagine a packed house and sweaty dancing bodies. Singer Kevin Barnes should put on quite a physical show.  We love when he gets all sexy and dirty, but we’re just sorry he has to compete with Kylie for attention. That’s like Sophie’s choice. No fair.

DEETS: With Painted Palms. South Side Music Hall, 1135 S. Lamar St. May 18. Doors at 7:30 p.m. $20. GilleysMusic.com

—  Rich Lopez