REVIEW: ‘Once,’ the haunting anti-musical

OnceTour0009In certain ways, Onceat the Winspear throughDec. 28 — is the anti-musical. It’s based on a film, but not a huge hit that demanded a stage adaptation; rather, it’s a downbeat art-house indie flick. From Ireland. About poor people. Poor people? Well, they make musicals about them — Les Miz! But Once is tiny, intimate; it leaves the epic bombast to Webber and Boublil & Schoenberg. It also doesn’t add numbers to stretch out the story (it actually takes away a few from the film), and the characters do something people in musicals never do: They acknowledge that they are singing songs to each other, and talk about how good they are!! Can you imagine Louise telling Mamma Rose that her rendition of “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” really stirred her? It’s really more of a “play with songs.” It affects you more like a play does, in the best possible way.

The plot is simple: A Dublin busker (Stuart Ward) plays on his guitar in a rowdy pub, but just as he’s about to call it quits, an immigrant girl (Dani DeWaal) tells him his music is good. He should keep it up. Oh, and by the way, can he repair her vacuum cleaner? From there a tentative romance burgeons — the girl hemmed in by her family and a husband who lives overseas; the guy by his feelings for a girlfriend who moved to America. Are they destined to be together or torn apart by divided loyalties?

The songs in Once — both the stage show and the film — are among the most impassioned and haunting acoustic ballads ever composed (one, “Falling Slowly,” won the best song Oscar), and they chill me each time I hear them. The setting is as simple as the story, and likewise as deceptive: The entire cast remains onstage almost all the time, each playing instruments and serving as the orchestra, with lighting cues and projected dialogue providing the context (and before the show, serves as an actual working bar for the theater patrons). Once is a chamber musical that feels a bit dwarfed by the Winspear, but while it might fit better in a more intimate venue, there’s no denying its poignancy.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

ATTPAC announces 2014-15 season

‘The Book of Mormon’ returns

The AT&T Performing Arts Center announced its five-show Broadway subscription series tonight, but it’s the sixth bonus show than many locals will be jazzed about.

In February 2015, the super-gay Book of Mormon returns to the Winspear Opera House for a two-week engagement. The Tony-winning juggernaut was a sell-out last summer, but its inclusion as a non-subscription show means those who didn’t get to see it — or who want to see it again — have a better chance of scoring tickets.

Of the five shows in the main series, two are returning favorites, and three are recent hits. Among the returning shows are The Phantom of the Opera (Aug. 6–24), which will play for nearly three weeks — the first time at the Winspear. The production is an all-new staging of the 20-year-old hit.

It will be followed after a four-month gap by Once (Dec. 17–28), the Tony Award winner for best musical and best score, based on the captivating movie.

Next up with be Mormon (Feb. 10–22, 2015), followed by Newsies (April 29–May 10), the Disney hit from Alan Menken; then another returning fave, Annie (June 23–July 5), which was recently revived on Broadway with Jane Lynch as the wicked Miss Hannigan. The season concludes with a new, already-announced production of a current hit, Motown The Musical (July 21–Aug. 9, 2015). That’s a full 12-months of shows.

The following season, the hit Matilda will be presented, though dates are not presently known.

Another major change is that the series will no longer be called the Lexus Broadway Series — as of the final show of this season, Beauty and the Beast, in April. No replacement presenting sponsor has been announced yet.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

The Tonys, as always, are super-gay

The Tony Awards are hands-down the gayest of the major awards shows, from host Neil Patrick Harris (who called it “50 Shades of Gay”) to presenters and performers like Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Ricky Martin and Raul Esparza … hell, even the nominees (Cynthia Nixon, writer Joe DiPietro) and winners (Newsies lyricist Jack Feldman, Death of a Salesman producer Scott Rudin) are gay, or gay-adjacent (Patti LuPone, Bernadette Peters, Judith Light). And with Hugh Jackman presented a special award by his wife (in terrible shoes) and the Judas from Jesus Christ Superstar clad in crotch-hugging iridescent pants and Dallas’ own Cedric Neal clearly featured in best revival of a musical winner Porgy & Bess … well, it was a queerly delicious evening.

It was even better from the seats in the Winspear Opera House, where ATTPAC hosted a free Tony-watching party, marred only by co-host Sandie Newton’s ghastly banter (she cooed over how pretty Bernadette Peters looked, then sniped at John Larroquette as looking old while taking the cop-out “it’s a four-way tie!” approach to the costume contestants, when the team from Evita clearly won).

