REVIEWS: ‘Anything Goes,’ ‘Catch Me,’ ‘The Chairs,’ ‘The Lucky Chance’

Anything GoesStephen Sondheim Theatre (formerly Henry Miller's Theatre)

It’s a busy season for theaters, with opening and closing coming fast and furious. Few things, though, as as fast and furious as the tap-dancing in Anything Goes, which continues its run this weekend at the Winspear Opera House. The national tour of this Tony Award-winning revival is part of the classic strain of American musicals where quick-witted people end happily while dancing their asses off, all the the tunes of folks like Cole Porter. There are more hits in this score than during a Mafia wedding: “Friendship,” “You’re the Top,” “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “Blow, Gabriel, Blow,” “It’s De-Lovely” and, natch, the title tune. If hearing the sounds that make up the foundation of the Great American Songbook, belted out like Merman on speed, isn’t your idea of a fun night of theater, there’s something wrong with you.

Rachel York leads the cast as Reno Sweeney, the sassy cabaret star who’s chasing after a boy who has eyes on another girl, who is engaged to be married to a British lord, who doesn’t care much about marrying her …. Oy. Plot is not its friend. But jaunty one-liners, sexy men in sailor suits and timeless songs are. Even 80 years after it opened, the energy is as fresh as morning glory. (Through Sunday.)

How, then, can Catch Me If You Can at Fair Park Music Hall, which is just two years old, feel so much more dated than Anything Goes? Scored by the team that did Hairspray (partners Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman) and written by Terrence McNally, it’s also set in the 1960s and based on a hit movie. And that’s where the similarities cease.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

GIVEAWAY: VIP tix to “Million Dollar Quartet”

Thanks to the Dallas Summer Musical peeps for offering Dallas Voice readers the chance to win VIP tickets to the opening night of the musical Million Dollar Quartet. That’s a sweet package of first-orchestra seats and an invitation to the cast party after the show. How many people can now say they are gonna schmooze and mingle with Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins? OK, sorta. MDQ is based on the recording session in which all these legends collaborated and never again. From Dallas Summer Musicals.

On December 4, 1956, these four young musicians gathered at Sun Records in Memphis for what would be one of the greatest jam sessions ever. Million Dollar Quartet brings that legendary night to life, featuring a score of rock hits including “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Fever,” “That’s All Right,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “Walk the Line,” “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” “Who Do You Love?,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Hound Dog” and more.

This thrilling musical brings you inside the recording studio with four major talents who came together as a red-hot rock ‘n’ roll band for one unforgettable night. Don’t miss your chance to be a fly on the wall of fame… at Million Dollar Quartet!

For tickets, just drop us an email here with you and your guest’s name (for the cast party list) and phone number (to notify winners) with “Gimme a Million” in the subject line. Winners will be randomly selected on Tuesday.

MDQ runs March 6–18 at the Music Hall at Fair Park.

—  Rich Lopez

Teenage wasteland

P.R. FLEX | Disenfranchised Puerto Ricans Anita (Michelle Aravena) and Bernardo (German Santiago) burn the floor in a re-imagined revival of ‘West Side Story.’ (Photo courtesy Joan Marcus)

Hormonal youth meet fatal consequences in ‘West Side Story,’ ‘Awakening’

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES | Life+Style Editor

There aren’t many musicals that are about things. Andrew Lloyd Webber, with his bombastic shows concerning felines and toy trains, may have lowered the bar, but the “serious” musical has always been an uphill battle. Even a show like Hairspray, which touches on racism, is more concerned with a punchy ‘60s-pop sound than social change.

Two musicals that break the mold are West Side Story and Spring Awakening. There’s very little hope in either one. But the message of teenagers crazed by hormones, and the tragedy that results, have made them classics, even coming 50 years apart. Seldom has the reality of adolescence been more acutely wrought.

The new production of West Side, at the State Fair courtesy of Dallas Summer Musicals, was re-imagined by the show’s original writer, Arthur Laurents, with the addition of Spanish dialogue and lyrics (from Lin-Manuel Miranda) for the Puerto Rican street gang the Sharks, as well as a timely design: Although a product of the ‘50s — especially evident in Leonard Bernstein’s still-relevant jazz score and dialogue resplendent with daddios talk of hoodlums — this version could just as easily take place today. The Jets, usually so easy to mock for their balletic street fighting, are by-and-large beefier here, more threatening. They may plie like Nureyev, but you sense they’d beat the living crap out of you for making fun of ‘em.

This West Side also has something sorely lacking in almost every prior production: A Tony with true sex appeal. You believe the spark between him (Ross Lekites) and Maria (Evy Ortiz, whose soprano is astonishing) as they Romeo-and-Juliet it on the balc… er, fire escape. Young love onstage usually seems hokey; here, it feels primal.

