Tegan & Sara book Dallas concert stop

TS6Last year was a watershed for the lesbian twins Tegan & Sara. After years with a cult following, they released a new album, Heartthrob, with a decidedly pop bent. Suddenly, they became as hip as Justin Beiber became … not. (Hey, we can only handle so many Canadian pop stars at a time.)

The duo just began their North American Let’s Make Things Physical Tour which will run nonstop throughout most of 2014, often in conjunction with Katy Perry’s Prismatic Tour (after all, each of them has kissed a girl and liked it). One of the final stops will be opening for Perry at American Airlines Center — not a bad venue to prove you’re bona fides. The show hits Dallas Oct. 2 and 3.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

The Music Issue: The Sondheim variations

Sexy gay pianist Anthony de Mare’s love of showtunes spurred his experimental concert tour inspired by the music of Stephen Sondheim

DeMare

I’M STILL DE MARE | The gay pianist and showtune addict will tackle Sondheim at his Cliburn Concert.

GREGORY SULLIVAN ISAACS  | Contributing Writer
gregoryisaacs@theaterjones.com

Dark, handsome and obviously buff, Anthony de Mare’s charm oozes out of his publicity photos. Smiling at you from behind his piano, he seems to have just said “Hello” and is waiting for you to answer.

Wishful thinking, at best. De Mare is happily partnered to Tom Spain, a publishing executive; they live in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York with their Pomeranian, Cowboy. (“He is actually a very large dog, for a Pom,” says de Mare with a laugh.)

It’s unlikely he’d have time for you anyway. De Mare is in the middle of an ambitious concert project that started in Canada last spring and has already taken him to New York City, Chicago and more. On Saturday, he’ll play that concert, Liaisons: Re-imagining Sondheim for the Piano, at the Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth as part of the Cliburn Concerts Series.

The concert is a natural fit for de Mare, acclaimed as an interpreter of contemporary music. In fact, if was his idea.

Already a big showtune fan, de Mare organized this project, which enlisted 36 composers to create short, solo piano pieces based on the music of Stephen Sondheim — not arrangements, mind you, but original compositions that use a Sondheim song as a cantus firmus. It’s the fulfillment of a concept that has been brewing in him since childhood.

“I was always a fan of Sondheim,” he says. “I trained as a dancer and pianist and always felt at home in theater. Besides, it was one of the best ways I could think of to be able to play this music in concerts.”

The concert ends up being something of a showcase for gay musicians. In addition to de Mare and Sondheim, among the participating composers who are openly gay are Ricky Ian Gordon, Eve Beglarian, Fred Hersch, Nico Muhly, Eric Rockwell, Rodney Sharman and Jake Heggie. “And there are a couple of others I am not so sure about,” he adds with a chuckle.

De Mare left the parameters open for the composers, giving them as much freedom as they needed. But he did have some policies about what he wanted to play.

“I didn’t really want any of the songs to be deconstructed, making them unrecognizable,” he says. “I told them to maintain the melodic material even if it is a loose reference to the song. I also asked them to make the pieces no shorter than three to four minutes, and no longer than eight or ten.” (Most run four to eight minutes.)
That may sound like an easy assignment, but it wasn’t.

“Many of the composers told me this turned out to be a very challenging assignment because the songs are so perfect just as they are,” he says. “It is hard to do something original without doing something completely different.”

For example, minimalist composer Steve Reich tackled “Finishing the Hat” from Sunday in the Park with George. “You know right off the bat that it is Reich, but the melodic material is still there,” he says. “David Rakowski had only one song in mind, ‘The Ladies who Lunch’ from Company. It was not originally on my list, though it is one of my favorite songs from the show. It is so character driven I didn’t think it would work as a piano solo. But he brought it to life brilliantly with all its bitterness and core of disappointment — he gets there without the lyrics.”

The program at the Modern will be held in the intimate lecture hall at the museum — an ideal venue for a piano recital. Shields-Collins “Buddy” Bray, a fine pianist himself, will serve as moderator, initiating a discussion about the pieces. De Mare will play about 13 of the 36 musical meditations commissioned, but even he isn’t quire sure which ones.

“I am still deciding,” he says.

I vote for “I’m Still Here.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 3, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Blonde ambition

NEW_Dolly-artwork_highres-rs

Dolly Parton keeps on truckin’ with a new album, a tour — and late-night trips to the Kroger in full Dolly drag

Dolly Parton, the “Queen of Country Music,” reigns on our (gay) parade with her new album Better Day and her concert tour, at the Verizon Theatre Tuesday. Better Day marks her 41st solo album of original material, and she ties Reba McEntire with four No. 1 country singles in four consecutive decades. Parton is far more than a country music star. Even calling her “iconic” seems too small for the larger-than-life persona.
From her humble roots in Tennessee, our “Backwoods Barbie” continues to be a doll to her gay fans. With some rare moments to spare, she talks behind the scenes of her tour and what’s beneath the makeup and glitter.

— Jerry Nunn

Dallas Voice: The first track on Better Day, “In the Mean Time,” is so feisty. What was your motivation for it? Parton: That is one my favorite songs because it sums up what is going on in the world, my attitude about it. Everybody is so down in the dumps and waiting for the end of time instead of doing something about it, enjoying the time they got. This whole album I wanted to write stuff to uplift people and give a positive spin on this negativity.

You’ve performed the first single, “Together You and I” on television, but is there a video in the works? Yes. Trey Fanjoy, who was director of the year at CMT this year, did a wonderful video that shows people from all over the world, love in all forms and fashions — more of a universal love. It is a beautiful video.

What can fans expect from your concerts now? We got all sorts of good things going with the Better Day World Tour. We have a lot of positive stuff in that by doing different things for the fans.

You have a huge gay following and they will always love you. Hey, a big shout out to them! We have fun with my gay crowds. We are going to be in L.A. for two days at the Hollywood Bowl, then in San Francisco. All ready so many of my gay fans have said they are going to be there in the front row. I love it. I have always loved my gay fans. They accept me and I accept them. We get along just fine. I am very proud and honored when they dress up like me or whatever they want to do!

What is your favorite thing about touring? People, the audience, I love that. I love to travel because I am a gypsy, but I enjoy performing for the fans that love to see it. I have been around so many years, worked so many audiences and had so many types of shows. Since the beginning, it is kind of fun to watch how things have changed. I have fans from little bitty kids now watching Hannah Montana with Aunt Dolly to my older fans and the new ones that have discovered my music. It is a really fun trip for me as you can imagine.

How fabulous is your tour bus? The set up is great. I have traveled on a tour bus since 1967. This current one is an updated, modern version, where there is room. Especially when it has stopped you can let the sides out and have a real home. I don’t stay in hotels so I just live on my bus. I’ve got everything from my kitchen to my televisions, DVDs and books. It’s a way to carry my wigs and my costumes. I am set up good for that.

Are you able to take off the wig and shop at Kroger without people recognizing you? Well, if I went to Kroger I wouldn’t take off my wig. I don’t go grocery shopping too much but when I do it’s usually in the wee hours after midnight. If I really want to cook certain things for a special occasion that I really need and I don’t trust anyone to find it I will go to the store. But I usually dress like myself and go in. I can’t be disguised because if I open my mouth you know it’s me! I sound as different as I look. There is no point in going and embarrassing myself by looking like hell.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 15, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Will the real Lady Gaga please stand up?

A woman who identified herself as “Lady Starlight” snaps a photo with her cell phone aboard a flight from Edmonton to Minneapolis on Saturday. Was “Lady Starlight” really Lady Gaga?

Resource Center Dallas’ Rafael McDonnell, who describes himself as a “casual Lady Gaga fan,” reports that he was vacationing in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, last week when — by sheer accident — he ended up in the same city as her Monster Ball tour. McDonnell took advantage by catching one of her two shows in Edmonton and then apparently ended up on the same flight as her to Minneapolis on Saturday. Or did he? McDonnell said he wanted to invite her to stop by the Resource Center when she visits Dallas again in March, but first he had to figure out which one she was, and that wasn’t going to be easy. Turns out Gaga likes to outsmart the paparazzi by donning a poker face while traveling. Here’s McDonnell’s report:

Saturday afternoon, I was wrapping up my Canadian vacation, preparing to head home from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, to Minneapolis and then DFW. The plane back to Minnesota was a fairly small, 90 or so seat regional jet, and for a Saturday afternoon wasn’t expected to be a crowded flight.

As I was going through the metal detector and bag check, the Canadian security official told me that they were expecting a celebrity to come through. I asked who, and she answered, “Lady Gaga.” Her concert tour had stopped in Edmonton on Thursday and Friday, and would pick up in St. Paul on Monday night.

I don’t think most of the passengers on the flight probably wouldn’t  have known who Lady Gaga is; there were a fair number of couples in their 50′s and 60s in the departure lounge. Still, the flight crew and gate personnel were excitedly talking about her being on the flight. In fact, either the pilot or copilot called somebody before takeoff to share the news. I heard a member of the cabin crew saying she was seated in row 2 (first class on the regional jet only had three rows). They also said she was already on the plane when the rest of the passengers boarded.

When I boarded the plane, I approached row 2 and there was a woman seated there wearing a red leather jacket, a multi-color blouse and dark jeans. I introduced myself, said where I worked, and thanked her for supporting the community. She smiled, and said thanks. Then, she said, “But, I’m Lady Starlight.” I responded, “Well, if you see Lady Gaga, tell her hello for me.” With that, I headed for my seat. There was a second woman sitting next to her wearing a hoodie. On the same row across from them was a beefy tall man in a blue shirt. Several people who looked to be backup dancers also sat in first class and the first couple of rows of coach.

There was also a woman who sat in the same area at the front of coach, wearing an obviously dark wig, large Jackie Onassis-style sunglasses, dressed in all black. She was of average height and of a thin build. During the flight, she thumbed through a Star magazine. She passed by me as she went to the restroom in the back of the plane, but didn’t say anything.

Since I was towards the back of the plane, I didn’t see the first class passengers leave, or even the woman in black. But the flight attendant did confirm that Lady Gaga was on the flight. When I got back to Texas, I searched the Web and found that “Lady Starlight” is the name of a DJ who worked with Lady Gaga early in her career. So, was “Lady Starlight” really Lady Gaga? Was she the woman in the hoodie? Or, was she the woman in black who sat in coach? I don’t doubt the airline and security personnel, so she “had” to be on the plane. But, who was she?

—  John Wright