An inside look at ‘The Bodyguard’ with Deborah Cox

Deborah Cox, a longtime favorite in the LGBT community, is in Dallas right now, starring in the stage version of The Bodyguard, in the role made famous on the silver screen by Whitney Houston, and she sat down recently with Dallas Summer Musicals to give her fans an inside look at the production.

The show is presented by Dallas Summer Musicals  through July 30, 2017 at Music Hall at Fair Park. Click here for details and ticket information.

The show then moves to Fort Worth, playing Aug. 1-6 at Bass Performance Hall. Click here for details and ticket information.

Watch the video below:

—  Tammye Nash

STAGE REVIEW: ‘The Bodyguard’

I have to admit it upfront: I hated the movie version of The Bodyguard, and when I heard the original cast recording earlier this year felt underwhelmed. So I went into the stage version —  a jukebox musical now at Fair Park and then moving to Fort Worth’s Bass Hall — with jaundiced eyes. The plot is cheesy. The thriller aspect not-so-thrilling. The songs have not been assembled to actually advance the story in any meaningful way.

But I still loved it.

The Bodyguard is the stage iteration of the beach-read novel, or the summer movie blockbuster. Its aim is pure entertainment, and it hits a bullseye.

You probably know the plot: Recording star Rachel Marron (Deborah Cox) is campaigning for an Oscar for him film debut, but it being stalked by a dangerous fan. Her management team hires Frank (Judson Mills) to spearhead her security detail. She resists; he insists; both are kisses (by each other). Can Frank still protect Rachel while (gulp!) in love with her?!?!

C’mon!

The film was a monster hit, owing in large part to its soundtrack of hits sung by Whitney Houston. All of those songs — as well as more from Whitney’s canon (plus Chaka Khan, Deniece Williams and a few more) — get shoehorned into this show, but because Rachel is a singer (as well as her sister), there’s usually cause to plant Cox centerstage, hand her a microphone and zip up a mermaid dress, and let her belt out a number.

And belt she does. Cox is practically the raison d’etre of The Bodyguard, tasked with the most numbers, and she’s in fine voice. She’s a terrific stage presence. But Jasmine Richardson as her wallflower sister more than holds her own musically, Mills is a dashing and humorous Frank and even the backup dancers make for likable eye-candy. I don’t believe in the phrase “guilty pleasure,” but The Bodyguard definitely defies you not to be delighted. You’ll leave the theater happier than when you went in.

Fair Park through July 30. DallasSummerMusicals.org. Bass Hall, Aug. 1–6. BassHall.com.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

DSM gives at-risk teens a behind-the-scenes look at ‘Kinky Boots’

Next week, the Tony Award-winning, highly empowering musical Kinky Boots — about a drag queen who helps save a struggling shoe manufacturer, and opens some eyes in the process — returns to Fair Park Music Hall, courtesy of Dallas Summer Musicals. Among those who will be attending one of the first performances will be about two dozen folks who probably have never even seen a play, not to mention one of this caliber … and with this message.

Next Thursday, 25 at-risk LGBTQ youth (ages 12–18) will be treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of Kinky Boots. DSM has teamed with the Resource Center‘s Youth First program to expose these teens to the power of theater and the inner-workings of a major national tour. It’s an insight few sophisticated theatergoers get a chance to experience. Among the activities will be a backstage tour, a meet-and-greet with DSM staff, a boxed dinner, free tickets to the performance and a past-show Q&A with members of the cast. And they will also get an idea of career opportunities in show business, and how to be fabulous while doing so.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Stage review: ‘An American in Paris’

Garen Scribner and Sara Etsy in ‘An American in Paris.’ (Photos by Matthew Murphy)

The film version of An American in Paris is one of the signature musicals of MGM’s golden age (it won the Oscar for best picture in 1951), but by modern standards, it’s not great. Sure, there’s the music by George Gershwin and the dancing of Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron (especially the centerpiece closing dream ballet), but the elements don’t always fit together well. And Kelly’s character — former G.I.-cum-starving-artist Jerry Mulligan — is pretty much a selfish prick. He allows himself to be a kept man by art patroness Milo Davenport while openly chasing gamine Lise, who is the fiancee of one of his friends. There’s not a lot of subtext there, no commentary about shell-shocked soldiers grappling with mortality or even the “lovable heel” angle of film noir. Nope, he’s just an asshole. When he gets with Lise at the end, you’re kinda mad.

These flaws are largely dispelled in Craig Lucas’ book for the original 2015 stage version of An American in Paris (now onstage at Fair Park Music Hall through Feb. 12, and moving to Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth on Feb. 14). There’s grit and personality and explanations that flesh out Jerry and several other characters … and Gershwin’s music and amazing dancing. It’s truly the best of all possible worlds: A delightful, old-fashionedly show-stopping musical with a lot of smarts.

The plot is less about a love triangle than a love rhombus: French ballerina Lise (Sara Esty) is engaged Frenchman Henri (Nick Spangler), whose family may have been collaborators with the Nazis (or maybe something else). Lise doesn’t love Henri (who may even be gay), but she’s devoted to him. Jerry (Garen Scribner) is smitten with Lise, and while she feels an attraction back, she is put off that he seems to be coupled with Milo (Emily Ferranti). Meanwhile, Jerry’s fellow-American-G.I.-in-Paris Adam (Etai Benson), a composer with a gloomy outlook, pines in silence for Lise.

Lise meets with Jerry. Jerry pursues Lise. Henri can’t work up the courage to propose. Adam struggles to find a voice. Heck, it’s almost like La La Land … maybe Le Le Land.

An American in Paris is simply gorgeous in every particular, from the nimble sets (including inventive projections), evocative costumes, sparkling lighting and stunning choreography. Director/choreographer Christopher Wheeldon has turned a big, vivid movie into something nearly as big but specific to the stage. One of the set-pieces from the film, “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise,” famously includes a huge lighted staircase; the adaptation here does away with the stairs, but comes up with such a dazzling substitute you never miss it. And the closing ballet makes much more sense (a combination of dream and concert) that lasts 14 glorious minutes.

The principal actors are all deliciously ebullient and likable … even Jerry, whose treatment of Milo seems less awful (it helps that Milo is given to modern self-reflection). There aren’t enough musicals anymore that are just about being delightful. This is welcome to set the standard.

Visit here for Dallas or Fort Worth tickets.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Dallas Opera, DSM and PAFW reveal upcoming seasons

‘The Lion King’ returns as part of the Dallas Summer Musicals’ 2018 season.

Several companies have announced their upcoming seasons this week, in whole or part.

The Dallas Opera’s 61st season will feature five productions, including a U.S. premiere and three popular operas in the mainstream canon.

It starts with Samson and Dalila by Camille Saint-Saens (Oct. 20, 22, 25, 28 and Nov. 5). That’s performed in repertory with Verdi’s enduring tragedy La Traviata (Oct. 27, 29, Nov. 1, 4 and 10). 2018 kicks off with a rarely-seen one-act opera composed by Erich Wolfgang Korngold when he was just 16: The Ring of Polykrates (Feb. 9, 11, 14 and 17, 2018). That will be accompanied by a recital of his acclaimed Violin Concerto in D Major (op. 35), written to commemorate the fall of Nazism.

That’s followed by the U.S. premiere of modern composer Michel van der Aa’s Sunken Garden (March. 9, 11, 14 and 17), a technological wonder that employs 3D projections (yes, opera audiences will wear 3D glasses). The season concludes with Mozart’s Don Giovanni (April 13, 15, 18, 21, 27 and 29), one of the darkest and most musically complex operas every created.

In addition, the season will feature the opening gala, a fashion show, simulcasts, family performances and other community outreach. Performances will be at the Winspear Opera House. Tickets are available at DallasOpera.org.

You may have heard already that Hamilton will be part of the Dallas Summer Musicals’ 2018-19 season, but before we get there, the 2017-18 season stands in the way… or facilitates it. If you subscribe to the upcoming season, you get first crack at Hamilton the following year (as well as Disney’s Aladdin, which has also been announced).

Dec. 5–10: White Christmas. This add-on show returns.

Jan. 23–Feb. 4, 2018: The Color Purple. The recent Broadway revival took best actress in a musical away from Hamilton. The original production also won for best actress. Based on Alice Walker’s novel, it features a lesbian relationship in the early 20th century South.

Feb. 27–March 11: On Your Feet. The popular jukebox musical featuring the songs of Gloria Estefan.

March 28–April 8: Waitress. Sara Bareilles’ acclaimed Broadway debut as a composer, based upon the charming indie film.

April 24–May 6: Les Miserables. The sensation is back again.

June 13–July 8: The Lion King. Disney’s long-running hit, featuring the puppetry and brilliant staging of Julie Taymor.

July 24–Aug. 5: Love Never Dies. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sequel to The Phantom of the Opera, set in Coney Island.

Aug. 15–26: School of Rock. Webber’s latest musical, about a teacher who instructs kids on how to be headbangers.

All shows at Fair Park Music Hall; tickets available at DallasSummerMusicals.org.

As has been the case in recent years, many of the DSM shows are part of Performing Arts Fort Worth’s season at Bass Hall as well:

Jan. 17-21, 2018: Something Rotten. The comic telling of merriment in Olde Europe.

Feb. 16–18: Chicago. A season add-on of the long-running smash.

March 20–25: Finding Neverland. The behind-the-scenes telling of the inspiration for J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan.

June 19–24: Waitress (see above).

Aug. 7–12: Love Never Dies (see above).

Aug. 28–Sept. 2: School of Rock (see above).

All performances at Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth. Tickets available at BassHall.com.

In addition, the Dallas Theater Center will not release its full 2017-18 season until next month, but it has revealed the titles of four shows that will be included in it, among them The Trials of Sam Houston, Nick Dear’s Frankenstein, The Great Society — Robert Schenkkan’s follow-up to his award-winning LBJ drama All the Way, which DTC staged last year — and the counter-culture musical Hair. We’ll have the scoop on the full season later this month. DallasTheaterCenter.org.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Best Bets • 07.01.16

Friday 07.01 — Sunday 07.17

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‘42nd Street’ brings amazing dancing to North Texas for three weeks of performances.

Come and meet those dancing feet at ‘42nd Street’ … in Dallas or Fort Worth

Ever since the early talky film version, 42nd Street has been one of the iconic behind-the-scenes Broadway musicals. It was reinvented in the 1980s in the form it is today, and jam-packed with amazing dancing and classic songs. It’s currently playing in Dallas courtesy of Dallas Summer Musicals, but moves to Cowtown’s Bass Hall via Performing Arts Fort Worth… which gives you even more time to see it.

DEETS:
Fair Park Music Hall
901 First Ave.
Through July 10.
DallasSummerMusicals.org

Bass Performance Hall
525 Commerce St.
Fort Worth
July 12–17
BassHall.com

Sunday 07.03

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Get a headstart on the Fourth’s festivities at Addison Kaboom Town!

The date on the Declaration of Independence says July 4, but Addison has always jumped the gun a bit. The town’s big Fourth of July celebration is routinely held on the Third of July, full of music, fireworks, food, an airshow and the promise of their biggest finale yet. It all starts at 4 p.m., and goes as late as midnight, so turn up for all the fun early and stay as late as you want. Best of all? General admission is free.

DEETS:
Addison Circle Park
4970 Addison Circle Drive
Gates at 4 p.m., fireworks at 9:30 p.m.
For details, visit AddisonKaboomTown.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 1, 2016.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Best Bets • 06.24.16

Tuesday 06.28 — Sunday 07.10

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Making it big on Broadway

Caitlin Ehlinger leads the cast in Dallas Summer Musicals and Performing Arts Fort Worth’s production of 42nd Street, the comedy classic that tells the story of starry-eyed Peggy Sawyer who leaves her home in Allentown, Penn., to make it big on Broadway.

DEETS:
Music Hall at Fair Park
901 First Ave.
DallasSummerMusicals.org

Wednesday 06.29 — Saturday 07.23

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A different kind of boy

Second Thought Theatre winds up its 2016 season with A Kid Like Jake, directed by Matthew Gray and starring Christie Vela, Ian Ferguson and Jenny Ledel. Daniel Pearle’s play about a couple trying to get their son — who likes to dress up as Cinderella — into an exclusive preschool runs June 29-July 23 at Bryant Hall on the Kalita Humphreys Campus.

DEETS:
Bryant Hall
3636 Turtle Creek Blvd.
SecondThoughtTheatre.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 24, 2016.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Best Bets • 06.10.13

Saturday 06.11

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Jane Lynch performs a gleeful concert at HOB

As hard-edged coach Sue Sylvester on Glee, Jane Lynch disparaged those who chose musical theater over sports. But as a real-life singer, Lynch loves to hum a tune or two, which she does at See Jane Sing, her concert tour that arrives this weekend at the House of Blues.

DEETS:
House of Blues
2200 N. Lamar St.
7 p.m.
LiveNation.com

Tuesday 06.14 — Sunday 06.26

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Hits of both kinds in the gangster musical ‘Bullets Over Broadway’

Woody Allen’s 1994 film Bullets Over Broadway is a quintessential backstage comedy — a smartypants playwright who gets involved with a high-maintenance star and a theater-obsessed mobster in the 1930s. Two decades later, Allen turned it into a jukebox musical, featuring classic songs from the era. It arrives this week at Fair Park Music Hall for a two-week run, courtesy of Dallas Summer Musicals.

DEETS:
Music Hall at Fair Park
901 First Ave.
DallasSummerMusicals.org

Friday 06.17 — Saturday 06.18

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Bruce Wood Dance returns with Six

It’s difficult to believe that choreographer Bruce Wood died two years ago… and equally amazing that his company, Bruce Wood Dance Project, has not just survived but flourished in that time. More evidence of its abiding success is Six, the company’s sixth season opener, which returns for two performances only. It features a Dallas premiere of one of Wood’s own masterworks, two other pieces also make their world premieres. Don’t miss it.

DEETS:
City Performance Hall
2520 Flora St.
BruceWoodDance.org

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 10, 2016.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

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