There’s power in this doomed romance, from the haunting, bloody finales of both Act 1 and 2 to the near rape of Anita (Michelle Aravena) that elevates it — not just to the realm of tragedy, but to the scope of a true American opera.

At least, that’s the sensibility conveyed by this production, the best yet in DSM’s 2011 season. West Side Story hasn’t felt so fresh in ages, abounding with energy (although some of the dancers aren’t in perfect step) and a new air of sexual ambiguity (especially with tomboy Jet wannabe Anybodys and some gang members that seem a little too chummy). This has never been a feel-good musical, but its dark outlook feels earned this time.

THE BITCH OF LIVING | Sexually repressed teens give motion to their libidos with John de los Santos’ choreography in WaterTower’s production of ‘Spring Awakening.’ (Photo courtesy Mark Oristano)

We live in a state whose governor preaches abstinence-only sex education while the teen pregnancy rate is among the highest in the nation. If that kind of dunderheadedness infuriates you, you’re in for a frustrating two hours with Spring Awakening. Based on a German play written more than a century ago, this rock musical explodes with paternalistic hypocrisy, as parents and teachers scrupulously avoid their responsibilities toward children in order to preserve some mythical idea of “proper” society. Teenaged girls wanna know where babies come from and are given a non-cock-not-bull story about storks — is it any wonder they wind up pregnant and on Jerry Springer?

From the first haunting strains of Duncan Sheik’s plaintive rock score, Spring Awakening oozes sex. And not just pure, puppy-love romantic sex. These kids fantasize about their tutors and their classmates; they jerk off to poetry; they explore sado-masochism and fetishes and drug use. Welcome to the real world of teenhood, Gov. Perry.

WaterTower Theatre is mounting the first local production, and if you haven’t seen it, do. The show itself is arrestingly modern, even though set generations ago, and the music and lyrics (by Steven Stater) are wonderful both for their abstract imagery and the immediacy of the emotions.

But there’s also something slightly off. Maybe it’s the sound, which was spotty on opening night, but it feels more like the singers themselves. Mind you, the cast — made up largely of young comparative newcomers — all sing well, but you want them to do more: You want them to get loose.

Director Terry Martin gives them the opportunity, with onstage masturbation, same-sex kissing and dark discussions of sex sure to make a few blue-hairs squirm. John de los Santos’ stylized choreography gives them a lot to do, bringing a sense of motion to the internality of libidos gone mad, but they need to shout a little. It’s impossible to be too loud doing Spring Awakening — it is a rock musical, after all. With songs titled the likes of “The Bitch of Living,” “My Junk” and “Totally Fucked,” this stage is no place to play it safe.

Among the cast, Adam Garst as the tortured Moritz is a standout, as is Kayla Carlyle as the free-spirited Ilse, but each of them embodies an aspect of adolescence that rings true. Spring Awakening resonates not because it feels so remote, but because it lives inside the mind of everyone who recalls first lust.

—  John Wright

DSM announces 2012 season

The Dallas Summer Musicals have formally released their next season lineup, although several of the shows — Memphis and The Addams Family,  for instance — were already common knowledge. The full schedule is:

Bring It On! (Feb. 14–26), a new musical based on the film set in the world of competitive cheerleading.

Million Dollar Quarter (March 6–18), a jukebox musical set on the one day in 1956 when newcomers Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins all recorded in the same studio. Gay singer Levi Kriess won a Tony for his performance.

La Cage aux Folles (April 10–22). The recent Tony-winning revival of the musical about drag queens and alternative families.

Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles (April 24–29) returns.

Memphis (May 15–27), a fictionalized telling of the integration of the radio in 1950s South won multiple Tony Awards, including best score and musical.

Mamma Mia! (May 29–June 3), the uber-gay ABBA musical, returns yet again for a one-week run.

Peter Pan (July 10-22), the children’s classic with a campy sensibility, once again starring Cathy Rigby.

The Addams Family (Oct. 2–21), the current Broadway hit with gay cred, based on the cartoons and movie/TV franchise, will be the State Fair musical next fall. (This year’s State Fair musical, West Side Story, opens in a few weeks.)

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

For gay actor Steve McCoy, it’s good to be king

Spamalot has been a boom — and not just to its producers, whose touring production has lasted longer than the actual Crusades (it returns to North Texas next season as part of the Bass Hall Broadway series) — but to its cast. Steve McCoy, the gay actor who plays King Arthur in the production now onstage at Fair Park from Dallas Summer Musicals, is certainly grateful for why prancing around the European countryside in chain mail can do for one’s career.