The big winner was the musical Once, with eight awards, and the play Peter and the Starcatcher with five. Only one of the four musical nominees was not based on movie; sigh.

Here are the winners:

MUSICALS

Musical — Once

Revival — Porgy and Bess

Director — John Tiffany, Once

Actor — Steve Kazee, Once

Actress — Audra McDonald, Porgy and Bess

Featured Actor — Michael McGrath, Nice Work If You Can Get It

Featured Actress — Judy Kaye, Nice Work If You Can Get It

Lighting Design — Once

Set Design — Once

Costume Design — Follies

Sound Design — Once

Score — Newsies

Book — Once

Orchestrations — Once

PLAYS

Play — Clybourne Park

Revival — Death of a Salesman

Director — Death of a Salesman

Actor — James Carden, One Man, Two Guvnors

Actress — Nina Arianda, Venus in Fur

Featured Actor — Christian Borle, Peter and the Starcatcher

Featured Actress — Judith Light, Other Desert Cities

Lighting Design — Peter and the Starcatcher

Set Design — Peter and the Starcatcher

Costume Design — Peter and the Starcatcher

Sound Design — Peter and the Starcatcher

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Measure would ban anti-LGBT discrimination in Houston

Charter amendment could also allow DP benefits for city workers

DANIEL WILLIAMS  |  Contributing Writer

HOUSTON — Long-brewing plans to place a city-wide non-discrimination policy before Houston voters became public this week.

Since December a coalition of organizations and leaders have been working to draft a city charter amendment that would make it illegal to discriminate in housing, employment or public accommodations on the basis of  “age, race, color, creed, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, marital status, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, or physical characteristic.”

The amendment would also remove anti-LGBT language added to the Houston city charter in 1985 and 2001 — which could allow the City Council to vote to offer health benefits to the domestic partners of municipal employees.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who famously became the only out LGBT person elected mayor of a major American city in 2009, has declined to comment on the proposed charter amendment until the language is finalized. She told the Houston Chronicle: “I believe it’s important for the city of Houston to send a signal to the world that we welcome everybody and that we treat everybody equally, and depending on the elements of what was actually in it, I might or might not support it,”

According to Equality Texas Executive Director Dennis Coleman, the prospect of Houston voters approving the non-discrimination amendment has ramifications for efforts to pass similar measures in the state Legislature.

“Nondiscrimination in Houston builds a better case for us when we go for nondiscrimination in Austin,” said Coleman. “To be able to tell representatives that they represent areas that already support these efforts is very helpful.”

The cities of Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth all already have similar nondiscrimination ordinances and offer DP benefits to employees.

But Houston’s form of governance makes this effort unique. While the City Council is empowered to pass city ordinances covering issues of discrimination, they can be overturned by popular vote if those opposing the ordinance collect 20,000 signatures to place the issue on the ballot.

That was the case in 1985 after Houston Mayor Kathy Whitmire pushed through the council the city’s first protections for gay and lesbian Houstonians (no protections were provided for the bisexual or transgender communities).

A coalition of right-wing voters led by Louie Welch, then president of the Houston Chamber of Commerce, was able to place the issue on a city-wide ballot, claiming the policy “promoted the homosexual lifestyle.” The group also recruited a “straight slate” of candidates to run against City Council members who had favored the protections, with Welch running against Whitmire.

The public vote on nondiscrimination was held in June 1985 and Welch’s forces prevailed, but the city’s temperament had changed by the time of the City Council and mayoral races in November. A comment of Welch’s that the solution to the AIDS crisis was to “shoot the queers” was aired on local TV and few in Houston wished to be associated with him after that. The “straight slate” failed to capture a single City Council seat and Whitmire remained mayor, but the defeat of the city’s nondiscrimination policy remained.

By 1998 Houston had changed: Annise Parker was serving as the city’s first out lesbian city council member and Houston boasted the state’s first out gay judge, John Paul Barnich. Mayor Lee Brown, sensing the change, issued an executive order protecting LGBT city employees from employment discrimination. But the city had not changed that much. Councilman Rob Todd led efforts to fight the order in court, arguing that since voters rejected city-wide protections from discrimination in 1985, it was inappropriate for the mayor to institute them without voter approval. The city spent the next three years defending the policy in court, finally emerging victorious.

The joy of that 2001 victory would be shortlived, however. That year Houston’s voters approved another amendment to the city charter, this time prohibiting the city from providing domestic partner benefits for city employees. In a narrow defeat, just over 51 percent of voters decided that the city should not offer competitive benefits.

The current proposed non-discrimination amendment would remove the language added in 1985 and 2001. While it would provide non-discrimination protections it would not require the city to offer benefits of any kind to the spouses of LGBT city employees, leaving that question back in the hands of the City Council.

The organizers of the current effort are confident that this year is the year for victory.

Noel Freeman, the president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, which is spearheading the effort, explains that the previous votes occurred in “non-presidential years,”when voter turnout in general is low, and conservative voters make up a larger percentage of the electorate.

Additionally, polling by Equality Texas in 2010 showed that 80 percent of Houstonians support employment protections for gay and lesbian people.

In order to place the non-discrimination amendment on the November ballot the coalition supporting it will need to collect 20,000 signatures of registered Houston voters and submit them to the city clerk. Freeman says that the final charter amendment language is still under consideration and that once it is finalized the group will begin collecting signatures.

Even former Councilman Todd, who once fought the city’s policy of non-discrimination for LGBT employees, supports the current effort.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 17, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

Canasta for a good cause, this Sunday at Tony’s Corner Pocket

The American novelist Mary McCarthy once quipped that Canasta has the advantage of “doing away with the bother of talk after dinner.” But the classic Uruguayan card came popular among the aged and experiencing a rebirth among hipsters has much more to offer. While Canasta may not have the high-stakes glamor of Baccarat, or the back-room luridness of Poker it harkens back to the halcyon days of the 1950′s when it was first introduced to the United States, with smartly dressed men and more smartly dressed cocktails. It’s that paen for a more stylish age that has caused this once nigh-forgotten game to experience a rebirth of late.

If you’ve caught the Canasta bug there’s an opportunity this Sunday, Feb. 12, to indulge in all the melds your heart can muster at Tony’s Corner Pocket  (817 West Dallas). Brunch and registration start at noon with “Pick a Partner” at 12:30. Then at 1 pm single elimination tournament play kicks off. Canasta is played with teams of two, but don’t worry if you don’t have a partner to come with you. Single players are welcomed. Registration is $10, with half of the proceeds going to the tournament winners and the other half benefiting Montrose Grace Place, a non-profit helping homeless youth.

Register early by e-mailing houstonglbtcanasta@yahoogroups.com

—  admin

BACH for the holidays …. and beyond

Volunteer Wanda Brown helps get ready for the Breakfast at Cathedral of Hope on Chirstmas Eve

I have been out of the office, on vacation, since Dec. 22, and when I got back to work today and started wading through the thousands of emails in my inbox, I found one from Hank Henley, asking if we could include some information in Dallas Voice about BACH, the weekly Breakfast At Cathedral of Hope program in which church volunteers prepare and serve breakfast to the homeless.

So I am including Hank’s write-up about BACH’s Christmas Eve event here on Instant Tea, just as he sent it to me:

Use the words “Bach” and “cathedral” in a sentence this time of year, and most people will picture the “Christmas Cantata” or “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” But at a certain church in Dallas, BACH stands for “Breakfast at the Cathedral of Hope,” a program that just celebrated its four-year anniversary in November. On Christmas Eve morning, while most of Dallas was nestled all snug in their beds, a small army of volunteers was in the kitchen at the Cathedral of Hope whipping up a hot and hearty breakfast for the homeless and needy that would be coming through their doors by 7:30 a.m. Under the direction of Rev. William Baldridge, Associate Pastor for Community Outreach, this weekly breakfast has grown from serving just 11 guests at the first meal to an average of 200 guests each Saturday morning.

And guests they are: receiving a hot meal served on china plates and with silverware and glasses. The guests may also receive a haircut after they eat, if they so chose.

This week, in addition to the usual food and drink, each guest received a bag with a blanket, hat, gloves, toiletries, water and food coupons. The gift bags were the result of the generous work of Jan Okerlund and Leslie Frye.

Leslie Frye, one of the volunteer coordinators, when asked how the volunteers feel about the work they do, said, “The real blessing is in the cooking for and serving those less fortunate, not only during this Season, but all year long.”

This Saturday’s volunteers included members of the church community of the Cathedral of Hope, members of the Turtle Creek Chorale and a group of 14 students from “I-CERV,” the “Ismaili Community Engaged in Responsible Volunteering.” They are here once a month, all year long. Kenneth Campbell, the Interfaith Services Director Volunteer Coordinator of the Memnosyne Foundation, brought these energetic and focused youth.

The Memnosyne Foundation is a wonderful organization whose mission is “to help a diverse people of the world consciously encourage an evolution of themselves and for future generations by providing the means to encourage positive, peaceful global collaboration.” The diverse crowd of leaders, volunteers and guests were certainly doing that on this morning.

And one guest, who guest shared his story quietly and privately with tears streaming down his face, personifies the spirit of sharing and giving. This time last year, he was on the street, living under a bridge and depending on the generosity of others to survive. He told me he could always count on a hot meal and being treated with respect when he came to BACH. This year, he is able to draw social security and is donating $25 a month to BACH. “They always fed me and helped me get through. Now I want to give back whatever I can. God blessed me and it’s what I want to do.”

Across the room, his hands deep in a bucket of soapy water, volunteer Jamie Rawson, spent the morning scraping plates and glasses, getting them ready for the dishwashers.

“There a few things a person can do which so clearly put Christmastime in perspective as doing something to help others. It is has been said so often as to become a cliché — but it is no less true for being a cliché. It is heart-warming to see so many people gathered to help provide for those in need. It is especially affirming to see so many young people from such a diversity of backgrounds. This has been the most fitting and rewarding way to truly start my Christmas.”

When the guests were finished with breakfast, finished visiting with friends and volunteers, finished with their haircut, and picked up their bag of supplies for warmth and comfort, they left the cathedral and headed back into the rain and the street.

As they left, Richard Boule greeted each of them and wished them a Merry Christmas.

“As I watched those people leaving the Cathedral after breakfast this morning, I could not help wondering where they were going and what each one of them had to look forward to this Christmas time. But I had the feeling that they were grateful for the humanity they were shown, so many left with a smile. May they be blessed.”

If you would like to help with BACH, please call Rev. Baldridge at the Cathedral of Hope at 214-351-1901.

You can see more photos from the Christmas Eve Breakfast at Cathedral of Hope after the jump.

—  admin

HGG 2011 Gift-A-Day: Last minute gifts and stocking stuffer roundup

COUNTING IT DOWN

Whether you need to give to the coworkers, neighbors or just add to the gift stock pile by stuffing the stocking, these might help out on your decision making.

SPIRITS WE HAVE HEARD ON HIGH

Moon Mountain vodka makes this holiday season more “green” that is certified organic by the USDA. Made in America, the artisanally crafted vodka is made from Midwestern corn, but in small batches creating the right taste to make it the perfect spirit to toast the season. The vodka is priced at $19.99.

Available at major spirits retailers.

FORGET SANTA

These Biscoff cookies are a surprisingly addictive treat, that it may be hard to give away. The crispy biscuits with the caramel flavor are ideal with coffee or even on their own. And a welcome alternative to usual holiday sweets with their light touch. Made from Belgium, these treats are vegan and contain 0 grams trans fat and 0 cholesterol per serving. So your recipients will be quite happy about these. Coming in a variety of counts and packages, these Biscoff Cafe Totes house eight packages of two. So you can get one for yourself and then try to give the other one away. You could leave them out for Santa but try not to eat them before he does. Ten percent of the purchases of this item go toward Teach for America. A set of three is priced at $16.95.

Available through Biscoff.com.

MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU

For the Star Wars gamer geek — er, loved ones — comes this quirky stylus set. Made for Nintendo DS products, Star Wars fans can have their very own Clone Wars with these character-designed stylus lightsabers.  The stylus can be used for DS Lite, XL and 3DS and is for ages six and up. Priced at $9.99.

Available at Best Buy, Walmart, Target and other major video game retailers.

 

GAY FILM FEST

Breaking Glass Pictures has made gift giving for your LGBT movie fan rather enticing. The company that distributed the locally-made Ticked Off Trannies with Knives is offering a 30 percent off purchases made during the holiday season. Stack up on indie gay movie faves like Violet Tendencies, The Big Gay Musical and the 30th anniversary edition of the gay classic Taxi Zum Klo. Head to the site withthe promotion code “holiday” and snag a bargain on the films. Hey, you might even get one for yourself.

Available at BreakingGlassPictures.com.

 

 

 

BRUSH AWAY

Expect an eye roll if you give kids a toothbrush, but once they start handling his Arm & Ammer Spinbrush Proclean, they might get more on board. The battery-operated brush is a simple, but effective way to keep those pearly whites, um, white, with the appeal of being a whirring gadget. Don’t talk about how better it is than a manual toothbrush and dental health. Yawn for days. Hype up the dual action technology, the durable body style and what a grown-up “toy” it is. Because, of course, adults can use it to. Retails between $8–9.

Available at retailers nationwide.

 

—  Rich Lopez

“Houston, We Have a Problem” tonight at Avant Garden

Judy Garlow

Judy Garlow, director of the short comedy Connect

As excited as I am about the Sundance Theater opening and Houston, once again, becoming a two art-house city it’s important to remember that real independent films rarely, if ever, make it to the big chain art houses. If you, like me, enjoy the gamble of watching truly indie film (with the inherent risk of watching utter dreck or divine transience) you’ll want want to check out Houston, We Have a Problem tonight at Avant Garden (411 Westhiemer) starting at 9 pm.

Tonight’s monthly film festival includes the usual mix of shorts, documentaries and trailers and the opportunity to talk with their creators. Scheduled films include Max Xandaux May by Rachel Estrada, Connect by Judy Garlow and a sneak peak at Mike James’ new thriller Jes’us.

There’s no charge for the event and Avant Garden is featuring $2 drink specials for attendees.

—  admin

25 ways to fight AIDS

Today, December 1, is World AIDS Day.

Wait! Before you click the ‘next’ button or scroll down your news feed hear me out: The LGBT community has been living with AIDS for three decades now. For people of my generation the message to get tested and use condoms has been stated and restated so many times that it has faded into the background with the result that, all too often, people do not take the steps they need to to protect themselves. Harris County is responsible for 30% of the new HIV/AIDS diagnosis in Texas and men who have sex with men account for 64% of newly diagnosed men statewide. The threat is not over, the fight is not over, AIDS still endanger the LGBT community.

But I don’t want to just talk about just condoms and testing (as important as they are). Fighting HIV/AIDS is easier than you might think. I present to you 25 ways, in no particular order, to fight AIDS in Houston.

25. If you’re over a certain age talk to a young LGBT person about how your life has been affected by HIV/AIDS. You might be surprised how eager we are to hear your stories.

24. If you’re under a certain age listen to an older LGBT person tell you how HIV/AIDS has affected their lives. I know you aren’t eager to hear their stories, but listen anyway. You may find that learning the history of your community is more empowering than you’d expect.

23. If you are a sexually active gay man or transgender woman participate in the Baylor College of Medicine’s HIV Vaccine Study.

22. Ask your local public or school library to put books about HIV/AIDS on the shelf, not just in the back room where they have to be requested. Access to accurate information is crucial in fighting the spread of the disease.

21. Post HIV/AIDS stories to facebook.

20. Ask your clergy person what your community of faith is doing to fight the pandemic.

19. Sign up for action alerts from the Texas HIV/AIDS Coalition at texashiv.org

18. Actually follow through when the action alerts from the Texas HIV/AIDS Coalition arrive in your in-box.

17. Volunteer for organizations that deal with communities at high risk for infection: high school dropouts, victims of sexual assault, the poor, the homeless and sex workers. Fighting AIDS means fighting the injustice in our society that all too often contributes to new infections.

16. Say AIDS out loud.

15. Ask political candidates what they will do to continue funding to fight HIV/AIDS.

14. Once they’re elected, ask those candidates why they aren’t doing more to continue funding to fight HIV/AIDS.

13. Remind yourself that it’s OK to be tired of hearing about HIV/AIDS.

12. Thank a person who volunteers their time to the fight.

11. Take a moment to remember the people we’ve lost.

10. Take a moment to think of the people we may loose if this pandemic isn’t stopped.

9. Take a HIV/AIDS healthcare worker to dinner.

8. Wear a red ribbon.

7. Recognize that wearing a red ribbon isn’t enough.

6. Work with communities other than your own. HIV/AIDS effects us all.

5. Get angry.

4. Get over your anger.

3. Donate to an HIV/AIDS Charity.

2. When you pass a mobile HIV testing center, thank the workers.

1. Don’t pretend the fight is over, and don’t let other people pretend it’s over either.

—  admin