Super Bowl XLV now officially gayest ever

First there was the Super Street Party on Cedar Springs, billed as the first-ever gay Super Bowl block party.

Then there was the Black-Eyed Peas and bisexual Fergie as halftime entertainment.

And now, to top it all off, the Village People — yes, those Village People — are slated to appear at Fair Park for an “XLV Party” a few nights before the big game, the Dallas Observer reports.

There’s no word on whether the Cedar Springs folks will try to get the Village People for the block party as well, since they’ll already be here and all. But either way, Super Bowl XLV is shaping up to be pretty darn queer. What’s next, Ellen DeGeneres as Fox’s sideline reporter? A special pregame screening of Glee on the big screen at Cowboys Stadium? Chely Wright singing the national anthem? Pastor Robert Jeffress performing the opening coin toss?

—  John Wright

Can Razzle Dazzle be revived?

Group of business owners, nonprofit reps call for meeting to set up board, discuss options for reinstating Dallas’ June Pride event

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

Scott Whittall
Scott Whittall

More than 25 years ago, organizers for Dallas’ gay Pride parade moved the event from its original Gay Pride Month date in June to September in recognition of an early court ruling striking down the state’s sodomy law.

Even after that ruling was overturned, parade organizers decided to keep the parade in September, in part to escape the oppressive heat of the North Texas summers.

But that was OK, because Dallas still had Razzle Dazzle Dallas to celebrate Gay Pride Month every June.

Razzle Dazzle Dallas had been held at the Dallas city impound lot, at Fair Park, at Market Center — and it finally ended up as a street party on Cedar Springs. It featured DJs, live music performances, vendor booths, informational booths and, of course, beer, food and lots of dancing.

It was the party of the summer.

But by the turn of the 21st century, Razzle had begun to lose some of its dazzle. Attendance dropped; profits dropped, and costs soared. The last Razzle Dazzle party was held in June 2004.

But while the party may be gone, it has not been forgotten. Now, a group of business owners and nonprofit representatives are working to bring it back.

“There are a lot of different nonprofits and business owners, both on and off the Cedar Springs strip, who have been talking about it,” Scott Whittall, owner of Buli Café and president of the Cedar Springs Merchants Association, said this week.

Whittall said the idea of reviving Razzle Dazzle first surfaced a few months ago when he, Brick owner Howard Okon, Jimmy Bartlett and Resource Center Dallas’ Henry Ramirez “started kicking the idea around.”

He said, “A lot of people talk about the fact that we love having our Pride parade in September, but at the same time, we feel like we are missing out on June Pride. I, for one, think we have the greatest LGBT community in the world here in Dallas, and there should be a good reason for people to come to Dallas in June to celebrate Pride. Razzle Dazzle used to be that reason. And it will be again.”

Whittall said that the core group has had several exploratory meetings, “asking questions like ‘Can we do it again? Should we do it again? Is there enough interest to revive Razzle Dazzle?’”

The answer, he said, seems to be a definite yes.

“I don’t think I have talked to even one person who didn’t get excited when they just heard the words ‘Razzle Dazzle.’ Everyone has their own memories of Razzle Dazzles from the past, and everyone so far loves the idea of bringing it back,” Whittall said.

Now they want to bring the idea to the community and get as much input as possible. To that end, there will be a meeting Thursday, Oct. 28, and every local organization, nonprofit, church, business, sports team and Pride organization is invited to send representatives.

“We have held off on putting an actual board together. Hopefully we can do that at this next meeting,” Whittall said.

“But we want it to be a good mix of nonprofits and business owners and organizations who are willing to commit to making this happen. If enough people get excited about it, if enough people come to this meeting and make the commitment, we can make it happen.”

Whittall said “nothing is set in stone yet,” but those who have been discussing the idea have already come up with a general plan for a new, revitalized and expanded Razzle Dazzle Dallas. “We all remember what worked and what didn’t work, and having that in mind, we have some ideas.

First and foremost, it has to be what it was always meant to be — a charity event. Everything that is raised has to go back to the charities that work to make it happen.

“We understand that this first year will be all about pulling it together and getting it going again. But we also believe that we can put together a great event that will just keep getting better,” he said.

In the past, Razzle Dazzle Dallas was a one-night fundraising party. But Whittall and his cohorts have envisioned something much bigger for Razzle Dazzle’s rebirth, taking it from a one-night dance party to a five-day celebration.

“Cedar Springs is still the hub, the heart of the LGBT community in Dallas. But we have LGBT communities spread out everywhere now,” Whittal said.

“We want the party to include everyone.”

Tentative plans have the new Razzle Dazzle taking place in the first week of June 2011, starting with First Wednesday Night on Cedar Springs. Then the party would move south the next day for First Thursday in the Bishop Arts district.

On Friday night, there would be an organized “bar-hopping” party featuring LGBT clubs both on the Cedar Springs strip and elsewhere. During the day on Saturday would feature a street festival on Cedar Springs, building up for the big bang on Saturday night.

Plans are to have the Saturday night party held at an indoor event venue with dancing, booths from community organizations and possibly a separate live cabaret show, with shuttle transportation provided to and from the city’s various centers of LGBT nightlife.

“Saturday night would be the big event, of course, but we want to take it even a step further and have some sort family event, a picnic or something, in the park on Sunday to wind everything up,” Whittall said. “We think it is a great idea, and we really hope everyone else will think so, too.

“For those who really remember Razzle Dazzle, we think it’s time to bring it back,” he continued.

“We’re living in good times right now, in terms of the community really working together. The economy has been tough, and that has made all of us have to learn to work together even better to keep things going.

“So we think this is the perfect time to revive Razzle Dazzle, to bring it back and celebrate our community.”

For information on the Oct. 28 organizational meeting, e-mail info@razzledazzledallas.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 22, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Broden makes his position on LGBT issues clear

Stephen Broden is running for Congress against Eddie Bernice Johnson. He is the Republican even though his web site and campaign literature mention “Tea Party” but do not say “Republican Party.”

After we mentioned in a previous post that Broden’s literature uses anti-gay buzz words, John Charles McKee pointed us to the above clip of Broden on Glenn Beck’s show, where he was quite specific about what he thinks about equality for gays and lesbians. The 30th district includes a large LGBT population.

Broden states his opposition to hate crime legislation that includes the LGBT community and to employment non-discrimination. Here’s what he says toward the end of the above clip:

BRODEN: I just want to beg to differ with my colleagues there. I think the failure of pastors to take the lead in this issue — on these issues is the reason why we are seeing the kind of problems or melees that we’re seeing in our culture today.

In addition to that, I want to introduce my friend to the idea of hate crime legislation, introduce them to the idea of a 501(C)(3) that is used to knock Christians around and keep them silent, from speaking out in America today.

I want to introduce them to the idea of ENDA, which is Employment Non-Discrimination, which is bullying people and pushing Christians into hiring people that they should not hire.

McKee wrote to us, “It’s vital for both our community and decent people everywhere that Stephen Broden is not just dog whistling anti-gay policies, he has stated his desire for the gay community to be persecuted by Christians flat out.”

The Morning News endorsed Broden on Monday. The basis of the endorsement is their disenchantment with Johnson who funneled scholarship money to relatives. Broden’s hatred of the district’s huge LGBT community did not figure into their endorsement. They wrote:

He pastors a small mission church near Fair Park, whose goal is to transform the lives of pimps, prostitutes and addicts. Having seen the district’s needs from the ground up, he believes much more could be done to create jobs and stability.

Apparently The DMN believes those jobs for pimps should come from the LGBT community.

—  David Taffet

It’s Texas-OU weekend and parking will be a pain — but hopefully not a costly pain

Finding safe — and legal — parking can be tough on any weekend in Oak Lawn. But throw in the annual Texas-OU showdown, and finding parking anywhere gets even tougher.

A parking scam during the 2008 Texas-OU weekend cost a lot of football fans some big bucks. But Dallas city officials said this week that they will be coordinating with state agencies as they did last year to make sure nobody gets scammed again.

The ’08 scam was a coordinated effort between fake parking attendants and licensed towing companies, where “unsuspecting fans were flagged into private parking lots where they paid the ‘attendants’ to let them park for the game. Towing companies then swooped in and hauled off the vehicles,” the city’s statement said.

Last year, the city put new procedures in place to avoid such scams, including special permits and city-issued signs to let people know where they could park, and Dallas police and the Texas Department of Licensing beefed up patrols and enforcement around Fair Park. They will be doing the same this year.

Paul Curington with the Dallas Police Department’s parking enforcement division suggested people headed to the game park inside Fair Park where fees will probably be lower and the area safer. But those who park in an off-site private lot or in someone’s yard need to look for the official green signs that indicate that property owner has a valid city permit to offer parking, and a “towing enforced sign.”

If you  head down to Oak Lawn in your own car, be sure to park in a well-lit area — one where your vehicle won’t get towed — and park as close to your destination as possible. Don’t walk alone, and stay out of the dark areas. Park in one of the lots with security if you can.

Curington also suggests leaving the car at home and taking DART to the game. The same holds true for those headed to Oak Lawn to party, either before, during or after the football game. If you don’t want to ride the bus, consider a taxi; it might cost a few bucks, but not as much as having your car towed and sure as hell not as much as being robbed or assaulted. Isn’t it worth a little extra to be safe?

—  admin

The way we were

Face-off: ‘Our Town’ vs. ‘Dreck the Musical’

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

ON THE BOARDS
OUR TOWN, Addison Theatre Centre, 15650 Addison Road,
Addison. Through Oct. 24.
WaterTowerTheatre.org.
SHREK, Fair Park Music Hall,
909 First Ave. Through Oct. 17.
DallasSummerMusicals.org.

……………………

Even in the program notes of WaterTower Theatre’s current production, the reputation of Our Town as sentimental tripe is difficult to escape. Except in this exquisitely rendered production, it’s clear that rep is completely undeserved. Maybe abuse by countless high schools has soured opinion, but Thornton Wilder’s bare, simple snapshot of small-town life may be idyllic, but hardly is it idealized. This is humanistic theater in the best sense.

True, there would be no It’s a Wonderful Life without Our Town, but don’t allow the Capra-corn style to blind you to this show’s plainspoken beauty. Even before Act 3, when residents of the graveyard propel the action, this is a play dominated by ghosts: Memories, shadows, feelings about things and people from the past that are both specific and universal.

The Stage Manager (Terry Martin, who also directed) narrates from an omniscient P.O.V., walking us through a few days across two decades in the lives of Grovers Corners, N.H., population 2,642. No one here is spectacular, but in that prosaic bubble, spectacular things happen.

Although more than 70 years old, it still has resonance for contemporary issues, from the closeted chorus master (achingly played by Ted Wold) to an off-handed observation (“people are meant to live two by two — ‘taint natural to be lonesome”) that subtly defends gay marriage (Wilder himself was gay).

There’s not a misspent action or false note from anyone in the impressive cast (especially Wold, Joey Folsom and Maxey Whitehead), and Martin’s canny decision to take the bare-bones set and change it, just briefly, into a tactile, realistic tableau is breathtaking. Don’t let your prejudices about the show scare you away — this is the best show of the fall.

WaterTower does a lot with a little in Our Town; over at Fair Park Music Hall, the opposite is true. Shrek the Musical exudes expensivity with admittedly great costumes, big sets and a flying dragon. It’s also about as bloodsuckingly lifeless as a big Broadway musical can be.

PLAIN AND SIMPLE  |  WaterTower’s ‘Our Town,’ above, delves poignantly into the American psyche; ‘Shrek,’ opposite, delves into flatulence.  (Photos courtesy Joan Marcus and Mark Oristano)
PLAIN AND SIMPLE | WaterTower’s ‘Our Town,’ above, delves poignantly into the American psyche; ‘Shrek,’ opposite, delves into flatulence. (Photos courtesy Joan Marcus and Mark Oristano)

At first, you think it might at least capture the snarky, subversive humor that the graphic novel and animated film did. But that track is quickly diluted in favor of banal family-friendly fare with cornpone plotting and sophomoric fart jokes. (Rhyming “classy” with “gassy?” That’s schoolyard nonsense — and not a good school, either.) And Shrek’s Scottish accent doesn’t translate in the hard-to-hear space of the Music Hall.

Hiring David Lindsay-Abaire, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his play Rabbit Hole about the death of a child, to write a kiddie musical sounds like a bad punchline, but not as bad as most of the jokes here. Aside from a brilliantly flamboyant turn by David F.M. Vaughn as the prissy Lord Farquaad and some hambone whimsy from Alan Mingo Jr. as Donkey (although the character borders on parody — think Trotin Fetchit), it’s more like Dreck the Musical.

The other major flaw of the production — and it would be too time-consuming to list them all — is that it makes smug references to many much better musicals, among them: Wicked, Dreamgirls, The Lion King, Lez Miz, Hairspray and 42nd Street. If you’re reminding your audience that it could be watching a better show, you’re not helping yourself any. By the end, I’d wished the dragon had eaten me — preferably in Act 1.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 1, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

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.

……………………………………

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

Best Bets • 09.24.10

Friday 09.24

Corny dogs, here we come
The State Fair of Texas is upon us once again and that means fried foods, dizzying rides and emptied wallets — and it’s totally worth it. We’re still making up our mind on the new fried beer on the menu, but the Texas Fried Frito Pie sounds like a dream and a nightmare for any personal trainer. But who cares? It’s the Fair!

DEETS: Fair Park, 1300 Robert B Cullum Blvd. Through Oct. 17. $15. BigTex.com.

Sunday 09.26

Classic lit without the reading
This image from the cover of “The Great Gatsby” instilled dread among middle and high school students. But AIDS Interfaith Network turns the classic novel about the roaring ’20s into fab times with “The Great Gatsby…Get Your Flap On.” Complete with jazz, bubbly and fundraising, it almost makes you want to read it again. Almost.

DEETS: Union Station, 400 S. Houston St. 2 p.m. $75–$125. AIDSInterfaithNetwork.org

Wednesday 09.29

WaterTower is getting Wilder
Terry Martin does double duty as director and actor in “Our Town,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Thornton Wilder. The tales of the ordinary folk of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire come alive in this season opener for WaterTower.

DEETS: WTT, 15650 Addison Road. Through Oct. 24. $25–$40. WaterTowerTheatre.org.

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

—  Kevin Thomas

Dallas Southern Pride organizers predict crowd of 10,000-plus

‘Drag Race’ star JuJu Bee, dance parties, pool parties to highlight city’s annual black Pride weekend

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Angela Amos
Angela Amos

More than 10,000 people are expected to attend Dallas Southern Pride, the premier annual black Pride event in North Texas, on Sept. 23-26.

Promoter Kirk Myers said that the event is moving from a regional event to a nationally recognized circuit party.

JuJu Bee from “Ru Paul’s Drag Race” will be one of the performers featured over the weekend. She will be at the Brick on Friday night, Sept. 24.

Myers traveled to Cleveland to see JuJu Bee perform.

“She’s very personable,” he said. “She gets out and meets everyone and is overwhelmed by the response.”

He said she didn’t realize she had such a large African-American fan base.

“A lot of people thought she should have won,” he said.

Myers said GloTV will be in town filming the Masquerade Ball on Saturday, Sept. 25, as part of a new reality series about the emerging ballroom scene in the black LGBT community.

Dallas Southern Pride has always been scheduled to coincide with the Grambling/Prairie View Classic football game generally held the first weekend in October at the Cotton Bowl in Fair Park. This year, the game was moved back a week, so Pride moved, too.

Myers said he hopes the move encourages more people of all backgrounds from Dallas to participate in some of the events. With Dallas Southern Pride coming the week after the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade, Myers said he believes people will still be in the mood for more Pride celebrations.

“That party is really an opportunity for the mainstream LGBT community to party with us,” he said.

Myers said several things indicate this year’s event will be larger than ever. He said the Convention and Visitors Bureau has been very supportive. More sponsors have signed on this year as well.

To close the weekend, the Signature Black Party will be held at the host hotel on Sunday night. SizzleMiami, the largest black circuit party that attracts more than 100,000 each Memorial Day, is sponsoring the event.

Myers said that the various promoters represent the diversity of the community. To attract women, they added Her 4 Her last year.

T.D. Davis, a Her 4 Her organizer, said that the theme for Dallas Southern Pride is “Taste of Dallas — Best of Both Worlds.” She said the women’s events “bring different flavors to Dallas.”

The women’s parties begin with Bourbon Street at Victory Tavern near the American Airlines Center on Thursday, Sept. 23, presented by Sophisticated Fridays.

DeMarco Major from Logo’s “Shirts & Skins” will host “New York — A Taste of the Big Apple” at the Radisson Love Field, the host hotel, on Friday evening.

