REVIEW: ‘Rockin’ Christmas Party’

Denise Lee and Markus Lloyd in 'Rockin' Christmas Party.'

If a musical revue featuring a six-person ensemble and no real plot can have a star, then the star of Rockin’ Christmas Party — returning to WaterTower Theatre a decade after it first began a run as a holiday standard — is Markus Lloyd. Lloyd belts out Motown hits, croons on carols like “What Christmas Means to Me” and moves better than James Brown on “I Feel Good,” “Brickhouse” and “Love Shack.” With his deep voice and infectious energy, he puts the “rockin’” in the title — enough so, that you might not notice that the show itself is too cheesy by half.

Dave Steakley’s musical tour of the latter half of 20th century music with a seasonal theme has been a regional favorite for ages, and like similar shows — Forever Plaid comes to mind, as well as A Christmas Carol and The Nutcracker — it represents a tradition perhaps more honored in the breach than in the observance: Going might just be the thing to get you in the holiday mood, but it feels more like a routine than an inspiration.

This production plays to the actors’ strengths, although in that way, it’s predictable, even a bit dull. Jenny Thurman has played Patsy Cline many times; having her perform a medley of country songs with a Patsy twang is, at least, uninspired. (The songs selected are puzzling as well; story-ballads like “Harper Valley, P.T.A.” and “Ode to Billy Joe” have actual plots, so doing mash-ups that delete large parcels of lyric is a failure. It makes no sense to sing about “the day my mama socked it to” the P.T.A. without hearing what she did is ludicrous.)

Gary Lynn Floyd’s smooth tenor is a perfect match for the comforting sequence of TV Christmas special-like songs, and the theater rocks with gay pride during the disco sequence, which includes “I Will Survive,”  ”YMCA,” ”I’m Coming Out” and “It’s Raining Men” — it might as well have a drag queen leading the way. But that also raises a question: What about those songs says “Christmastime” to you? Only about a quarter of the musical numbers are actual carols — the rest are just retro doo-wop and rock songs. Fun, yes, but not really overflowing with holiday cheer. (How does “Movin’ On Up,” the theme from The Jeffersons, belong within three miles of this show?)

Neither do the costumes. Despite red and green velvets conjuring Santa’s elves, these creations, paired with unattractive wigs, detract from the spirit of the season more than complement it.  Thurman is clad in a petticoated prom dress that makes her look like a drag version of Lisa Lampanelli, and Sara Shelby-Martin comes out near the end in a get-up (including hat) that looks like a Pan Am stewardess wearing a sombrero designed in the Land of Oz.

None of that, of course, affects the singing, which is excellent. (On opening night, Amy Stevenson, one of the biggest-voiced of big-voiced singers in town, was clearly off her game, barely getting her songs out above a whisper.)  Rockin’ Christmas Party ends up as a show better listened to than watched — just like all those Andy Williams/Perry Como TV specials.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Why LGBT people should join the Occupation

16 reasons the LGBT community should be joining the Occupy Wall Street protests around the country

Leslie Robinson
General Gayety

My view of the Occupy Wall Street protest is that it’s an unfocused jumble — but at least somebody’s doing something. At last. What began with a few dozen demonstrators on Wall Street has grown into a national conniption over corporate greed and government collusion.

It’s easy for those in power to dismiss the protesters as young people devoid of both sense and hygiene. But all sorts of people are protesting. And that includes us.

LGBT folks are demonstrating from New York to Seattle. I’m pleased about that. I can think of a lot of reasons we should be involved in this fight:

1. Gay men bring a certain verve to any gathering.

2. We are in the middle of our movement, still battling for our civil rights, so some of us are ready to demonstrate at the drop of a tweet.

3. Our experienced protesters can advise others on being arrested with maximum exposure and minimum pain.

4. LGBT anthems might be inspiring.  I’m thinking of “I Will Survive,” not “It’s Raining Men.”

5. During the considerable down time — many of the protests involve camping out — we could introduce party games. Maybe plan a wedding for a laid-off steel worker and an underemployed librarian.

6. We have been the victims of Wall Street shenanigans, too, losing our homes, our jobs, our hope. Corporate greed is very equal opportunity, savaging straight and gay alike.

7. We have also been the victimizers. If you’ve abetted corporate criminality, it’s time to grow a conscience, sell one of your houses and post bail for protesters. Or see to it that the demonstration in your city becomes a catered affair.

8. Spiritual guidance. If demonstrators want a blessing or just clerical panache, our community can provide it in the form of lesbian rabbis, MCC ministers, gay priests, Radical Faeries and lesbian Buddhist nuns.
9. The protests are irritating Glenn Beck, and that’s reason enough to participate.

10. Passion. Throngs of people. Close quarters. A sense of being real: Occupy Wall Street is Pride out of season.

11. As with Pride, the opportunities for meeting a soulmate or a bedmate are ripe.

12. LGBT persons soaking up the agitation over corporate power might be moved to examine how we produce our annual festivals. Should Pride be about gay freedom or grapefruit vodka?

13. For a few, these demonstrations would provide a professional challenge: the chance to give an anarchist a makeover.

14. LGBT leaders have learned the importance of allies. We need to keep these ties strong. When gay people visibly participate in Occupy Wall Street, we stand with youth, liberals, unions, people of color, faith groups, veterans, professionals, anti-war activists and environmentalists. And confused tourists.

15. It would be best all around if these protests were nonviolent, and who better to diffuse tension between demonstrators and police than a quick-thinking drag queen? If well delivered, the line “Does this demonstration make me look fat?” should do the trick.

16. The struggle for gay rights is a lengthy undertaking, and the obstacles and backward steps are draining. Occupy Wall Street could rejuvenate our spirits. It might remind us what people can do when they’re angry, fighting for their lives and sort-of-kind-of-somewhat have a goal.

If she weren’t already female, Leslie Robinson would consider becoming a drag queen. E-mail her at lesarobinson@gmail.com, and check out her blog at www.generalgayety.com for all types of humorous postings. 

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 14, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens