George Hamilton joins DSM’s tour of ‘La Cage’

George Hamilton

The national tour of the 2010 Broadway revival of the Jerry Herman-Harvey Fierstein musical La Cage aux Folles, which comes to Dallas Fair Park next year via the Dallas Summer Musicals, has added George Hamilton to the cast. Hamilton will play Georges, the owner of the drag nightclub where his cross-dressing partner, Albin, is the headliner.

Georges was originally played in the current revival by Kelsey Grammar; the part is currently played by Christopher Seiber.

Hamilton is best known for his impossible tan, as well as the movies Where the Boys Are, Love at First Bite and The Godfather Part III. He also appeared in Zorro, the Gay Blade, which as considered a stereotypical portrayal of a gay character, and was a contestant on Dancing with the Stars.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Shearith Israel synagogue hosting TCC performance

Concert will mark gay chorale’s 1st-ever appearance at a Conservative Jewish temple

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Turtle Creek Chorale Director Jonathan Palant, left, and Shearith Israel Cantor Itzhak Zhrebker
PLANNING THE PROGRAM | Turtle Creek Chorale Director Jonathan Palant, left, and Shearith Israel Cantor Itzhak Zhrebker discuss details of the chorale’s upcoming concert at the synagogue. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

The Turtle Creek Chorale will perform in a Conservative synagogue for the first time in its history. But the relationship has been developing ever since Jonathan Palant became TCC director.

Four years ago, Cantor Itzhak Zhrebker of Congregation Shearith Israel, the Conservative synagogue in North Dallas, sang the Hanukkah blessing at the Chorale’s Christmas concert at the Majestic Theater.

“About a half a year ago, I came to Jonathan,” Zhrebker said. “I wanted to continue our professional relationship. I asked if it would be possible for TCC to perform at Shearith.”

“And we’re members of Shearith,” said Chorale director Jonathan Palant. He said he and his partner joined the synagogue when they moved to Dallas four years ago.

The show will feature music by Jewish composers, many of whom are gay. Among them are William Finn, who wrote Falsettos, Leonard Bernstein, Jerry Herman and Steven Sondheim.

Although he initially included Harold Arlen in the group of gay, Jewish composers, Palant couldn’t actually identify him as gay. Arlen wrote “Somewhere over the Rainbow.”

“Close enough,” Palant said.

Palant and Zhrebker discussed repeating a Chorale commission called “Our Better Angels,” which brought together five minority communities.

“It demonstrates that oppressed people have the same emotions no matter why they’re oppressed,” Palant said. “The pain is the same.”

The piece brings the groups together by rallying behind the hatred and lack of acceptance rather than the reason for it. The five groups included are Muslins, Jews, African-Americans, Hispanics and the LGBT community.

“The texts tell the plight of each and how we’re similar,” Palant said.

He hopes they will perform this piece at a future concert with the synagogue.

The synagogue’s choir will open the concert with two medleys and the cantor will close with the only piece written by a non-Jewish composer.

“The cantor is a spectacular tenor,” Palant said. “He will sing an aria from Turandot.”

Palant describes this concert as an effort to build bridges into an untapped community rather than to tear down walls.

“We have Jewish members but have done no outreach into the Jewish community,” he said.

He called the concert a sort of show-and-tell.

“This is my synagogue,” he said. “Bringing my work life into my home life.”

Palant said the Chorale has performed at a number of churches over the years, including numerous performances at Cathedral of Hope. He recalled one time that the Chorale was scheduled to perform at First Baptist Church for the American Choral Director’s Association. That church canceled the performance at the last minute, which was hastily rescheduled at First Methodist.

“This is not about tearing down the mighty walls of prejudice,” he said. “It’s about outreach. We have not been to this venue before.”

He said that Shearith is a member of the Chorale’s Partners in Harmony program that has signed an “all people are created equal” statement.

He pointed out that the term Conservative refers to the service, not social issues. The Conservative movement ordains woman as rabbis, just as Reform does.

“Just in the last five years, the rabbinic assembly approved the ordination of gay rabbis,” he said. “That gives them the liberty to give honors to gay Jews.”
The honors would include calling a same-sex Jewish couple up to read from the Torah or to marry.

Zhrebker called the Chorale’s performance a gift and has been promoting the concert to church choirs across North Dallas. Other synagogues in North Dallas have been promoting the event as well.

“I’m looking forward to taking this relationship into the future,” Zhrebker said.

Palant is excited about the concert for one more personal reason as well.  “It’s made my mother the happiest Jewish mother ever,” he said. “She’s kvelling.”
“Kvell” is a Yiddish word that means beaming with pride, usually by a parent over a child’s achievements.

Turtle Creek Chorale Concert at Congregation Shearith Israel, 9401 Douglas Ave. Nov. 14 at 7:30 p.m. $15. $12 for students and seniors. 214-361-6606.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 12, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

New and old

From creaky Victorian melodramas to well-worn musicals, something’s afoot

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

CRISPNESS, CAROL  |  Wendy Welch’s parody of Carol Channing is a spectacular highlight of ‘Forbidden Broadway’s Greatest Hits’ from Uptown Players.
CRISPNESS, CAROL | Wendy Welch’s parody of Carol Channing is a spectacular highlight of ‘Forbidden Broadway’s Greatest Hits’ from Uptown Players.

