DTC is looking for gender-benders for ‘Rocky Horror’

lipeJoel Ferrell, who will be directing the Dallas Theater Center’s upcoming production of The Rocky Horror Show, needs your help.

Part of Ferrell’s concept for the show calls for “living set decorations” — gender-benders, elaborately tattooed and/or surprisingly pierced men and women, or those with special skills (think circus sideshows: sword swallowers, snake charmers and the like) to add atmosphere to the show. You don’t need to know how to sing, dance or act — just be fun to look at. (And, FYI, there’s no remuneration involved, it’s just for your own pleasure.)

To track down those who’ll fit, the DTC is hosting an open casting call at the Rose Room on Saturday, July 26. There are 50 audition slots open, which you can apply for my email to Laura.Colleluori@DallasTheaterCenter.org. Just send her your name, age, phone number and brief description of your talent. Auditions will start at 3:30 p.m. The production of Rocky runs Sept. 11–Oct. 19, and those selected will be expected to appear at about half of the performances.

Good luck!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

REVIEWS: DTC’s “Joseph,” T3′s “Ave. Q”

Sydney James Harcourt as a buff Joseph. (Photo courtesy Karen Almond)

The problem with the Webber and Rice musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat has always been its roots as a kids’ Sunday school pageant. It was written to be 20 minutes of Bible education set to music; when they decided to expand it, you could tell where they were padding. The result is tuneful, light enjoyment — 70 minutes of anachronistic songs about the Old Testament. But there’s never been a lot of meat to it; it’s a sing-along show with a Broadway attitude.

Or at least it used to be. Joel Ferrell, who directs and choreographs the version now playing at the Dallas Theater Center, has found a way around Joseph‘s weaknesses. First, the DTC has licensed the extended score, including a mega-mix curtain call medley that reiterates the entire score in digest form.

Second, he’s given a shape to the story it has always been in desperate need of: Instead of the show just being what it is, we now have a reason for it. A group of school kids trudge through a museum with a stern security guard (Liz Mikel). One of the children is fascinated by a copy of the Torah, and the guard takes note. She tell him the story of Joseph and his 11 brothers, and as she does, the stage opens into a Pee-Wee’s playhouse of colorful stagecraft; the kid even imagines himself as the baby brother in the tribe. This conceit does more than bookend the play: It explains to hip weirdness the show has always wrestled with, specifically, songs (and some characters) that seem unexpectedly modern. Why is Pharaoh be portrayed as Elvis? It makes sense if a 21st century child projects his ideas onto a story. And it gives Ferrell the chance to ratchet up the disconnects. The brothers now are skateboarding iPod junkies in baggy shorts and ball caps.

The change does two important things: It raises the energy level of the show, and it allows Ferrell to mount one of the gayest family musicals you’ll ever seen. (Maybe those are the same thing.)

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

EXCLUSIVE: Inside the shocking comic moment in DTC’s “God of Carnage”

Ask anyone who has seen Dallas Theater Center’s production of God of Carnage what the most memorable moment in the play is, and you will get a chorus of unanimity — guaranteed. If you’ve seen it, you know. If you haven’t, spoiler alert!

It comes about 20 minutes in. A graceful socialite, played by Sally Nystuen Vahle, announces she’s feeling queasy. Then, with almost no warning, she blows chunks. Throws up. As in projectile vomiting that seems to go on forever. And is milky. And has big pieces in it (apples and pears, if you follow the dialogue). And it gets everywhere.

Nasty.

And fucking hilarious.

The process of making the scene work was a confluence of Vahle’s stagecraft and the efforts of John Clauson, the props designer, and his team. And it took a lot of trial-and-error.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

BREAKING: DTC adds summer musical to season

For the last three seasons, the Dallas Theater Center has extended its season into the summer with a family-friendly musical: Sarah Plain and Tall, It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman and The Wiz. But not was on the calendar when the season was released last spring.

Well, artistic director Kevin Moriarty has fixed that. Today, he announced the addition of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, directed and choreographed by Joel Ferrell, to the season. (We wrote about how valuable Ferrell is to the Dallas arts scene and DTC here; he’s done Joseph before, in Plano, to great acclaim.) Not only is it a bonus show, but it will be there for an eight week run — pretty long for regional theater.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

‘Cabaret’ star and director bring a lot of new ideas to a classic musical

The Dallas Theater Center’s current production of Cabaret just goes to show: It takes gay men to make something really good. At least in theater.

Wade McCollum, who stars as the Emcee 9pictured center), and director/choreographer Joel Ferrell, are responsible for much of what makes the show a success. Ferrell conceived the show, with its nightclub-like atmosphere of decadence gone amok and McCollum embodies it with his sexually charged but morally ambiguous ringmaster of the decline and fall of the German empire.

The intensely sensuous style is certainly one of its selling points — and it’s not really made up.

“That’s the nature of the show — the Weimar era was a racy time. It definitely evokes the era with lots of undies and titillating things with danger,” says McCollum. “We wanted to be more historically accurate than anything — it’s not about being shocking for the sake of shocking. Genderbending was more prevalent them. It could be hard to tell which boys were boys and which girls were girls, A lot of the clubs were just glorified brothels — the women are for sale and so are the men.”

“Clint Ramos is a strange, wonderful man,” laughs Ferrell about the show’s costume designer, who clad his performers in revealing, minimalist garb that helps hit home the outrageousness of the era. Ferrell cast one of his male actors, for instance, as a Kit Kat girl, exploiting the era’s happy acceptance of androgyny, epitomized by the pants-wearing icon of the time, Marlene Dietrich.

“That’s part of the fun of the show — it really begs you to come at it your way: What do you want to underline?” Ferrell had choreographed a production of Cabaret in Portland, Ore., before, but he had never directed it. But just working on another production gave him a lot of ideas.

“That production taught me some stuff about the show,” he says. “I think there are a couple of characters that usually get lost, like Fraulein Kost,” the prostitute who eventually embraces Nazism and goes from low-life to high-living overnight.

For McCollum, he was happy to create the Emcee in a way that straddled a line between reality and fantasy.

“You can make all sorts of different choices with that role,” McCollum says. “My job is to come in with a banquet of different choices and see what the aim of the overall intention of the show is. He is at once a very human master of ceremonies of a club just doing a show. But there’s a whole other layer, almost more prevalent, of overseeing the world of the play with an energy that could be interpreted a myriad of ways.”

Ferrell, for example, has McCollum perform the small role at the beginning of a train conductor who seems slightly villainous and pro-Nazi, even though that was not written in the script. The effect is to make the Emcee something of a trickster, who manipulates awful world events from behind the scenes.

“Yes, there’s a Luciferian energy to him, “McCollum agrees. “He almost takes delight in the emotional and physical demise of the people in the play — he’s almost a catalyzer of the decay.”

McCollum, a New York actor brought in for the role, has played the Emcee before. For Ferrell, take on Cabaret right on the heels of his last success, Dividing the Estate, was a daunting task.

“I have been asking myself why I decided to go immediately into another show, but no complaints!” he says. “I wanted very much to direct both of them.”

Still, it proved well worth the effort — for him and audiences.

 

—  Arnold Wayne Jones