This week’s takeaways: Pride Edition

Usually I wait until Friday to run down all that’s going on in gaydom this week that you need to catch up on, but since it’s Pride Weekend, I figured I’d get a jump-start on all the events.

First up: Tonight is the first night of Miss Coco Peru Is Present at the Rose Room. She’s hilarious. And if you order using the discount code VOICE, you get up to 40 percent off your tickets. Amanda Lepore and Cazwell also appear at It’ll Do Dancing Club tonight starting about 11 — so you can see Coco and still catch their show.

Today is also the kickoff for two very different weekend long events. First, the Southwest RV Supershow starts Thursday and runs through Sunday at Dallas Market Hall. If you like camping — and let’s face it, gays really do — you’ll find a phenomenal selection of recreational vehicles here. On the other side of the spectrum is the opening of the City Performance Hall. If you find yourself in the Arts District anyway, you might wanna stop by and see The Second City Does Dallas at the Wyly or War Horse at the Winspear. (Psst! The horse is gay.)

Friday night might require some hopping to catch all that’s going on, from the launch of the new Dick’s Night Out gay men’s party the Red Party (a big fundraiser for Legacy Counseling Center) to Suzanne Westenhoefer cracking wise in the Vixin Lounge at Sue Ellen’s.

There are also three more days to catch both Uptown Players‘ The Producers and shows in their Second Annual Dallas Pride Performing Arts Festival. But there’s also tons of other good theater around the area, including Rent at Theatre Arlington and a few more performances of The Most Happy Fella at Lyric Stage in Irving. Also out in the Mid Cities this weekend: Gay Day at Six Flags will be in Arlington on Saturday. You can get half-off tickets courtesy of Dallas Voice here. And Patti LuPone teams with her old friend Mandy Patinkin for An Evening With at Richardson’s Eisemann Center for Performing Arts on Saturday night. (Read an interview with Mandy in Friday’s Voice.)

Of course, by now you know about the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade along Cedar Springs on Sunday, concurrent with the Festival at Lee Park, but there are lots of other Pride-related parties that day (and all weekend), including DJ Tony Moran spinning at BearDance at TMC on Sunday, Chi Chi LaRue at BJ’s NXS! on Sunday, DJ Michael Tank at the Brick (also Sunday).

And we haven’t even started on all the events from Monday on, whether it be Gary Lynn Floyd inaugurating the new Cabaret Series at the Sammons Arts Center or yours truly giving his regular Gay Broadway Series lecture at War Horse on Tuesday night. So if you can’t keep track of it all, trust us — we get it.

Still, that’s all the more reason to pick up the Voice on Friday. We have a rundown of many of the events, plus interviews with celebs, pictures of hot guys in underwear and our first “hetero life partners” edition of Dynamic Duo. Pick it up, you’ll love it.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Twisted, sister: Dee Snider tackles Broadway

If Pat Boone can try heavy metal, I suppose nothing can surprise us. And honestly, the idea that Dee Snider, the hawk-nosed, bleached-perm frontman for annoying ’80s rockers Twisted Sister, has always had an eye for the flamboyant — why shouldn’t he give a rock twist to that most diva-like of genres, the Broadway show tune? So, I was only mildly stunned when I saw he will be releasing an album in May, Dee Does Broadway, featuring covers from the likes of Kander & Ebb and Sondheim.

But two things did catch me off guard. First was that he was able to snag some of the premiere gay icons of the day to perform alongside him, including Patti LuPone, Cyndi Lauper, Bebe Neuwirth and Clay Aiken. The second is that, ummm, he’s pretty good! Untraditional, but good! You can take a listen here. What do you think?

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Top 10 Broadway Diva solos

The other day, my publisher asked me to recommend some songs to bolster his iPod library: The top 10 female Broadway diva solos of all time. (He told me not to spend too much time researching it, even though he doesn’t pay me by the hour, but just give him an idea off the top of my head.) Obviously, if this is going on an iPod, the songs need to be, at least in principal, readily available, so that means no replacement casts of concert performances of Babs doing “The Music and the Mirror.” I limited myself only to cast albums of Broadway shows, not movie soundtracks, and of course I am limited to solos by women.

Below is the list I came up with, roughly in chronological order. What do you think? Any obvious ones you would have included? (P.S My boss said the list was just the ticket.)

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

‘Gypsy’ in her soul

B’way legend and gay icon Patti LuPone brings her powerful pipes to Dallas

concerts-1ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

You might not have seen her name above the title on a movie or welcomed her every week into your house via the boob tube, but when it comes to the stage, there are few contemporary performers who rival Patti LuPone.

“I’m not a movie actress — I think I’m a hard sell in the movies,” LuPone says matter-of-factly. (She is, however, about to shoot a film in New Orleans, playing  J-Lo’s mom.) While the Juilliard-trained actress has met her greatest success in musical theater, it’s her acting chops that have transformed songs like “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” (from Evita — her first Tony Award) and “Rose’s Turn” (Gypsy — her second Tony). The latter was a career highlight: The most ferocious role for a woman ever written for an American musical. Two years after it closed, she’s still happy to talk about it.

“It was great,” she beams. “Arthur [Laurents, the director and writer] assembled a spectacular cast — we really were a triumvirate. I don’t think you can act alone. You need partners on stage.”

That the production took place “was really done as a tribute to Arthur’s partner of 50 years, Tom Hatcher,: she says. “Tom had just died, and he’s the one who told Arthur to do West Side Story and Gypsy. Arthur agreed to do it basically to keep him alive. He wanted it to be different than the last one and really have an acted show.”

Although the entire principal cast won Tonys, Laurents did not.  “How could the director not win!” LuPone says, voice filling with outrage. You sense it’s such emotional readiness that has made her a Broadway icon.

LuPone brings that legendary power to the stage of the Meyerson this week, with what she calls a “piano and voice only” concert (no orchestra), titled Gypsy in My Soul. “It’s a collection of songs including some showtunes,” she says.

When an actress so identified with certain composers, especially Stephen Sondheim, performs in concert, she can run the risk of being compelled to perform songs that no longer interest her. That’s simply not the case with LuPone.

“Songs never become old hat to me, “ she says categorically. “Because audiences want to hear one, so I do one — not even because I have to; I want to. If they are really good songs you want to sing them.”

LuPone has, in one venue or another, run through almost the entire Sondheim repertoire: Mama Rose, Passion, Company, Mrs. Lovett from Sweeney Todd (another Tony nomination — “I actually got rotator cuff problems from carrying around that tuba”). Really, only two have eluded her.

“I wanted to play Desiree [in the revival of A Little Night Music, which closed earlier this year on Broadway]. I contacted Trevor [Nunn, the director], who didn’t contact me back,” she says, with a sting. “Really the last Sondheim role for me is the Witch in Into the Woods, which I was originally offered! After it left San Diego they offered it to me; I said I d like to play Cinderella, so I came in and auditioned for that. Then they said, ‘We still want you to play the Witch.’ Then negotiations fell apart.”

Her resume is littered with shows — some huge hits, some personal triumphs.

“I loved Women on the Verge,” she says of her last Broadway venture, which closed quickly last year (though not before landing her a sixth Tony nom). “I think there’s a lot of creativity [on Broadway] now, but I’m sick and tired of the spectacles. My biggest complaint is the sound level: I’d rather be brought to the stage than pushed back in my seat.”

And she’s always looking ahead. “Mandy [Patinkin] and I are coming to Broadway for nine weeks [soon], then we will go out on the road both together and separately. Then there’s stuff happening that I can’t say because I’m not supposed to,” she teases.

You might expect she’d find a pace more suitable for a 62-year-old, but LuPone denies that the demands of eight shows a week wear her out.

“I have Italian peasant energy,” he says. “Even at my age, there is this abundance of energy, especially songs that are physically demanding. I am exhilarated by them.”

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

—  Kevin Thomas

The Tony nominations (and what’s gay about ‘em)!

Despite a boondoggle of a webcast (at least on my end, three browsers and two computers could never load it), the Tony Award nominations did come out this morning, unlike Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, which ended up not being eligible for any because it has not officially opened yet despite previews starting last November.

It’s sometimes harder to quantify snubs and surprises since many shows close before the noms and live performances are organic things, but the lack of noms for Priscilla, Queen of the Desert has to be seen as a poke in the eyeball, as well as overlooked noms for Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson, which moved from Off Broadway to Broadway last season.

On the upside, the success across categories of The Book of Mormon, the show from South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, seems like an indication NYC theater is keeping its edge.

Of especially note to the gay community:

The Normal Heart, Larry Kramer’s Reagan-era play about the AIDS crisis, got its B’way debut, but peculiarly was nominated for best revival of a play. It was also nominated for two gay actors, Joe Mantello (leading) and John Benjamin Hickey (featured), as well as best direction and featured actress Ellen Barkin.

The Book of Mormon, with a lot of gay content, received a record-tying 14 nominations.

Catch Me If You Can, adapted from the Tom Hanks-Leo DiCaprio movie, got four nominations, including one for out producer Hal Luftig. It did not get nominated for its score, the last slot going instead to Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown with Patti LuPone, which closed after a handful of performances. LuPone didn get a nomination, as did her Gypsy co-star Laura Benanti.

• The revival of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, with gay actor Sir Brian Bedford as a cross-dressing Lady Bracknell, got three noms.

The awards will be presented June 12.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

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