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

Stage reviews: A week of theater

Photo Credit - Andy Jones & Paige Faure in the National Tour of Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella. Photo © Carol Rosegg

‘Cinderella’ at Fair Park.

Seven days. Eight plays. It’s insane, I know. But when you have a surfeit of theater as North Texas does this summer — and there’s more to come, with Lyric Stage opening South Pacific Friday and Uptown Players premiering the regional debut of The Nance a week after, plus the upcoming Festival of Independent Theatres and national touring shows — you don’t complain … especially when what’s out there is so consistently good right now. Here, then, is my rundown of what to see this month. Good luck squeezing it all in, but you really can’t go wrong.

Dallas Solo Festival. The most concentrated collection of theater right now is at Fair Park, where the second annual Dallas Solo Festival — a fortnight of one-performer shows produced by Audacity Theatre Lab — is settling in for its second weekend at the Margo Jones Theater. A total of eight plays — three of which ran only one weekend — premiere here. The best of them is Mo[u]rnin’. After by Brigham Mosley. A memory piece about Mosley’s upbringing in rural Oklahoma where being a gay kid was nearly impossible, and his complex relationship with his grandfather (a man’s man whose death devastated Mosley), Mo[u]rnin’ incorporates a love of musical theater and glitter with a boundless energy that is both thrilling and exhausting to watch — Mosley really puts the “buoyant” in “flamboyant” … and the “flame” as well. (I’d never seen a man who could talk over himself until this.) It’s the must-see show of the fest. (Performs again tonight at 10:30 p.m. and Saturday at 9 p.m.)

Van Quattro tells a vastly different but no less introspective tale with Standing Eight Count, which recounts his stint, 40 years ago, as an up-and-coming professional boxer. (He was good, but didn’t have the heart to be a champion — the killer instinct. That’s a boon for theatergoers if not sports addicts.) Quattro’s life was a hard one, filled with juvie and drugs and family violence until a sunny, devoted gym manager got him on a path with promise. Boxing is known as “the sweet science,” and Quattro’s language has a hard-edged poetry to it that mirrors the grace and brutality of the best boxing matches. He might not have made it as a boxer, but Standing Eight Count packs a punch. (Performs again Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 5 p.m.)

The final recurrent show with a personal history theme is Jeff Swearingen’s An American Asshole in France, in which the local theater impresario relates a disastrous visit to the south of France that defined the term “ugly American.” Swearingen admits in the opening that he’s uncomfortable addressing audiences as himself without the mask of a character to hide behind; that nervousness was apparent in the rambling storytelling that didn’t let the show hold up to its provocative title. (Apparently he was an asshole, but he’s never clear why.) The performance needs structure and editing and a strong through-line, but if anyone can hone it into something worthwhile, it’s Swearingen. (Performs again Friday at 103:30 p.m.)

(Two other shows — ’33: A kabarett and Lord of the Flies — premiere tonight and continue through Sunday.)

Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella. Across the parking lot from the Margo Jones, in the Fair Park Music Hall, is a show whose costume budget alone probably exceeds the production cost of everything at the Solo Fest. Cinderella is the new Broadway updating of the R&H made-for-TV classic (remade several times, including once with Whitney Houston), but it’s unlike anything you’ve seen before. That’s because Douglas Carter Beane has brought his queerly snarky sensibility to the fairy tale (which moviegoers have seen imagined twice in the last six months, with Into the Woods and Disney’s Cinderella), giving it a modern, campy humor the skewers contemporary society (digs at one percenters, throwing shade and musical comedy stereotypes). Paige Faure and Andy Huntington Jones make a beautiful couple and sing the famous songs (“In My Own Little Corner,” “Impossible,” “Ten Minutes Ago”) liltingly. But the true stars of this production are William Ivey Long’s Tony Award-winning costumes, which magically transform before your eyes from rags to gowns. It’s stage magic that everyone from kid to grandparent can enjoy.

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‘Vanya’ at Stage West

Old Time Music Hall. There’s a different kind of Music Hall up in Plano, as Theatre Britain revives its annual tribute to the English version of Vaudeville, a series of musical numbers, dances, corny jokes and gently ribald humor. It breezes by in under two hours with sing-alongs and laughs, a diverting, family-friendly exercise in Anglophilia.

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. It was just a year ago that Uptown Players produced the regional premiere of this Tony-winning comedy from Christopher Durang, but the production in Fort Worth at Stage West — which features an all new cast save Wendy Welch as Sonia — feels just as fresh, and offers new insights, as well. The plot — culled sometimes subtly and sometimes not from the essence of Chekhov’s country-living slice-of-life dramas — pits the tensions between three middle-aged siblings (Welch, Steven Pounders, Shannon J. McGrann) whose lives have taken different paths and whose idylls are interrupted when Masha brings her 20something boy-toy Spike (Haulston Mann, ripped as a all get-out) to the family manse for a weekend. Durang’s richly detailed plot contains lovely phrases (“He’s so attractive — except for his personality, of course,” one character observes about Spike) delivered by a great set of actors (especially McGrann, who looks like Nigella Lawson and eats up the stage as a self-obsessed fading movie star). There are new insights to be learned, even if you saw it last year.

Precious Little. Echo Theatre returns to the Bath House Cultural Center for the second time with a Gay Pride Month presentation, the extraordinary drama Precious Little (by lesbian playwright Madeleine George). At first, it appears to be a series of unrelated set-pieces: A gorilla (Lisa Fairchild) in a zoo is being gawked at by annoying teenagers; a prickly lesbian linguist (Sherry Jo Ward) visits a fertility counselor (Molly Welch) for an amniocentesis to test for abnormalities with her late-in-life pregnancy; the same linguist carries on an affair with her teaching assistant (Welch again) and records an elderly European woman (Fairchild again) who speaks a nearly extinct language. Ultimately, what all the scenes have in common is a sense for how we communicate … and how we don’t. Levels of cognition — from mental retardation to dementia to language barriers to primate “vocabularies” — may seen an unlikely subject for theater, but here they all converge in a heartbreaking and humane way, driven by Ward’s arresting performance.

Manicures & Monuments. They don’t make many plays like this one anymore, but Texas seems to do them better than most. Local playwright Vicki Caroline Cheatwood wrote this seldom-revived play — about a manicurist who works in a retirement home, and the developments in their lives over the course of two years or so — in a tone that echoes Dallas playwright Preston Jones’ Texas Trilogy. (It also recalls shows like Same Time, Next Year and The Gin Game.) WaterTower Theatre‘s production seems oddly oversized for the subject matter (the stage is massive, though the vibe is intimate), and oddly, no manicures are every performed in the course of the show (pedicures only, people!), but Cheatwood’s observations about ageing, death, elder abuse and the ruts most people live their lives on are universal.

—  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

DSM, Bass theater series announced

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Broadway’s ‘Kinky Boots’ will play in Dallas and Fort Worth in 2015

Dallas Summer Musicals (which performs at Music Hall in Fair Park) and Performing Arts Fort Worth (which performs at Bass Hall) announced their upcoming 2014-15 series last night, and there are some hits in the mix.

DSM’s current season ends, for the first time in decades, before the State Fair, and will pick up again in time for the holidays with last season’s Broadway musical stage adaptation of A Christmas Story, co-written by gay composer/lyricist Benj Pasek (Dec. 2–14). The season picks up in 2015 with the North Texas premiere of the transgender smash Kinky Boots (Feb. 24–March 8, 2015), which DSM’s Michael Jenkins co-produced on Broadway. That will be followed by The King and I (March 20–April 5), then a magic show called The Illusionists (April 7–19).

The “summer” in Dallas Summer Musicals arrives in June with a quick succession of three shows. First will be the still-running hit Rodgers+Hammerstein’s Cinderella (June 9–21), which has a new book written by gay scribe Douglas Carter Beane. It is immediately followed by a stage version of Dirty Dancing (June 23–July 5), and finally the Tony Award-winning revival of Pippin (July 7–19).

Performing Arts Fort Worth will welcome some of these shows, as well. Cinderella will move straight from Dallas to Bass Hall (June 23–28, 2015); Dirty Dancing will do the same (July 7–12) as will Pippin (July 21–26). You can also see Kinky Boots in Cowtown if you miss it in Dallas, though you’ll have to wait until the fall (Oct. 27–Nov. 1).

Before that, PAFW begins the holiday season early, with Elf (Nov. 18–23, 2014), followed by Beauty and the Beast (Jan. 14–18, 2015), the eight-time Tony-winner Once (Feb. 18–22) and Chicago (April 3–4).

You can learn more about season tickets here and here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Dallas Summer Musicals announces uber-gay 2014 season

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Joe DiPietro is back in Dallas with ‘Nice Work If You Can Get It.’

Dallas Summer Musicals announced its 2014 season at an event Tuesday night, showcasing a larger eight-show mainstage season, as well as two special events. And boy! Is it ever a gay season.

The series kicks off, as already announced, with the holiday show Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, Dec. 17–29. That will be followed in the new year by Ghost: The Musical (Jan. 28–Feb. 9). Then the gay heats up.

Next up is The Little Mermaid, written by gay Dallas native Doug Wright (Feb. 13–March 2); We Will Rock Youa London hit featuring the music of glamrock band Queen (March 4–16); the return of the Friends of Dorothy — not in Wicked, but in The Wizard of Oz (March 18–30); the new production of Webber & Rice’s Evita, the recent B’way hit that starred Ricky Martin — but don’t expect Martin on the tour (April 15–27); the return of the uber-gay ABBA jukebox musical Mamma Mia! (June 3–15); and finishing up with Nice Work If You Can Get It, featuring the music of the Gershwins in a new story by gay writer Joe DiPietro, pictured (Sept. 2–14). 

Interestingly, the season does not include the announcement for the State Fair musical, which typically plays for much of the month of October. It may be a pipe-dream, but DSM head Michael Jenkins is one of the producers of Kinky Boots. DSM is also a producer of the recent Tony favorites Rodgers+Hammerstein’s Cinderella and Matilda The Musical, though they may be, like Kinky Boots, a few seasons away.

UPDATE: Apparently, DSM’s contract with the State Fair ended, and so there will not be a State Fair musical next season — and, possibly, far beyond.

In addition to the mainstage shows, there are two special events as well. First is Lord of the Rings In Concert, which features the music of the massive show played by the Dallas Pops Orchestra (Nov. 8–13, 2013), then the Beatles tribute show, Rain (Nov. 23–24, 2013).

All performances will be at the Fair Park Music Hall. Tickets can he purchased here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

‘Priscilla’ contest winner drags it up

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Brandon Simmons

Last week, we held an online contest to win tickets to see Priscilla Queen of the Desert and the winner was Brandon Simmons, who got the chance to attend opening night at Fair Park (courtesy of Dallas Summer Musicals) with three of his friends. And Brandon had a blast.

The show, about three drag queens traveling the Australian Outback in a rickety bus (which they dub Priscilla), is about as gay as a musical can get … and that’s saying something. “We had a great time!” says Brandon about the experience. “The show is really fun and entertaining. And I think it’s great getting to see something that is bold and very ‘in your face’ … and probably a bit shocking for many DSM subscribers!” In continues through May 26, and you can get tickets here. But you can also meet folks with the show at the official cast party. On May 24, Luxx Night Club on Pearl Street will host the cast and guests from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. with a glittering disco-themed party. The 21-and-over event offers free admission and valet to those with a ticket stub and those who RSVP in advance to Michelle@iegnation.com. You can learn more about it here.  

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—  Arnold Wayne Jones

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

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