Mark Lowry, the Dallas Voice contributor and co-founder of, interviewed McCoy this week. You can read the full interview here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

DSM’s Jenkins wins best presenter award

In my recent interview with Jeff Calhoun, the director of the national tour of 9 to 5: The Musical (which opens tonight at Fair Park), Calhoun praises Dallas Summer Musicals managing director Michael Jenkins as a great friend and mentor.

Well, Calhoun isn’t the only one singing Jenkins’ praises. Last week, Jenkins was awarded the Samuel J. L’Hommedieu Award as “outstanding presenter” by the Broadway League, an 80-year-old trade association of the Broadway industry. The award ceremony was hosted by George Hamilton, who will appear in the DSM’s tour of La Cage aux Folles next year.

Under Jenkins, the DSM has won two Tony Awards (best revival of a play for Boeing, Boeing and best theatrical event for Jay Johnson: My Two and Only) and produced many more hits.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

George Hamilton joins DSM’s tour of ‘La Cage’

George Hamilton

The national tour of the 2010 Broadway revival of the Jerry Herman-Harvey Fierstein musical La Cage aux Folles, which comes to Dallas Fair Park next year via the Dallas Summer Musicals, has added George Hamilton to the cast. Hamilton will play Georges, the owner of the drag nightclub where his cross-dressing partner, Albin, is the headliner.

Georges was originally played in the current revival by Kelsey Grammar; the part is currently played by Christopher Seiber.

Hamilton is best known for his impossible tan, as well as the movies Where the Boys Are, Love at First Bite and The Godfather Part III. He also appeared in Zorro, the Gay Blade, which as considered a stereotypical portrayal of a gay character, and was a contestant on Dancing with the Stars.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

New season of Lexus Broadway Series to include ‘Hair,’ ‘Les Miserables,’ ‘American Idiot’

Billy Joe Armstrong

Dallas is finally getting some excellent shows … and some familiar ones return … again.

The Lexus Broadway Series, which was launched with the opening of the Winspear Opera House in 2009 as a national tour series to compete with Dallas Summer Musicals, released its new season. It kicks off around Pride Weekend with the revival of Hair (which on Broadway starred Gavin Creel, the openly gay actor who performed at Black Tie Dinner last year). The sexually fluid show has been a staple for 40 years, but the revival was singled out for praise.

That’s followed in December with the return of Les Miserables, a terrific if bombastic mega-musical which nonetheless gets revived a bit too often. (The original 1987 Broadway production closed in 2003 … only to be revived on Broadway again in 2006.) I’m a fan, but even I’ve grown weary of it.

Then things get cookin’ — though we have to wait almost a year. Next March, Dallas finally gets In the Heights, a not-too-gay urban hip-hop musical with a Latin beat about Dominicans living in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. That’s where my family lived when I was a boy; the set of the show was actually the subway stop I used to get off at. The music is phenomenal. It won a lot of Tony Awards in 2008; when I saw it on Broadway, Rosie O’Donnell was sitting next to me.

In May, the music gets even edgier with American Idiot, the rock musical based on the music of the neo-punk band Green Day. Again, not an especially gay show, except that the group is very gay-friendly and frontman Billy Joe Armstrong likes to get naked a lot (pictured). Plus, Tommy Tune told me a few weeks ago it was one of his favorite new shows — an unlikely endorsement, which should intrigue musical enthusiasts.

The series ends with another old saw, Jersey Boys — again, a fun musical that has been around for a while about the founding of the Four Seasons.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Who’s Tommy?

TAP, DOG | Tommy Tune’s new act traces his legendary Broadway career — and it all began in Dallas.

Maybe you think you know gay  stage icon Tommy Tune, but even he’s still learning things about himself



Fair Park Music Hall, 901 First Ave. March 15–20. $20–$75.


When I get Tommy Tune  on the phone for the first time, I finally get to tell him about my three Tommy encounters: One was on Broadway when he appeared in My One and Only; one was in his one-man show Tommy Tune Tonight! at Fair Park Music Hall; but the first time was in the locker room of the Watergate Hotel where we were both staying. He was changing clothes after a swim. And I confess to him my 30-year secret: That I saw his naked ass.

“How’d it look?” he hoots with an excited cackle. “Great!” I tell him. “Well, you know dancers,” he says with a flirtatious laugh.
This dancer just turned 72 — a number that rather delights Tune: “If you add together 7 and 2, it equals nine. And nine has always been a lucky number for me.”

It has indeed. Tune directed and choreographed the original stage musical Nine, and has won an astonishing nine Tony Awards in four categories over his 50-year stage career — a career that launched, in several ways, here in North Texas.

“I began at the Dallas Summer Musicals,” says the Texas native, whose sister still lives in Fort Worth.“I got my Equity card there. John Rosenfield, who was the king of culture [in Dallas for decades], reviewed my first professional job in Redhead with Taina Elg. In the last paragraph of the review, he wrote: ‘We cannot let this report pass without mentioning Tommy Tune, who handles his incredible long form with grace control and power.’ That was the energy that sent me to New York. I had the courage after that. And I just linked that up.”

Where he links that up is in his new one-man showcase, Steps in Time, which opens Tuesday on the same stage where Tune got his start.

“Everything I do in Steps in Time is the truth,” says Tune. “I’ve done four acts and this one is the most personal and the purest and it works better than the others. It doesn’t have the glitz, but there’s depth.”

It’s also a work in progress. Tune has performed it about 100 times so far, but often in one- or two-night stands; he’ll be in Dallas a week, and the version includes new material he’s only recent added. It also has the added bonus of getting him back to his Texas roots.

“I still like to get my feet in the Texas mud, which is different than all other muds,” he says.

Tune kicks off his show with his arrival in New York on St. Patrick’s Day 1962. His beginnings were auspicious: He auditioned for a show and got the job on the spot. That led to dozens  more shows as an actor (Seesaw, which won him his first Tony), director and choreographer (Grand Hotel, Nine, The Will Rogers Follies). But he’s loathe to choose a favorite experience.

“I’m gonna have to answer the next one will be my favorite,” he says. “Every show I’ve done, I’m not satisfied with. But there is a sense of dissatisfaction that keeps you marching.”

Still, he coos about many of the talents he’s worked with over the years. Raul Julia “was a dream.” With Julia and Keith Carradine he recalls “not one bad moment. It’s so easy for an actor to give a director problems. Actors can be quite contrary. But these two guys worked for the good of the show.” And there was the great Vaudeville hoofer Charles ‘Honi’ Coles, whom Tune co-starred with in My One and Only and who “was the best dancer that I ever worked with. He taught me more than anybody. And when I worked with him he was 76, so he’s still got a few years on me.”

Tune recounts one joyful memory about appearing with Coles: They performed a number together — a charming soft-shoe — that on opening night led to a tumult of uncontrollable applause. It literally stopped the show.

“I was just gobsmacked,” he says. “I leaned over to Charles and said, ‘What should we do?’ He smiled up and said, ‘Let’s do it again.’ So I just broke the fourth wall like you don’t do and said, ‘Let’s take it again from the top of the dance.’ We did it! I just thought, ‘That’s opening night — everything’s up for grabs.’But we did over 1,000 performances together and we never failed to stop the show — it happened every night! It’s when that magic thing happens, when the audience takes control of the show, that you love like theater.”

Which is exactly what Tune didn’t enjoy about one aspect of his career: Making movies. Tune kicked off his film career with a prime role opposite Barbra Streisand in the Oscar-nominated adaptation of Hello, Dolly! but he quickly soured on Hollywood.

“I hated making movies,” he says. “My whole thing is about the audience connection. In movies, you are not performing for the crew but for a machine — the camera — or yourself. It was just so unfulfilling. You never get the joy of performing a number. After Hello, Dolly! they put me in a couple episodes of Nanny and the Professor but I was burning to be back on Broadway. I asked them, will you let me out of that deal? Off I went, and fast!”

And he’s still returning to it — as a performer, director and a patron. His favorite recent shows? Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and American Idiot.

“Those are my two favorites. And it worries me that neither has found their audience but both speak to now, but work through then. [The lead in Andrew Jackson] is so good, I saw it four times. It made me laugh so hard. Maybe it was a mistake that they moved it to Broadway, but it was better than the off-Broadway version. They really sharpened it. American Idiot is highlight. I was new to Green Day — I don’t usually do anything more contemporary than the ’50s — and they just knocked me out. I’m so grateful I’ve got to do this with my life. But we need to still be respectful of our fabulous invalid called the theater.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 11, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Dallas Summer Musicals announces 2011 season

The Dallas Summer Musicals’ big State Fair production will be the recent revival of West Side Story, complete with Spanish-language rewrites, as well as a few other revivals, returns … and one new show.

The season kicks off with gay Texan Tommy Tune, the biggest Tony winner of all time. in Tommy Tune Steps in Time with the Manhattan Rhythm Kings. for a one-week run beginning March 15. That will be followed by the return of another dance show, Burn the Floor, for two weeks in April.

The official summer season begins May 18 with the recent Dolly Parton musical of 9 to 5, followed by the returns of Stomp and Monty Python’s Spamalot in June and Guys and Dolls in July.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones