Best bets • 11.25.11

Saturday 11.26

Raise your paws up
Dogs and furniture sometimes don’t mix, but they do at Art is Art. The consignment shop teams up with Paws in the City for a pet adoption event that can also help with your holiday shopping. The consignment shop will donate 10 percent of sales of its local art, modern furniture, jewelry, candles and more to help out Paws’ cause. And the dogs will be quite thankful for your help.

DEETS: Art is Art, 2811 N. Henderson Ave. 11 a.m. PawsInTheCity.org.

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Saturday 11.26

Partying down with St. Nick
WaterTower Theatre brings back it’s holiday spectacular Rockin’ Christmas Party with a whole lot of shakin’ going on. Sure we love our dramatic, slow carols, but WaterTower spikes up the eggnog with this fun show of rock and soul. With the talents of Gary Floyd, Amy Stevenson, Marcus Lloyd and more, we’ll figure on being well into the holiday spirit.

DEETS: Addison Theatre Centre, 15650 Addison Road. Through Dec. 18. $30–$40. WaterTowerTheatre.org.

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Thursday 12.01

Wreaths on the runway
DIFFA knows how to turn the volume up on the mundane. We know what they can do for denim jackets. Now holiday wreaths go designer at Turn Up the Cheer!, the 2011 Wreath Collection party. Trust, these aren’t your grandma’s wreaths.

DEETS: Design Within Reach, 4524 McKinney Ave.; Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, 4519 McKinney Ave.; Nest, 4524 McKinney Ave.7 p.m. $60. DIFFADallas.org/events.

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

—  Michael Stephens

Best bets • 09.30.11

Friday 09.30

You had us at ‘howdy,’ Big Tex
When the Food Choice Awards rolled out fried bubblegum as the Most Creative winner, we weren’t immediately on board. Yes, we know it’s a marshmallow that tastes like gum, but do we get to stick it under our ferris wheel seat when we’re done? Sure, we’ll try it, but the Best Taste winner Buffalo chicken in a flapjack rings like heaven in our ears. Welcome back, State Fair.

DEETS: Fair Park, 1121 First Ave. Through Oct. 23. $13.95. BigTex.com.

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Saturday 10.01

Don’t strain your brain
Although the band hit it big in the early ’80s, Blondie’s hits never sound dated. Instead they sound cool and classic, much like singer Debbie Harry herself. But the band’s not too shabby either. See the band in the flesh as they bring back the new wave to Dallas.

DEETS: With Nico Vega. Granada Theater, 3524 Greenville Ave. 8 p.m. $60. GranadaTheater.com

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Tuesday 10.04

Yes, you feel pretty, witty and gay
Face it, it’s the one go-to line for queens of all ages, but West Side Story is much more than that cliche. It’s heart and angst rolled into a love story and a rumble. Which means, don’t miss it.

DEETS:  Music Hall, 909 First Ave. Through Oct. 23. $20–$90. DallasSummerMusicals.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 30, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Best bets • 06.10.11

Saturday 06.11

These weiners don’t tweet
We’re not sure what culinary masters would think of this pairing, but Weenies & Martinis sounds just fine to us. The Lone Star Ride fundraiser features a weiner roast (jokes welcome), s’mores and all the ingredients for a grown-up campfire. The best part is that 100 percent of the proceeds go to LSR Fighting AIDS.

DEETS: Jack’s Backyard, 2303 Pittman St. 7:30 p.m. $20. Search the event on Facebook.com

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Sunday 06.12

Next comes the senior discount
Likely your funny bone has been tickled by Paul J. Williams at one point or another. So pay him back with birthday greetings at his 50 and Fabulous gathering in the upstairs bar. He’ll appreciate your presence far more than the subscription to AARP that will be in his mailbox soon.

DEETS: JR.’s Bar & Grill, 3923 Cedar Springs Road. 9 p.m. PaulJWilliams.com

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Tuesday 06.14

The Holy Grail comes to town
Seriously, our email inboxes should be called Spamalot, but those Monty Python people took it before we could. King Arthur’s quest never came across as all that funny until now in this musical version of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

DEETS: Music Hall at Fair Park, 909 First Ave. 8 p.m. Through June 26. $15–$70. DallasSummerMusicals.org

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 10, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Lord, have mercy

David Vaughn got on his knees to nab a primo role in ‘Shrek’

STEVEN LINDSEY  | Contributing Writer stevencraiglindsey@me.com

Shrek the Musical
MINI ME | One of the comic highlights of ‘Shrek the Musical’ is the diminutive villain Lord Farquaad, played by recent tour addition David Vaughn.

SHREK THE MUSICAL
Fair Park Music Hall, 909 First Ave. Sept. 28–Oct. 17. Evenings 8 p.m., matinees at 2 p.m. 214-631-2787.
DallasSummerMusicals.org.

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The most evil villains ever created are typically compensating for one shortcoming or another. For Shrek the Musical’s Lord Farquaad, the diminutive tyrant’s inadequacies are quite literal: His tiny legs are about as spindly as a sock monkey’s.
But for David F.M. Vaughn, it’s one of the greatest roles he’s ever played. And in Shrek alone, he’s played more than his fair share.

“I was a swing in the original Broadway company, so I understudied 19 different tracks in the show. It was a lot of work. I had to be able to go on in any role at any second. But I also understudied Lord Farquaad, which is the role I play now. It’s a new look at a show I’ve been playing for over two years,” he says.

Performing on Broadway is wonderful, according to Vaughn, but touring also has its perks.

“You get to kind of explore each of these great cities. You also get to perform as an actor for different audiences. They vary greatly by region. It’s fun to see which audiences like what, play that up and adjust the show for each audience,” he says. “Plus, there’s something to be said about having your room cleaned every day. Fresh towels, clean sheets … you really can’t beat that.”

This will be the actor’s first visit to Dallas and he’s excited to have family members in the audience, but almost equally thrilled to be performing at the State Fair of Texas.

“I live in New Jersey and I love, love, love the State Fair. The fried awfulness, the people watching. The touring company is so excited to go explore.”

Eating his way around Fair Park and seeing all the attractions will be a welcome break from the demanding schedule and an even more difficult role.

“The biggest challenge is the obvious physicality of playing an entire show on my knees. Not just performing it, but making it realistic and funny and making the whole joke work,” Vaughn says. “There’s also a section where I have a puppeteer controlling my legs for me. I have to trust that he will do what he was choreographed to do and I will do what I’m choreographed to do.”

Once on Broadway, in a different Shrek role, things didn’t work out so well. There’s proof in a backstage photo on his website where he can be seen sitting with an ice pack on his ankle and a tissue up his nose to stop the bleeding. Harrowing stuff.

“The set was so big and so complicated. There were so many lifts and turntables and flying things. It was very dangerous.

We’re all very safe, but anything can happen. And unfortunately, that’s one of those things that happened. I had to run really fast around the corner and one of the guys who runs props forgot that I was there and he slammed his forehead right into my nose. We were both knocked over.”

The touring set is just as complex, even if it is scaled back to accommodate various stage setups.

“It looks just as full and lush, even sometimes more saturated and colorful than I remember it. The show’s completely reconceived not only as a tour, but as a new production. They trimmed it and added stuff,” he says, “but the story’s more focused.”

The new dragon puppet is better than the one on Broadway. “Finally, DreamWorks’ commitment to getting it right paid off and they figured it out. Now it’s a full dragon from head to tail. His wings flap, it’s just wonderful. I can’t wait for you to see it.”

Everyone who’s seen the show or performed in the show seems to agree that gay audiences love the “Freak Flag” number, and Vaughn is no different.

“All the fairy tale creatures have been shunned and forced from their home because Lord Farquaad says they’re freaks.

They’re not like everyone else and everyone should be perfection and all the same. But the pigs are fat, and the wolf is hairy, and Pinocchio is not a real boy,” he says. “They all question themselves until Gingy, the gingerbread man, sets them straight and kind of says what makes us special makes us strong. It’s kind of an anthem of individuality and community and strength and celebrating differences, but using this platform they all gather together and nothing can stop them.”

“It’s that same old story,” Vaughn continues. “We may have been ashamed of ourselves because we were gay, until we finally banded together and realized that we’re awesome and we can do anything together. And, oh, there’s power in that. This number is almost like a Pride parade on stage.”

And if that’s not enough, he quickly jumps back in and exclaims, “We have a transsexual wolf in the show, too!”

Now you’re talking.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 24, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

‘Dream’ on

A true Broadway opera, the national tour of ‘Dreamgirls’ rocks

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES | Life+Style Editor jones@dallasvoice.com

The Dreamettes
AND I’M TELLING YOU, I’M GOING | The Dreamettes climb the pop charts on the back of a former member in the Supremes fantasy ‘Dreamgirls.’

DREAMGIRLS
Fair Park Music Hall, 909 First Ave. Through July 18. $30–$85. DallasSummerMusicals.org.
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It’s odd that when we talk about modern opera, no one ever mentions Dreamgirls, the 1981 musical that fictionalizes the emergence of Motown. It’s got all the elements of genuine opera: Bigger than life and deeply flawed characters, extreme highs and lows, important themes and soaring music. It’s tragedy with a happy ending and a funky, constant R&B soundtrack.

Of course, the gays have always known that Dreamgirls had the cred; the Act 1 closing number “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” has been a drag anthem almost since the original production made Jennifer Holliday a star. But the show, like opera itself, can be problematic: The leading character, powerhouse plus-size singer Effie (Moya Angela), is passed over in favor of the sweet-voiced, prettier Deena (Syesha Mercado). But Effie is also a pill and a prima donna — is it all about talent or does attitude matter?

The touring show at Fair Park Music Hall doesn’t do much to illuminate these complexities, but this non-Equity production benefits immensely from Angela, some fabulous costumes and a minimal set punctuated by a giant Jumbotron of a video wall that adds a sense of contemporary flashiness.

Even all those positives are outshone, though, by Chester Gregory. As Jimmy Thunder Early — a high-energy mélange of James Brown and Little Richard — Gregory is smooth and predatory, and he’s got the moves and the voice to electrify an audience. The show is his.

Too bad Chaz Lamar Shepard as Curtis barely registers. He’s sleazy as the Berry Gordy like manipulator, but there’s no personality. Mercado also falters. The title song needs to establish the new Dreams as a potent girl group, but on press night, Mercado sounded like she was at 50 percent. Still, former America Idol star gets top billing. It’s as if talent doesn’t matter as much as surface appearance.
Sounds familiar.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 9, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Best Bets • 06.25.10

Saturday 06.26

An apple-tini for Fido, please
The Dallas Association of Style Houses (DASH) is lending a helping hand to the Dallas Humane Society with Canines and Cocktails. Sip a cosmo and perhaps pet a dog by the same name. Just don’t slip some vermouth into the water bowl, no matter how much that dog may whine. He may be trying to kick a bad habit.

DEETS: Studios 1019, 2278 Monitor St. 8 p.m. $70–$100. Dash-Dallas.org.

Saturday 06.26

When he blows, it’s oh so nice
Dave Koz has a big horn. Look at it — that’s one long instrument, and he blows it himself to the delight of many. To top it off, it appears he’s into a good threesome. The Koz comes back to town and this time he brings fellow jazz man Jonathan Butler and former Prince protege Sheila E. Nice.

DEETS: House of Blues, 2200 N. Lamar St. 8 p.m. $29–$75. HouseofBlues.com.

Wednesday 06.30

Don’t lie — you know all the words
American Idol alum Sayesha Mercado takes her stab at Dreamgirls as Deena, but of course, everyone will wait for Moya Angela’s Effie to sing a particular centerpiece song.

DEETS: Music Hall at Fair Park, 909 First Ave. Through July 18. $30–$85. DallasSummerMusicals.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 25, 2010.

—  admin