New season of Lexus Broadway Series to include ‘Hair,’ ‘Les Miserables,’ ‘American Idiot’

Billy Joe Armstrong

Dallas is finally getting some excellent shows … and some familiar ones return … again.

The Lexus Broadway Series, which was launched with the opening of the Winspear Opera House in 2009 as a national tour series to compete with Dallas Summer Musicals, released its new season. It kicks off around Pride Weekend with the revival of Hair (which on Broadway starred Gavin Creel, the openly gay actor who performed at Black Tie Dinner last year). The sexually fluid show has been a staple for 40 years, but the revival was singled out for praise.

That’s followed in December with the return of Les Miserables, a terrific if bombastic mega-musical which nonetheless gets revived a bit too often. (The original 1987 Broadway production closed in 2003 … only to be revived on Broadway again in 2006.) I’m a fan, but even I’ve grown weary of it.

Then things get cookin’ — though we have to wait almost a year. Next March, Dallas finally gets In the Heights, a not-too-gay urban hip-hop musical with a Latin beat about Dominicans living in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. That’s where my family lived when I was a boy; the set of the show was actually the subway stop I used to get off at. The music is phenomenal. It won a lot of Tony Awards in 2008; when I saw it on Broadway, Rosie O’Donnell was sitting next to me.

In May, the music gets even edgier with American Idiot, the rock musical based on the music of the neo-punk band Green Day. Again, not an especially gay show, except that the group is very gay-friendly and frontman Billy Joe Armstrong likes to get naked a lot (pictured). Plus, Tommy Tune told me a few weeks ago it was one of his favorite new shows — an unlikely endorsement, which should intrigue musical enthusiasts.

The series ends with another old saw, Jersey Boys — again, a fun musical that has been around for a while about the founding of the Four Seasons.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Give A Damn, get some goodies and help out a good cause all at the same time

Cyndi Lauper

Everybody knows that Cyndi Lauper is not just an LGBT rights supporter, she is a committed activist who is willing to put her time, talent and money where her mouth is when it comes to equality for all.

And now, she’s putting her sparkly high-heeled shoes where her mouth is, too.

The shoes — “Glittery Heels Worn and Signed by Cyndi Lauper” — are just one of the 43 items up for auction in the third annual winter Give A Damn online auction. The list also includes opportunities to meet a wide range of celebrities (Lauper, Jason Mraz, Ricky Martin, The Scissor Sisters, Lily Tomlin and more) in person, a chance to have lunch with Carson Kressley, 2 VIP gold hot seat ticket packages to Lady Gaga’s sold-out show at MSG, tickets to see U2 at the Meadowlands, signed items from folks like Dolly Parton, a Skype chat with Chely Wright, the chance to have Lauper, Rosie O’Donnell or Sara Silverman record your voice mail message — and much, much more.

All the proceeds from the auction go to help fund the Give A Damn Campaign, a web-based initiative launched by Lauper’s True Colors Fund “with the goal of educating and engaging everyone, especially straight people, in the advancement of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality.”

So head on over to the auction page, check out the items up for auction and bid on one or two if you can. I mean, after all, who wouldn’t like the chance to walk in Cyndi Lauper’s shoes — literally?!

—  admin

We R Family: Rosie ex Kelli Carpenter keeps hope afloat with new take on queer cruise

CHANGE IN PROGRAMMING | The gay travel company R Family Vacations, co-founded by Gregg Kaminsky and Kelli Carpenter, above, is changing things up with its travel options. They are now offering bigger, mainstream cruise options for LGBT families, a Club Med week and new adults-only packages.

TAMMYE NASH | Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

R Family Vacations was born out of its co-founder’s desire to give her children — and the children of other same-sex couples — at least that one week out of the year when their families were the “norm.”

When Kelli Carpenter and Gregg Kaminsky founded the company in 2003, their primary focus was to provide a place where LGBT couples and families could enjoy a vacation experience with other families like their own. Carpenter and her former partner, Rosie O’Donnell, have four children themselves.

“Ro and I were searching for a place where our own children wouldn’t feel so alone,” says Carpenter, who was in Dallas recently to promote R Family’s 2011 line-up of vacation events.

“It’s hard to describe the feeling on one of our vacations,” she says. “I usually just leave it to the people who have been on one of our trips, and what they usually say: It is a sense of community, of, for once, being with other families like yours, that the children really look forward to. There is so much laughter and such a sense of joy and camaraderie that you can’t find anyplace else.”

“A lot of the families that come on board an R Family cruise live in the middle of Idaho or somewhere like that where there are no other families like theirs anywhere around. And their tears and their joy are so intense because this is the one place where they can actually feel that sense of family, that sense of knowing there are other families like theirs out there.”

All-women cruises for lesbians and all-men cruises for gay men were already common when R Family came about. But Carpenter and O’Donnell felt “That’s not what [our] life looks like. Our community has changed. If you are a woman, and you have two sons and you want to go on vacation with your best friend who is a gay man, an all-woman cruise or an all-guy cruise isn’t the place for that.”

And the community has changed even more since the first R Family cruise in 2004. Now R Family clients aren’t just same-sex couples with their children. More and more often, couples are bringing their straight parents and siblings along, as well as their chosen families. Even same-sex couples without children are opting for R Family vacations to take advantage of the family-friendly atmosphere where their straight family members will feel comfortable and welcome, too, Carpenter says.

That change, coupled with the recession that curtailed many people’s vacation plans, has prompted R Family to find ways to reach out to new clients.

“There were a lot of businesses that were really hard hit by the recession. Considering that we are a luxury product, I think we downsized at just the right time and in just the right way,” Carpenter says. “We had built up to two cruises a year, and then, as the economy started to go down, we went back to just one full ship a year. We were starting to run out of itineraries, and we were getting a lot of requests for something different.”

Last year, R Family offered something different: Instead of a cruise ship completely for R Family vacationers, the group started offering group trips on larger, mainstream cruises. Carpenter said while she had some reservations at first about taking a group of LGBT families on a cruise with mainstream families, her fears were soon laid to rest.

“I went in emotionally prepared for some issue to crop up, and there was none. It was kind of nice for our families to have each other to rely on and at the same time, to be able to look at the other families and realize that underneath it all, we looked just like everyone else on the boat,” she says.

Also last year, for the first time, R Family offered something other than a cruise: A week for LGBT families at Club Med in Ixtapa.

“The Club Med week was a tremendous success, and not just for our regular cruisers who wanted something different for a change,” Carpenter says. “This year, we are offering a week at Club Med Sandpiper in Florida, and I think it will be even more successful.”

Despite brighter prospects for the economy, many families are still cutting back on luxury expenses like vacations. Even though last year’s Club Med trip was less expensive than a cruise, it still required travel abroad, and airfare isn’t cheap.

That’s why Carpenter expects the “Summer Camp” Club Med Sandpiper week, July 9–16, to be even more popular. Families can make the trip by car rather than having to fly.

“The Club Med resorts always offer plenty of activities, but for the R Family weeks, we completely start over as far as entertainment and programming. We will have top-notch comedians and theatrical performances for the grown-ups. Every night there will be a different, unique performance. The company will also offer its first adult-only vacation this year, in response to the growing number of requests for something a little more adventurous from gay men and lesbians who want to vacation together.”

The week-long adults-only package aboard the Norwegian Epic sails from Miami to the Western Caribbean March 5. Other packages include a family vacation aboard the Norwegian Jewel Feb. 20, and the R Family cruise returns with a trip aboard the Norwegian Jade from Venice to four Greek islands departing Aug. 6.

“We are glad that we are able to offer all these options, and to do it in a way that doesn’t put the company at risk,” Carpenter says. “There are a lot of families with children that really count on these vacations every year. It’s a chance for these kids to see that they are not alone, a chance to get to see their parents be together and express affection for each other in public, and to have a safe environment to do that in.

“I think our company and the growth of our company is reflective of what I wish the whole world looked like — someplace the entire family can be themselves and be comfortable being themselves.

For more information, visit FamilyVacations.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 4, 2011.

—  John Wright

What’s your LGBT news IQ?

Where did Anne Rice announce her departure from Christianity? Who’s replacing Ellen on ‘American Idol’? Test how well you keep up with the LGBT news of the day

Simon Cowell and Ellen DeGeneres
HERE COMES THE JUDGE | Ellen DeGeneres, pictured here with Simon Cowell, is leaving “American Idol.” Who will replace her as judge? See question No. 4.

I have shirked my duty. I haven’t provided you with an LGBT news quiz in an eon. Shocking behavior.

I’m back on the case now, ready to help you figure out whether you know your news.

For each multiple-choice question below, circle the right answer. Or the wrong one — in my current contrite state, I can’t be pushy.

1.  At a rally in Indianapolis, a man held a sign that said, “The solution to gay marriage,” and underneath the words dangled a couple of nooses. Which organization staged the rally?

a. the Republican Party

b. Westboro Baptist Church

c. the National Organization for Marriage

d. the Taliban

2. “Interview with the Vampire” author Anne Rice announced, “In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian.” Rice, mother of gay novelist Christopher Rice, declared she refuses to be “anti-gay,” “anti-feminist” and “anti-Democrat.” Where did her written declaration appear?

a. in Newsweek

b. on Twitter

c. on Facebook

d. on a church door in Wittenberg

3. Intent on staging a counter protest to Jerusalem’s Pride parade, Deputy Mayor Yitzhak Pindrus sought permission to greet marchers with live animals to represent the “bestial” nature of the parade. Which real animals did he want to use?

a. dogs

b. sheep

c. donkeys

d. armadillos

4. Ellen DeGeneres has chosen to leave “American Idol.” Her reported replacement as a judge will be:

a. Rosie O’Donnell

b. RuPaul

c. Jennifer Lopez

d. Madeleine Albright

5. And in further lesbians-and-TV news, the now officially out actress Sara Gilbert (“Roseanne”) will co-host a new daytime talk show in which celebrity moms discuss the trials of motherhood. What will the show be called?

a. “The Mothers”

b. “The Mom Show”

c. “The Talk”

d. “The Stretch Marks”

6. Eight GetEqual protesters were arrested in the Capitol rotunda, their sit-in an effort to push House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to bring ENDA up for a vote. Pelosi’s spokesperson said:

a. “Go away.”

b. “I told you that floor is cold.”

c. “ . . . passing ENDA before DADT repeal has been finalized jeopardizes both initiatives.”

d. “You people have too many acronyms.”

The answer to each question is c. Since it’s been so long, I didn’t want to strain you by mixing things up.

If you didn’t do well, fear not. I’m feeling sufficiently guilty that I hereby declare everyone has aced the quiz. What’s a little grade inflation between friends?

E-mail Leslie Robinson at lesarobinson@gmail.com, and visit her blog at GeneralGayety.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 6, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Stage star Gavin Creel to perform at Black Tie

2-time Tony nominee will join with TCC to headline 2010 fundraiser

From Staff Reports editor@dallasvoice.com

From Broadway, to London’s West End to Dallas, two-time Tony Award nominee Gavin Creel is coming to Texas in November to appear as the headlining entertainer for the 2010 Black Tie Dinner.

Creel will join Dallas’ own Turtle Creek Chorale in performing a special arrangement in honor of BTD beneficiaries to open the dinner, BTD officials said.

BTD Co-Chair Ron Guillard said organizers are “thrilled these two talents will unite on one stage.”

“Gavin brings an incomparable and raw sense of emotion to every performance. Combine that with the powerful voices of the Turtle Creek Chorale and we know our audience will experience a real treat,” Guillard said.

Creel first won Broadway acclaim for his leading role opposite Sutton Foster in the 2002 production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” which earned him a Tony Award nomination as best actor. The show won the Tony for best musical.

Last year, Creel was in the revival of “Hair,” playing the hippie Claude. He earned his second Tony nomination with that effort.
He’s currently performing in London’s West End.

Off stage, Creel is one of the founders of Broadway Impact, an organization fighting for equality and LGBT civil liberties. He is a regular performer on R Family Cruises with Rosie O’Donnell and is planning the release of his second studio album. BTD Co-Chair Nan Arnold noted that the announcement of Creel’s performance with TCC at the dinner comes less than a week before table captain table sales begin for this year’s event.

Arnold said, “All of these organizations have been standing strong, providing valuable services and programs to our community — some of them for decades — and we look forward to celebrating them in this exciting manner this year.”

Black Tie officials announced earlier this year that the Rev. Carol West will receive the Kuchling Humanitarian Award at the 2010 dinner, and that this year’s Elizabeth Birch Equality Award will be presented to American Airlines. Officials said other announcements about the 2010 dinner are coming soon.

Dinner organizers have not yet announced the keynote speaker for the event in November, or this year’s Media Award winner.
Online table captain table sales begin at 10 a.m. Wednesday, June 30 at BlackTie.org/tablecaptains. Sponsor level placements, which include premium table placement and other benefits, are already available at BlackTie.org/sponsors.

For more information about table captain sales, contact Mitzi Lemons by e-mail at mlemons@blacktie.org or by phone at 972-733-9200, ext. 7. For sponsor information, contact Maggie McQuown by e-mail at mmcquown@blacktie.org or by phone at 972-733-9200, ext. 8.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 25, 2010.

—  Dallasvoice