‘Carol’ charming

The lion, the ghost and the wardrobe changes of Carol-er David Ryan Smith

DTCs-The-Wiz

FROM OZ TO DICKENS | David Ryan Smith got a chance to work at both DTC home bases in 2011, playing the Cowardly Lion in ‘The Wiz’ at the Wyly, and now multiple roles in ‘A Christmas Carol’ at the Kalita. (Photos courtesy David Leggett and Karen Almond)

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

David Ryan Smith isn’t a Dallas native, he just seems to play one onstage.

The  New York-based actor has made the Dallas Theater Center almost a second home in 2011 — first playing the Cowardly Lion in last summer’s The Wiz (one of the triumvirate of friends of Dorothy, along with the Tin Man and Scarecrow, who stole the show), and currently in several roles, most notably the

Ghost of Christmas Present, in DTC’s annual revival of A Christmas Carol.

So what accounts for his sudden honorary Texan status? Even he doesn’t know.

“I’d never even been to Texas until this summer,” he says. He grew up in Asheville, N.C., before attending school in Indiana and later San Francisco; he moved to New York six years ago. But he “had a great time” here.

Really?! He liked spending a record-settingly sweltering summer in a furry lion suit? Well, yeah, kinda.

“I’m not a big musical-theater actor, but I’d always wanted to do The Wiz,” he says. He’d auditioned for the DTC before when the company held casting calls in NYC, but actor and part never quite clicked before. Still, he agreed to assist the casting director, helping read other actors for parts. Then the casting director suggested he would be right for the Lion. DTC artistic director Kevin Moriarty agreed, and his Texas tour was on its way.

“The Theater Center is great — the facility and the people. And working with the Dallas Black Dance Theater was amazing, they are all so talented.” He even became friends with his Wiz co-star Liz Mikel, who is in New York right now preparing for her Broadway debut in Lysistrata Jones.

But Smith also wanted to work with DTC’s Joel Ferrell. “Liz and Cedric [Neal] told me, work with him if you can,” he says. So when Ferrell returned this year to direct A Christmas Carol again, Smith jumped at the chance.

It actually wasn’t his first experience with DTC’s annual holiday show — Smith had worked in San Francisco with former DTC associate Jonathan Moscone, who mounted a version of Christmas Carol in the 1990s. “He was really proud of that show,” Smith says.

So what’s it like staying in the holiday spirit 10 times a week since Halloween? Not as hard as you might imagine, Smith says.

“We do original music, not the same old Christmas carols you hear everywhere, so at least it doesn’t make you cranky,” he says. “And wearing those boots [as the Ghost of Christmas Present] takes you into a whole other reality. I see my job in that role as forcing [Kurt Rhoads, who plays Scrooge] into changing. Kurt’s a wonderful acting partner.”

An even better partner is Smith’s boyfriend of five years, Josh. How do they handle Smith being on the road so much?

“It’s part of the job,” he sighs. “Usually he comes to visit, but because of how the holidays fall this year, he won’t get down here, though he visited during

The Wiz. And actually it makes the time we spend together all the better.”

That’s the way to stay in the holiday spirit — especially for a man playing a holiday spirit.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Holiday Gift Guide 2011 • Barks & Wags

Holiday-Gift-Guide-2011-Header

 

>>Barks & Wags

MGBW-Dog-BEdsBEDTIME FOR FIDO

When it’s time to go to sleep, dogs can luxuriate in these comfortable and durable beds. Coming in an array of fabric choices, they let Fido be just as in style as his owners, if not more so. The beds come in a variety of sizes and start at $375.

Mitchell Gold Bob Williams,
4519 McKinney Ave.
214-753-8700. MGBWDallas.com.

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FRIENDS OF DOROTHY

Now every dog can be like Toto — or rather, Dorothy, from The Wizard of Oz with this emerald red Swarovski dog collar. For the glam canine, the collar is red velvet with rhinestones on a sterling silver base and a Swarovski crystal bow centerpiece. The other dogs will be so jealous. The collar is priced at $75.

Available through
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BOWLED OVER

Platinum Pets continues to rework the dog feeder into something snazzy. These new Olympic dining bowls are made of stainless steel in a food safe powder coat and the stands are wrought iron and thus durable for both indoor and outdoor use. The bowls come in 16-, 32- and 64-ounce sizes and are priced from $23.99
to $26.99.

Available through  Amazon.com. Platinum Petsoffers a 20 percent coupon for Dallas Voice readers when ordering through Amazon.
Enter code HRPZZ06B during checkout for their products.

DogRaincoat

POILED TO THE BONE

Fashionista dogs likely have their own set of clothes, but do they have a wardrobe closet? Complete with hangers, this wardrobe is ideal for Spot to put away those sweaters for winter and hang up the raincoat after those not-so-sunny walks outside. The wardrobe is priced at $89.97; the raincoat starts at $55.

Available through
DazzleDogDelight.com.

—  Kevin Thomas

Nature or nurture? Or maybe it’s diet

Scientists in Florida have discovered that ingesting too much mercury apparently turns male white ibises gay. But they stress the research has no bearing on human sexuality

Leslie Robinson  General Gayety

ARE THEY OR AREN’T THEY? | Only their dietician knows for sure. Recent research indicates that male white ibises that ingest mercury go gay.

Scientists in Florida have discovered that when male white ibises eat too much mercury, they turn gay. Don’t blame an overbearing ibis mother. Blame the metal.

Suspicious that mercury had led to lower breeding levels among the wading birds, researchers fed groups of ibises varying levels of mercury over three years. The results shocked the stuffing out of the scientists:

The higher the mercury dose, the more likely a bird was to sing show tunes.

These new Friends of Dorothy “pretty much did everything except lay eggs,” said study leader Peter Frederick to The Miami Herald. “They built nests, they copulated, they sat in the nests together.”

They went to a lesbian flamingo therapist when no egg appeared.

Male ibises with any mercury intake were more reticent to perform ritual courtship displays, causing numbers of female ibises to cry together over Cosmopolitans.

In the high-mercury birds, reproduction plunged 35 percent. Complaints from wannabe grandparents soared 65 percent.

The mercury levels in the experiment mirrored those found in the birds’ natural wetland habitats. Frederick, a wildlife ecologist at the University of Florida, told Nature.com “the implication is that this is probably happening in wild bird populations.”

Which means the wilderness is getting wilder. Not a good thing, in this case.

These beautiful, long-billed birds are being poisoned into gayness. In wild populations of ibis with no mercury exposure, same-sex pairings don’t occur.
Well, it probably happens once in a while, when the tequila is plentiful and the birds are bi-curious, but not as a rule.

We should go with what nature intended. Let’s keep the ibises straight and the people gay!

In south Florida, mercury leeched into the Everglades for years, mainly from the burning of municipal and medical waste. Frederick said, “Most mercury sources are local rather than global — local enough that we can do something about it, such as installing scrubbers on smoke stacks.  Ecosystems respond very quickly to regulatory action when it comes to mercury.”

But how will the birds respond? If their diet is cleaned up, will they revert to being straight?

If they need a little help, then by George, we might’ve found an actual use for ex-gay groups. Ex-gay leaders can take ibises under their wing and lead them back to heterosexuality. The success rate can only be higher than it is with people.

Speaking of people, Frederick frets that “people will read this and immediately jump to the conclusion that humans eating mercury are going to be gay. I want to be very explicit that this study has nothing to say about that.”

Doubtless some parents have nonetheless purged their larder of tuna fish, tossed the thermometer, and made a date at the dentist’s to convert all of Junior’s mercury fillings. And if they hadn’t already banned from the house the music of Freddie Mercury, they have now.

Frederick also said that what’s true for ibises isn’t necessarily true for other species, even other bird species. So jump to no conclusions about a couple of male green herons that adore each other’s company. Make no assumptions about the two roseate spoonbills with a passion for pomegranate martinis.

The turtles that hide during mating season are simply shy. And the alligators that agree they’d make lovely boots are just metrosexual.

I visited South Florida this past year, and I watched ibises. I admit to my shame that I didn’t notice any gay goings-on. This is probably because I can’t tell males from females.

I needed obvious indicators of homosexuality. Now, had two canoodling birds sported Prada shoes, I would’ve caught on.

Leslie Robinson should learn to tell male from female. E-mail her at lesarobinson@gmail.com, and check out her blog at GeneralGayety.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 10, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

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