ON THE BOARD
FORBIDDEN BROADWAY’S GREATEST HITS

at the Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd. Through Aug. 29.
UptownPlayers.org

SHERLOCK HOLMES IN THE CRUCIFER OF BLOOD
at Theatre Three, 2900 Routh St. in the Quadrangle. Through Sep. 5.
Theatre3Dallas.com

THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE,
2819 Forest Ridge Road, Bedford. Through Aug. 22.
OnStageinBedford.com

Every January, Uptown Players’ fundraiser Broadway Our Way takes songs from musicals, adds a large cast and performs a revue, as the men sing the women’s parts and the women sing the men’s. So when Tyce Green steps onstage in Forbidden Broadway’s Greatest Hits in a red wrap dress, doing Patti LuPone doing Mama Rose better than Patti herself (he’s just as crazy), you might think but for the sweltering heat you’re watching an encore — outtakes from last season’s fundraiser.

That is the curse and the joy of this show, mined from the long-running satire of Broadway seasons that has played off-Broadway for decades. Is Uptown Players cannibalizing itself or just giving the audience more of what it wants? Let’s go with the latter.

Aside from Green, there’s no gender-bending in the musical numbers, which tweak songs from The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Sondheim, Jerry Herman, Bob Fosse and other legends of theater who deserve to be taken down a peg for the impudence of being successful.

A small risk of the show, in fact, is that it demands a working knowledge of musical theater in order to get most of the jokes. (Uptown Players’ theater-queen heavy subscriber base is safely in that camp.) Skewering Idina Menzel presupposed most people know who the hell Idina Menzel is. But if you do, the Defying Gravity number is priceless.

Certainly the cast members, who cycle through costumes like Cher on speed, are at home with the humor and the music. All are talented, though Wendy Welch steals the show, first with a grotesque parody of Carol Channing then as a fright-wigged Fantine from Les Mis — making a twofer attack on poor LuPone. Don’t worry though — they kid because they love. And there’s a lot of love here.

Sherlock Homes
PROBLEM SOLVER | Chuck Huber, right, makes for an engaging Sherlock Holmes in Theatre Three’s talky ‘Crucifer of Blood.’

When you name your play Sherlock Holmes in the Crucifer of Blood, here’s a suggestion: Get to Sherlock as quickly as possible. The prologue of this play really should be called a prolong — it slowly lays the foundation for the plot with needlessly talky exposition before we have any idea of Victorian London’s premiere consulting detective will figure in. And it’s not even set in England, but in India! Talk about your Black Hole of Calcutta.

Too bad director Jeffrey Schmidt didn’t turn that half-hour sequence and make it a sharply-edited 15-minute video, because once we get to the heart of the play — Holmes’ inescapable logic flawlessly unraveling a twisted (though not especially interesting) mystery that’s bits of The Mummy and Treasure of the Sierra Madre, though hardly the best bits — the play gets fun.

The first time that Holmes, played by Chuck Huber, off-handedly deduces the ownership of a watch presented to him by Dr. Watson (Austin Tindle, wearing an awkward false moustache that looks like it fell off a pair of plastic novelty glasses), the audience titters with delight. That’s what we’ve come for, not lepers and pith helmets and a box of jewels that looks like an accessory snatched up from Pottery Barn.

Despite a few line flubs, Huber makes an engaging Holmes, though Jakie Cabe, as the incompetent flatfoot Inspector Lestrade, may be the only one who fully explores the small amount of comedy there is; Paul Giovanni’s 1978 play has too much creaky dialogue to feel very modern otherwise.

As a Gollum-like hoarder of his precious lucre, Gregory Lush has the best accent in the bunch, plus tremendous brio as a queeny old military officer.

Schmidt’s failure to punch up the beginning as a director is almost made up for by his inventive set design and Aaron Patrick Turner’s endlessly intriguing costumes. Using style to mask weaknesses in substance? Elementary, my dear.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is a charming musical with a funny but sentimental script by Rachel Sheinkin and inventive songs by William Finn that are disarmingly poignant about the stresses of childhood. The show practically sells itself.

That’s especially true in the production from OnStage in Bedford, which, sadly, oversells. Way, way oversells. The director, Kyle Macy, doesn’t seem to trust in the material, having his cast take what should be Clare Danes in My So-Called Life and turning them into Screech from Saved by the Bell. Use your inside voices, kids.

Kristin Spiers as a former spelling champ, Amanda Gupton as a tender speller and Phillip Cole-White as a punk “comfort counselor” get their characters best (and the women are both lovely singers), though they don’t quite make up for blahness of the others. Still, if there’s ever been a show that could withstand a bad production, this one might be it.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 13, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas