Finding George

WITHOUT BATON AN EYE | Film composer George Fenton is best known for his Oscar-nominated work on ‘Gandhi.’ He joins to DSO this weekend.

Oscar-nominated composer George Fenton gets Dallas ready for the ‘Gay Super Bowl’

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

You might never think that a grand epic movie like Gandhi would have anything in common with the Kate Hudson rom-com Fool’s Gold. Dangerous Liaisons and Hitch? But from drama to comedy, the baton of Oscar-nominated film composer George Fenton has touched those films and many varied others. He’s definitely the versatile type.

“As a composer, you always project yourself into what meager little project you’re working on into a higher echelon,” Fenton says with a laugh.

This weekend, Fenton performs with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra for the Masters of Film Music concert, which features a selection of scores he has composed for films throughout the years. But after years of creating music and getting sizeable acclaim for it, he hints at some slight insecurity. The British composer is really just concerned if the audience is going to have a good time. Or he’s just a very humble guy.

“What I’ve tried to do is make a program that works sort of as a variety show,” he says. “I hope it makes a good evening. You never can quite tell what the dynamic of evening will be.”

Fenton has been nominated for five Oscars since 1983, for his original scores to Gandhi, Cry Freedom, Dangerous Liaisons and The Fisher King, as well as original song for Cry Freedom. With such illustrious cred, he’d likely have an opinion on this year’s crop of music nominees going into this weekend’s Gay Super Bowl, aka the Oscar ceremony. Maybe. But he’s not sharing.

“I’m not going to predict who wins. They are all worthy,” he says diplomatically. Fenton is more excited about the direction film scores are going. From the innovative modern tone of The Social Network to A.R. Rahman’s follow-up nomination for 127 Hours from his prior win for Slumdog Millionaire, Fenton sounds refreshed by “new” composers and basically those with balls to do something different.

“There hasn’t been enough courage to just take a shot at something different so I welcome this approach to movie music,” he says. “One of the great problems faced by people writing movie music is being employed to write to such a large expectation. Scores have generally been slightly stark for a while.”

In addition to the music performed with the DSO, film director Andy Tennant will provide guest narration. Known mostly for romantic comedies, Tennant has collaborated with Fenton on five movies, including Hitch, Fool’s Gold and Sweet Home Alabama. Fenton knows the films are “quite light,” but he figured on one thing.

“Well, since I asked him to come down and introduce things, I thought I’d better include some music from his films,” he laughs. “So I’ll likely have some music from Ever After and Anna and the King along with other films like Liaisons and Stage Beauty.”

He’ll also be introducing a new work for the show that strays away from the world of film. Fenton scored the popular mini-series Planet Earth and Blue Planet and in similar fashion, he’ll be playing parts from his latest work, “From a Disappearing World” inspired by the Arctic. Thinking it was from a newfound fascination with the nature work he had been doing, the four-part piece was merely representative of a trip he took there. Either that, or he was just figuring what to write for this performance.

“I was asked to write something for this show but I was like what kind of piece do I write?” he says.

He either underestimates himself or delivers that cheeky humor as only a Brit can do.

“When I came away from the trip, I thought I could write about its aspects so it’s four sketches that convey what it actually is,” he says. “I can’t imagine why I would do that.”

Since he wouldn’t predict which music Oscar nominee would win, he did deliberate on which of his nominations he should have won for.

“Well, in my humble opinion, all of them.”

Cheeky.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 25, 2011.

—  John Wright

Spend ‘An Evening With Judy Garland’ tonight in Irving — or Liza in Dallas

Scheduling conflict for days

All right Friends of Dorothy, Liza performs her last show tonight at the Dallas Symphony Orchestra at the Meyerson, but before you head out, did you know about this show? While Liza’s “New York”-ing it in Dallas, the Irving Symphony Orchestra presents “An Evening with Judy Garland” with guest conductor and former Liza musical director Michael Berkowitz. Maybe this will help you decide. Either way, you’ll catch a true diva in action. Tony Award winner Debbie Gravitte takes on Judy in her show, so any decision you make is a win-win.

DEETS: Liza Minnelli with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Meyerson Symphony Center, 2301 Flora St. 8 p.m. $45–$122. DallasSymphony.com. An Evening With Judy Garland at the Irving Arts Center, 3333 N. MacArthur Blvd., Irving. Oct 9 at 8 pm. $19–$54. IrvingArtsCenter.com.

—  Rich Lopez

SHOW VS. SHOW • Mother & child reunion

On the same weekend, Dallas gets Liza Minnelli at the DSO and Debbie Gravitte in a Judy Garland  tribute

Call it serendipity, but when Liza Minnelli stops by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra the same weekend as Irving Arts Center’s tribute to Judy Garland, we have to shed a tear. In a very special installment of Show vs. Show, we couldn’t resist pitting “mother” against daughter.

Minnelli is an icon in so many ways. Whether she’s a movie legend based on her Oscar-winning star turn as Sally Bowles in 1972’s Cabaret or as a drag queen go-to with that signature short hair and adorable warbly voice, Minnelli is literally the stuff of legends — hardly the case with many of today’s stars.

But she’s also Liza. As in the woman who keeps marrying the non-marrying kind (translation: gay) or the lady who always seems a bit on the nutty end of the ice cream bar, We wonder, “What is up with her?” And we love her just for that.

An Evening With Judy Garland showcases Debbie Gravitte singing signature Garland tunes on the anniversary of Judy’s famous Carnegie Hall show. Don’t expect a Rufus Wainwright type recreation: Gravitte and music director Michael Berkowitz inject their own personalties into the show (see sidebar).

Will Liza’s legendary status trump the weekend, or will Gravitte knock this show out of the park? Choices, choices…

………………….

LizaLiza

…. is a true diva with an Oscar, Tony and an Emmy to her name.

…. married some friends of Dorothy.

…. embarrassingly performed Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” on the Sex and the City 2 soundtrack — which we hope she doesn’t do at this show.

…. was on Larry King recently, expressing sympathy and empathy for Lindsay Lohan’s drug use and alcoholism.

…. had her solo Broadway show, Liza’s At the Palace…!, replacing the musical Legally Blonde.

…. had a small comeback in 1989 by going in a  different musical direction with her album Results, produced by the Pet Shop Boys.

…. hocked her velvet jumpsuits on Home Shopping Network.

…. has embraced her gay icon status, even performing at Pride in Paris last  year.

…. performs with Dallas Symphony Orchestra at the Meyerson Symphony Center, 2301 Flora St. Oct 8 and 9 at 8 p.m. $45–$122. DallasSymphony.com.

……………………………..

Judy (aka Debbie)Judy (aka Debbie)

…. got a miniature Oscar for her role as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz — ouch. (Gravitte has her own Tony, though, for Jerome Robbins’ Broadway).

…. Was Dorothy. And she married some friends of Dorothy. Apparently a genetic trait.

…. embarrassingly messed up some of the words in her famous Carnegie Hall appearance. Still, “Single Ladies” trumps that.

…. was the Lindsay Lohan of her day. Minus the paparazzi.

…. had her Carnegie show recreated detail for detail by gay singer Rufus Wainwright.

…. had several comebacks including Oscar-nominated performances in A Star is Born and Judgment at Nuremberg

…. had a better idea with that red velvet gown from Meet Me in St. Louis.

…. embraced gay men as husbands but responded to a reporter about her iconic status, “I couldn’t care less. I sing to people.”  Umm, we guess that’s cool.

…. isn’t portrayed by Debbie Gravitte as much as she is celebrated, which Gravitte discusses further below.

— Rich Lopez

……………………………..

Recreating a legend

Michael BerkowitzDebbie Gravitte just found out that her show where she performs Judy Garland songs is the same weekend Liza Minnelli comes to Dallas. The scheduling conflict for friends of Dorothy could have massive repercussions, but it is an easy (and obvious fix).

“There is a perfect way to work it out,” Gravitte says. “See her on Friday and see me on Saturday.”

Gravitte teams up with former Minnelli music director Michael Berkowitz, pictured, for An Evening With Judy Garland at the Irving Arts Center Saturday. The solo show commemorates Garland’s iconic Carnegie Hall concert exactly 50 years ago. But Gravitte assures that she is not doing a Judy impersonation.

“This is a tribute, a celebration of this one incredible night of her life,” she says. “I don’t look anything like her and maybe I sound like her a tiny bit, but it’s not like we are recreating Judy. We want to channel that joyful part of her instead of recalling the tragic.”

With a full orchestra behind her, Gravitte would even venture to say this is more of a concert than a show; Berkowitz agrees. His closeness to Garland’s material is far beyond just his work with Minnelli.

“I was always a fan. I was a friend of Bill LaVorgna, Liza’s drummer before me. Bill and I knew each other for 40 years. I first heard his playing on the Garland Carnegie Hall recording. That alone was worth it to me.”

As for the dueling shows, Berkowitz thinks anyone who gets out to either comes out ahead.

“I didn’t know Liza May was in town this weekend as well,” he says. “It’s going to be a double header of great music and entertainment.”

Gravitte knows the gays are gonna hold her to task, but she’s not daunted. In fact, she even challenges her audience a bit.

“I welcome everyone to come dressed in their best Judy,” she says. “We are gonna do a sing along and I want people to sing every fucking line!”

— Rich Lopez

Irving Arts Center, 3333 N. MacArthur
Blvd., Irving. Oct 9 at 8 p.m. $19–$54.
IrvingArtsCenter.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 8, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Best Bets • 08.27.10

Saturday 08.28

We’d go for the food and the beef

This has caused quite a dilemma. If we were going to Visions: The Women’s Expo this weekend, we’d want to nosh on Fort Worth chef Scott Jones’ culinary demonstrations, but there is no way in hell we’d miss the Hot Firefighters Auction. Along with fashion shows, style makeovers and exhibitors, we are learning one thing — it’s hard to be a woman.

DEETS: Dallas Market Hall, 2200 N. Stemmons Freeway. Through Sunday. $10. VisionsExpo.com.


Saturday 08.28

Marvin’s room is gonna be a big one

Composer Marvin Hamlisch may acheive gay icon status because of his work with Barbra Streisand (an Oscar for “The Way We Were,” yo), but he doesn’t need a diva to prove he’s amazing. He’s gonna give it up for Dallas George Gershwin style as part of the pops series of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Which means, you’ll witness a legend at his best.

DEETS: Meyerson Symphony Center, 2301 Flora St. 8 p.m. $22–117. DallasSymphony.org.


Sunday 08.29

We get it — comics aren’t just for kids

A weekend of adults dressed in sci-fi outfits may be daunting but two things make this Dallas Comic Con worthwhile. Battlestar Galactica’s Edward James Olmos appears and Dallas’ own The Variants (aka Zeus Comics) make an showing.

DEETS: Richardson Civic Center, 411 W. Arapaho Road. Noon. $10–$20. SciFiExpo.com/DCC.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 27, 2010.

—  Rich Lopez

Applause • Rainbow connection

Jose Reyes, chair of the DSO’s gala,makes a musical outreach to the gay community

Jose Reyes
As chair of the DSO’s gala after party, Jose Reyes sees this as the perfect opportunity to reach out to the gay community.

When the Dallas Symphony Orchestra people began planning their season kickoff gala and after-party, longtime volunteer Jose Reyes had an a-ha moment: An ultra-lush soiree of society’s finest that wasn’t being pushed to the LGBT community? It didn’t make sense.

When he chimed in that this should be a direction to consider, the DSO went him one better.

“They asked me if I wanted to chair the event,” Reyes says. “I said absolutely!”

This brought to light a bigger notion to Reyes prompting, him to root out the connection between Dallas’ premium philharmonic and the gay community. As a 20-year DSO supporter and a member of the gay community, the answer was really in front of him the whole time, and obvious to all Dallas gay … whether they realized it or not.

“The Easter concert at Lee Park targets us,” he says. “The DSO is keenly aware that the audience that day isn’t just Mr. and Mrs. Jones, it’s also Mr. and Mr. Jones and that is perfectly fine with them.”

The annual event is right there among gay events with the Pride Parade and the Halloween block party in terms of visibility. With that, Reyes witnesses the DSO’s support of the community upfront and now wants to turn that around. He knows there’s a strong connection that needs to be realized.

“It’s no secret the gay community is a huge supporter of the arts. We’re the tastemakers aren’t we?” he says. “That concert may be free to you and me, but it’s very expensive to put on so I feel it’s important we support them back.”

Reyes figures this gala will do just that, because gays love a good party. This year, they gala — a fundraiser for education and programs by the DSO — will be a huge, saucy affair (see sidebar).

“The gala concert with pianist Jeffrey Kahane and the after party experience is going to be fabulous and the only ticket in town. The Meyerson lobby will be completely transformed into a romantic 18th century European garden in the time of Beethoven.”

He thinks with a direct push to the community, it will respond. Sometimes all that’s needed, according to Reyes, is an invitation. He assures this is the one to get.

“The gays are gonna love it,” he assures. “And the DSO loves its gays.”

— Rich Lopez

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 27, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Applause • That’s so gay

Queer connections infiltrate lots of the upcoming season of arts

Tony Award-winning gay baritone Paulo Szot
Tony Award-winning gay baritone Paulo Szot, above, is a coup for the Dallas Opera; Pink Martini, below, gets the Meyerson jumping as the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s guest next week.

When you have a gay theater company (as Dallas does in Uptown Players) and another troupe dedicated to bringing Broadway musicals to town (as Dallas Summer Musicals does), you can be pretty confident in finding gay appeal in the lively arts.

But cast your gaze — and your gays — outside the usual focus, and there a lot more to discover across the arts in North Texas this season.

Chief among the highlights: The Dallas Opera’s coup in snagging dreamy gay baritone Paulo Szot, who won a much-deserved Tony for the revival of South Pacific, in the title role in Mozart’s Don Giovanni (Oct. 22). Director Stephen Lawless returns to helm Anna Bolena (Oct. 29). DallasOpera.org.

Of course, Uptown Players and DSM are getting into the action with their upcoming shows as well. UP’s final production of their 2010 season is the American premiere of Closer to Heaven, written to the songs of the Pet Shop Boys. The musical drama opens Oct. 1 at the Kalita Humphreys Theater. The group will announce its 2011 season on Tuesday. UptownPlayers.org. And DSM’s national tour of Shrek is the State Fair Musical this year, opening Sept. 28. DallasSummerMusicals.org.

Next week, Theatre Three produces the local premiere of Songs from an Unmade Bed, a song cycle about a gay man working his way through a relationship. In previews from Sept. 3 in the Theatre Too space. Also in Theatre Too: Bruce R. Coleman’s latest play, the puppet show Tales from Mount Olympus, and spring welcomes Why Torture Is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them by Christopher Durang. Next up on the main stage is Laramie Project creator Moises Kaufman’s 33 Variations, followed in December by the local premiere of The Drowsy Chaperone. Theatre3Dallas.com.

Contemporary Theatre of Dallas continues its presentation of Ed Graczyk’s world premiere Texas-set comedy-drama with a gay twist, Blue Moon Dancing, which runs through Sept. 12. Its 2010–11 season kicks off in October, and includes plays directed by Rene Moreno (The Trip to Bountiful) and Michael Serrecchia (Cheaters), plus a play by gay playwright Alan Ball (Five Women Wearing the Same Dress). ContemporaryTheatreofDallas.com.

The Dallas Theater Center launches its new season next month with the company’s gay artistic director Kevin Moriarty’s adaptation of Henry IV (opens Sept. 11).  The season ends with the musicals Cabaret and The Wiz. DallasTheaterCenter.org.

WaterTower Theatre begins its season with its artistic director, Terry Martin, directing and starring in Our Town (previewing on Sept. 24), and closes the season with Howard Ashman’s camptastic Little Shop of Horrors in July. WaterTowerTheatre.org.

Pink Martini
Pink Martini

Bass Hall brings in Spring Awakening on Nov. 9–10, followed by Mamma Mia, A Chorus Line, Beauty and the Beast and 9 to 5 later in the season. BassHall.org. In Dallas, the Lexus Broadway Series includes Young Frankenstein (Jan. 4) and Billy Elliot (June 8), while TITAS starts with MOMIX (Sept. 10) and the return of Complexions Contemporary Ballet (May 11). ATTPAC.org. The Dallas Black Dance Theatre stages a dance by local legend Bruce Wood in the spring as well (see story Page S6).

It’s not just opera and theater that goes gay, either: The Dallas Symphony Orchestra welcomes queer-led bank Pink Martini on Sept. 3, and The Music of Michael Jackson starts Sept. 1. DallasSymphony.org.

Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 27, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Kathy Griffin comes to Dallas in January

This just in. I heard our favorite D-lister, Kathy Griffin, is coming to the Meyerson January 2 and 3. Thankfully, I confirmed it on the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s Facebook. Whew!

Tickets go on sale Friday at 9 a.m.

—  Rich Lopez