The Saturday afternoon pool party has a South Beach theme and “A Night in Paris,” the Saturday night party at Wendy Krispin’s in the Design District, has a French flair.

Sunday’s brunch with Church of the Solid Rock features New Orleans soul food.

“We’re continuing to build the Her 4 Her brand,” said organizer Angela Amos.

Amos said all of the most recognized women’s organizations in the Metroplex participated in organizing the weekend’s events.

“I’d like to keep building the alliances and reaching out on an individual level,” she said.

On Saturday, several workshops presented by Glamour Girls and Alpha Lambda Zeta, a nationally recognized gay fraternity, will be held at the hotel.

“Then Sunday is a concoction of everyone,” Davis said.

After Sunday brunch and worship, both the men and the women head to Bachman Lake Park for a picnic. Myers said the food is being provided by Buffalo Wild Wings.
That event is free.

The organizers all said additional highlights and entertainment are still being booked for next week’s events.

A full schedule of events is available at DallasSouthernPride.com and Her4Her.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 17, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Applause • Shrek’s appeal

Jason Moore, the gay Broadway director of this year’s State Fair musical, promises something for everyone — and he means everyone

STEVEN LINDSEY  | Contributing Writer

Director Jason Moore
Director Jason Moore works his magic on fairy tales and flatulence in this fall’s ‘Shrek the Musical.’

Dallas Summer Musicals, Music Hall at Fair Park
909 First Ave. Shrek the Musical runs Sep. 28 through Oct. 17. Tuesdays–Sundays, 8 p.m., weekend matinees 2 p.m. $25–$133. 214-631-2787.
DallasSummerMusicals.org.

Flatulence makes the heart grow fonder. That’s just one of the irreverent messages at the center of a musical comedy with a surprising amount of emotional resonance — hidden beneath a grand dose of silliness, of course. Shrek the Musical, about an ogre and a donkey on a quest to save a princess in a land of famous fairy tale characters, began as a beloved children’s book before becoming one of Hollywood’s biggest movie franchises. So bringing it to the Broadway stage — and then on a national tour — meant the stakes were high both with audiences and producers.

“If people love something already, they’re protective of it and they want it to live up to their memory and expectations of what they love about the movie or the book. We deliver what people love, but deliver a bunch of stuff that people have never seen,” says Jason Moore, co-director (with Rob Ashford) of the original Broadway and the national touring productions.

“We don’t think of it as a cartoon. The movie is only 80 minutes long and our show is two hours with an intermission. There are elements directly lifted from the film and then a whole bunch of new stuff, like the score. The movie is not a musical, unlike some of the other adaptations of cartoons that were musicals to begin with. Keeping the familiar look from the movie helps people get used to the fact that they’re hearing music now.”

The sets are colorful and wonderfully elaborate, which isn’t often the case with a touring production.

“The task of making something so it can travel makes you come up with more fun, creative and imaginative ways to solve bigger problems.

That’s why I think tours in some ways tend to be better versions of the shows they reflect, because they’re a little more distilled down to the story,” he says. “Though the tour of Shrek is a huge production, it’s distilled down from Broadway a bit, but still huge. It’s a fairy tale. You need size and scale and fantasy.”

Moore, who also directed the Tony-winning Avenue Q, has a long history directing musicals and comedies. But with Shrek he could quickly be the go-to guy for snarky musicals featuring puppets.

“Ha!” he laughs. “The puppets [in Shrek] couldn’t be more different. There are several puppets in the national tour, but we have this big new beautiful dragon puppet, which is like 24 feet long and magnificent. It flies and there’s a whole new dragon number. Puppets are magical and it’s so great in Shrek because the scale is so huge.”

The fairy-tale world also opens up a lot of new challenges for a director because suddenly, you’re dealing with a menagerie of characters that aren’t human.

“The ogres need to move like ogres, the donkey needs to seem like a donkey. In some ways, everyone is a version of a kind of puppet. They have to manipulate their costumes and their bodies just like a dancer would, like in The Lion King or Little Mermaid. It’s a lot of fun for the actors. To choreograph for a donkey, a dancing egg and a gingerbread man is a challenge, but a rare gift,” he smiles.

Perhaps even more rare is a musical number involving the delicate subject of, well, breaking wind.

“I like to think that we are the first and maybe last. It is a song about farting, but it’s based on an old theater convention: Anything you can do, I can do better. The song at its essence is really about two characters who are falling in love with each other. A lot of times when people fall in love, it’s not based in language. It’s based in kind of awkward physicality. Farting and burping is just our version of it because we’re dealing with ogres. It’s indigenous to their behavior.”

The deeper message at the center of Shrek is something he hopes resonates with anyone who, like the big green ogre, has ever been an outcast.

Shrek the musical
Shrek and Donkey create a new family of choice when they meet Princess Fiona

“It’s definitely a fairy tale world that runs by different rules. There’s a song in Act 2 called Freak Flag, which basically is the message of the show. Love who you are and others will love you,” he says. “As a gay man myself, I think that can be said of any human, but particularly true of gay humans. Shrek is essentially an outcast and we were often mindful of people who would be considered outcasts, from redheads to gays to other minorities to people who had awkward teeth. Certainly I’d like to think there is something special in it for gay people.”

But ultimately, it’s about bringing something to the stage for people of all ages and all backgrounds. Shrek, he says, is about exploring universal truths — with a lot of laughs along the way. And most of all, it’s about bringing to the stage something you can’t experience anywhere else.

“You have to ask, what can you do in the theater that you can’t do in the movies? That’s what we deliver. On the road, in any theater, audiences are seeing a show for the first time and we always want to give them as much magic as we can.”
Cue the singing mice and flying dragons.

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

—  Kevin Thomas

As the lights fade on ‘Friday Night Lights’ at the Cotton Bowl, Dallas welcomes 3 new TV series

David Taffet, Channel 21 News, Dillon, at the Cotton Bowl

I’ve spent most of the weekend at the Cotton Bowl, where we filmed the season finale of “Friday Night Lights.” But “FNL” fans take heart. The episode we were filming is the last of season five. NBC is just airing season four this summer. So there’s one more year of Panther, I mean Lion, football. (I still haven’t gotten used to cheering for EAST Dillon.)

And while we may have said goodbye to the Lions and Panthers from Dillon, Texas, we’ve also said hello to three new series being filmed in Dallas beginning this summer.

The Good Guys” on Fox is a cop show. They’ve aired six episodes and were picked up for another seven. The Fox 4 news anchor is played by Clarice Tinsley. One of the cops lives in a trailer under a ferris wheel in an amusement park (Fair Park). It airs Mondays at 9 on Fox.

Chase” has been in production all summer for NBC. The Jerry Bruckheimer (“Pirates of the Carribean,” “Amazing Race,” “CSI”)  show “drops viewers smack into the middle of a game of cat-and-mouse as a team of U.S. marshals hunts down America’s most dangerous fugitives.”

According to local actors on the set of “FNL” who’ve already worked on “Chase,” it looks like another winner.

A third show, “Lone Star,” is a Fox January replacement. Jon Voight stars as the head of an oil family that likes football. The original series title was “Midland.” So it’s completely different from “Dallas” or “Friday Night Lights.” This takes place in Midland and Houston. It’s just filmed in Dallas. And “FNL” football is based on Odessa Permean and, again, this is Midland.

Why film in  Dallas? We have the equipment, facilities and talent. And several successful series under our belt.

Dallas” and “Walker Texas Ranger” each had runs of more than 10 years. “Prison Break” filmed two of its four seasons in Dallas and its ratings didn’t drop off significantly until its last Los Angeles-filmed season.

So what about the series finale of “FNL”?

No spoiler alerts here. It was all over the news that “FNL” was up in Dallas filming at the Cotton Bowl, which can only mean one thing. The East Dillon Lions made it to next year’s Texas High School playoffs. Or was it the Dillon Panthers? And being the finale, they won. But maybe not.

The ending was filmed both ways, just in case NBC decides to pick up the show for a sixth season. Ratings have (finally) picked up for season four.

But just because it’s picked up doesn’t mean they don’t win. The Panthers won in season one. We’ll have to wait until next spring (or maybe summer) to find out.

And look for me on the field as usual. I stretch my acting ability on this series playing — a reporter. No really. It’s a stretch. I report news for Dallas Voice. I’ve written arts and travel. But on this series, I’m a sports reporter. Completely different. Really. Nothing like when Clarice Tinsley plays Fox 4 news anchor on “The Good Guys.”

—  David Taffet