DSM weighs in with more information about Jenkins firing

The news broke this morning that Michael Jenkins, longtime president of the Dallas Summer Musicals, had been fired. The DSM was largely silent about the reasons, but late today released a further statement regarding leadership changes at the organization.

“For some, this announcement is difficult to accept, but DSM’s Executive Committee [EC] believed that it was clear that it’s time for a change,” said volunteer chairman Ted Munselle. He further explained that for the last year or more, the EC “has been immersed in an intense assessment of the organization, with special attention on management accountability and professional examinations of DSM’s financial performance including reporting, profitability, expenditures and investments.” The board stated that the DSM has suffered losses every season, except one since 2008.

“Theater is a difficult and competitive business, and the EC was concerned about DSM’s financial losses as well as the quality of its financial reporting,” said Munselle, noting that the “forensic examination” of the financials prompted the decision. “We engaged a leading national law firm to lead a team of forensic investigators, including a group of auditors from a Big Four CPA firm, to conduct a forensic examination of the organization’s books and records.”

Munselle’s release said that last Thursday, in a near unanimous vote, the EC decided that it was time for a change in leadership.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Michael Jenkins is out as Dallas Summer Musicals president

Emily-Koch-as-Elphaba---Photo-by-Joan-MarcusMy friends Michael Granberry and Nancy Churnin, a real-life couple and both staff writers at the Dallas Morning News, have collaborated on a story I find interesting: The sudden firing of Dallas Summer Musicals‘ long-standing leader, Michael Jenkins. In the piece, which went live this morning, Jenkins accuses the DSM of age discrimination (he’s 74); the DMN announced an interim director, and said Jenkins’ termination was effectively immediately, but otherwise declined to comment on the details at this time.

The DSM, which will mark its 75th anniversary this June, is in the middle of its current season with Wicked (through May 22, pictured), and continues with Ragtime (opening May 24), Bullets Over Broadway (June 14) and 42nd Street (June 28).

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Best Bets • 04.22.16

Friday 04.22 — Sunday 05.22

Emily-Koch-as-Elphaba---Photo-by-Joan-Marcus

It’s time you start defying gravity: ‘Wicked’ returns for a month!

Chances are you heard that Stephen Schwartz, the composer of the megaton musical Wicked, pulled the national tour from performing in North Carolina as a result of that state’s anti-gay, transphobic legislation. Who says are and politics don’t go together? But that’s just one reason to show your support for the show, with settled in for a month-long run at Fair Park, courtesy of Dallas Summer Musicals. There’s also the grand spectacle, the thrilling songs, the touching story. If you’re not already a friend of Dorothy, this will make you one.

DEETS:
Fair Park Music Hall
901 First Ave.
Through May 22
DallasSummerMusicals.org

Friday 04.22 — Sunday 04.24

Film-Fest

USAFF, DIFF wrap up this weekend

Two of Dallas’ biggest film festivals — the USA Film Festival and the Dallas International Film Festival — are going on simultaneously right now through Sunday,  and even if you have missed some of the screenings all ready, there’s still time to catch up. And since both are centered at the Angelika Film Center, you don’t even have to go far to enjoy them both.

DEETS:
Angelika Film Center Mockingbird Station
5307 E. Mockingbird Lane
For schedules, visit USAFilmFestival.com and DIFF2016.dallasfilm.org.

Saturday 04.23

Joe-Posa

Joan Rivers reincarnated (sorta)

The death two years ago of Joan Rivers has left a queer hole in our collective comedy, and Joe Posa loves to fill holes. The dragtastic comedy performs his tribute show to the hilariously inappropriate queen or standup with a one-night-only show.
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DEETS:
The Brick
2525 Wycliffe Ave.
7 p.m.
brickdallas.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 22, 2016.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Review: ‘Bridges of Madison County’

BRIDGES02

If you weren’t around when Robert James Waller’s novel The Bridges of Madison County dropped in 1992, you probably can’t fully appreciate its cultural impact. It was, in retrospect, the Midwestern equivalent of 50 Shades of Grey: Poorly written treacle masquerading as grand romance. It was almost a parody of itself from the start, with a love interested who was masculine and mysterious, but also a feminist and vegetarian. (The message was: Adultery is wrong, unless it’s with the right guy.) Waller even included a foreword to the book insisting the story was true (it was not) and asserting that anyone not moved by his prose was a soulless ghoul.

I hated it, of course … at least until Clint Eastwood’s 1995 film adaptation. It took Hollywood’s least sentimental director to turn a work of literary diabetes into a palatable meal. Waller’s follow-up book was a comparative flop (critics never liked him, and audiences caught on)and the property drifted off, like Brigadoon, into the mists of poor decision-making, like mullets and Alicia Silverstone movies after Clueless.

At least until composer Robert Jason Brown got ahold of it, and crafted a musical version (with book by Marsha Norman) in 2014. Despite a Tony Award for best score (it bested If/Then, which just closed in Dallas), Bridges lasted just 100 performances, so a tour was not a certainty. But there it is, planted into Fair Park Music Hall for a two-week run. At capacity, almost more people could see it here than in New York — its Broadway home was fewer than 1,100 seats, not even a third of the Music Hall’s cavernous auditorium.

Which may be the principal failing of this production. Form the opening song (more like an aria), Elizabeth Stanley as Francesca — the Italian war bride living a life of quiet desperation in 1965 Iowa —cannot be heard or understood. It’s as if the actress wasn’t prepared for the vastness of the space she would be expected to fill in what’s essentially a chamber musical (albeit one that runs nearly three hours). Her Arianna-Huffington-speaking-Russian-with-socks-in-her-mouth accent garbles the lyrics; it’s not until Andrew Samonsky as the sexy NatGeo photographer Robert Kincaid belts out a few numbers that we really enjoy the aspiring beauty of Brown’s folksy-pop operetta.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 5, 2016.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Something ‘Wicked’ this way comes. And InstantTea readers can access the Yellow Brick Road

Wicked Emerald City TourWicked is, of course, a wonderful musical, and one of the signature theater events of the last decade or more. But when it’s on tour, getting the best seats can sometimes require a bit of wizardry. We can help. Dallas Voice readers have access to the Emerald City with our very own link that offers you access to the show, and picking tickets for any of the performances when Wicked returns to Fair Park Music Hall in the spring (the show runs April 20–May 22). From now through Feb. 15, this link gives you unique access to individual tickets. Your friends will turn green … from envy. So get in on the ground floor, skip the poppy fields and see the show. Again.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Review: ‘Elf The Musical’

Networks--Elf (Boise)     011 copyThe Will Ferrell movie comedy Elf is a shortish, silly, but frequently funny trifle about a human, raised at the North Pole, who returns to civilization to see out his father and bring the Christmas spirit to a cynical world. It’s a corny story, made palatable by Ferrell’s guileless performance as a 30-year-old man still captivated by the ridiculously of the holidays.

I went into the stage musical, now at Fair Park, with a fair degree of skepticism. Elf-the-movie rested on Ferrell’s shoulders; how would Elf The Musical fare without him? Actually, quite well. Unlike the disappointing slate of other recent stage adaptations of Christmas movies (White Christmas, A Christmas Story), Elf maintains the perfect amount of whimsy, buoyed by Daniel Patrick Smith’s infectiously joyous performance as Buddy, the puppy-dogish pest with a heart of candycanes.

The book, by Bob Martin (The Drowsy Chaperone), adds just the correct amount of knowing winks to the audience — about the inanity of the plot, of current society, even of musicals themselves (also a trait of Chaperone) — and the score, although not peppered with tons of memorable earworms, is jaunty and fun. It’s a delightful theatrical trifle, all warm-hearted energy and family-friendly messages.

Now through Sunday at Fair Park Music Hall.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Holiday Gift Idea: The gift of theater

Networks--Elf-(Boise)-----107-copyThere really are gifts that keep on giving, and a season subscription to a theater company is a real way to have something new for your sweetheart all year long (and provides you both something to do together). North Texas is full of theaters to support, but we recommend Dallas Summer Musicals (you can still get tickets for the first show of the season, Elf, reviewed this week), or get someone in Cowtown a similar lineup from Performing Arts Fort Worth; Uptown Players (which next month kicks off with a bonus show with the Turtle Creek Chorale), WaterTower Theatre, the Dallas Theater Center (which has a gay-themed show running right now) and many more. Support the arts and those on your gift lift.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

DSM, PAFW announce 2015–16 seasons

THE-PHANTOM-OF-THE-OPERADallas Summer Musicals and Performing Arts Fort Worth, which this season teamed up to present several shows together (first in Dallas, then in Cowtown), chose a few hours before the Tony Awards to announce their upcoming 2015-16 seasons, which will again have several cross-over shows.

DSM’s season will kick off with a new version of The Sound of Music (Nov. 3–22), followed by the Christmas show Elf (Dec. 8–20), The Bridges of Madison County (which last year won the Tony for its score, Feb. 2–14, 2016), the return of The Little Mermaid (March 11–27), Ragtime (May 24–June 5), the recent Bullets Over Broadway (June 14–26), 42nd Street (June 28–July 10), plus a bonus presentation of Wicked (April 20–May 22).

PAFW begins its season with The Book of Mormon (Dec. 1–6), Motown (Jan. 13–17, 2016, which will play in July at DSM), a new production of The Wizard of Oz (June 7–12) and Phantom of the Opera (Oct. 20–30). It will co-present Little Mermaid (March 29–April 3, right after DSM’s run), 42nd Street (July 12–17. after DSM) and The Sound of Music (Aug. 17–21) with DSM. Add-on productions of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Sept. 18–20), Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Nov. 24–25), Blue Man Group (Feb. 19–21, 2016) Mamma Mia! (May 20–22),  and will also be in the line-up.

In addition, Performing Arts Fort Worth has two shows at the McDavid Studio, one of which we exclusively broke earlier this year: Dixie’s Never Wear a Tubetop While Riding a Mechanical Bull (and 16 Other Things I Learned While I Was Drinking Last Thursday) (Nov. 11–22, 2015) and Back to School Catechism: The Holy Ghost and Other Terrifying Tales (Oct. 5–9, 2016).

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Review: ‘The Illusionists’

Jeff Hobson - The Trickster - Photo Credit The Illusionists

The Trickster

There are two irrefutable facts about magic shows: 1) They are cheesy; 2) when they are good, they are  a whole helluva lot of fun. The Illusionists is a whole helluva lot of fun.

In some ways, magic has been ruined for me by Gob Bulth from Arrested Development, who never failed to walk into a room without doing jazz hands to a prerecorded fanfare and dropping a playing card. There are a lot of jazz hands, a lot of silk shirts and moving fingers in The Illusionists. There are even two jokes about Fifty Shades of Grey. That’s the cheesy part. But it’s also an element of its charm. Magic is as much about showmanship as mystery, as much about a good time as misdirection. Seven magicians, all with different skills sets, populate the cast, each bringing a different energy to the show. The Trickster, a Liberace-esque comedic-magician, has a gay ol’ time playing with sexuality as much as a deck of cards. The Escapologist, a half-naked Italian, does an actual bit of legerdemain underwater when, over the course of three minutes — and right before our eyes — he extricates himself from a tank while shackled. The Anti-Conjuror, a wraith-like steampunk dude covered in tattoos — he looks as if Iggy Pop and Lance Burton had a love child — performs some uncomfortable bits of physical magic, such as putting a piece of dental floss under his skin and popping things out of his body.

Andrew Basso - The Escrapologist - Photo Credit The Illusionists

The Escapologist underwater

It’s a great hodgepodge of styles and techniques, from simple coin tricks to elaborate mechanical illusions, and some work better than others. But the trick to enjoying The Illusionists as much as I did is simply to let yourself go. Allow the indescribable sleight-of-hand of The Manipulator to take you back to a time when magic was real and everything was possible. It’s like being a kid again.

At Fair Park Music Hall through April 17.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Harvey Fierstein: The gay interview

As Kinky Boots opens in Dallas, the flamboyant theater diva opines on Johnny Weir, Robin Williams and why we hate ourselves

Harvey Fierstein by Bruce Glikas

“I’m sorry,” Harvey Fierstein growls in his unmistakable Brooklyn gravel, “I gotta go on with my life.” And so, after our insightful 40-minute chat peppered with Fierstein’s true-to-form frankness, he does.

But for Fierstein, a revered Broadway legend known for an iconic writing répertoire that includes Torch Song Trilogy, La Cage aux Folles and, most recently, Kinky Boots, which opens tonight at Fair Park Music Hall courtesy of Dallas Summer Musicals, this isn’t just the Tony Award winner’s blunt way of concluding our extensive conversation. It’s a way of life.

Fierstein reflects on the past—  up for the “sissies,” what he calls his “legendary disaster,” and how his own “12 steps of happiness” inspired his latest Broadway smash — but the 62-year-old’s very much living in the present, and for the future.

And look for our one-on-one interview with Fierstein’s Kinky collaborator, Cyndi Lauper, in Friday’s edition, in print and online!

— Chris Azzopardi

Dallas Voice: I’m certainly not the first person to tell you that Kinky Boots is a massive hit. When you first began writing the musical, did you imagine it would become as successful as it’s been?  Fierstein: You know, you don’t. I’m really old. I’ve been around a really long time, and I’ve had — knock wood — an unbelievable run of hits, and I’ve had some horrible misses and a couple of in-betweens, but you go into all of them with the same heart.

I’ve done a couple for the wrong reasons. I did one to try and make money, which is really a very bad reason, and you make no money doing it that way. I’ve learned that lesson, and I would never do that again. But you basically go in for the right reason because you’re gonna spend years of your life involved with these characters, with these collaborators. And it’s not something you take on lightly if you’ve ever done it because, well, Kinky Boots took almost five years to write.

It’s clearly been a labor of love for you.  They have to be. That’s exactly why they have to be a labor of love, because from sitting down and starting work, which was a year or more before I even called Cyndi [Lauper, who wrote the music and lyrics], to the opening in Korea [last December], we’re now up to seven or eight years. It’s part of your life for the rest of your life.

Jerry Herman and I wrote La Cage 30-something years ago and we are still the parents of that show. We still have to talk about it all the time. So, to say, “Did you know it was gonna be a big hit?” No, you don’t know. You go in with the best hopes and the best intentions of doing something that will entertain, which is our number one job.

What’s a project you did for the wrong reasons?  Legs Diamond. I had a friend who was directing it. Peter Allen had AIDS and his best friend who was writing it for him, who was not a writer but a clothing designer, had AIDS dementia. My friend Robert [Allan Ackerman] called me up and said, “Look, will you come in on this? I know it’s a terrible idea — Peter Allen as Legs Diamond — but all we have to do is get Peter out there, let him shake his ass, sing a couple of numbers, and we can just cash the checks.” And I drank the Kool-Aid.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones