Kristen Chenoweth comes to N. Tex. for CD signing — and you’ll need a wristband for it

A few months ago, we wrote about Broadway and TV star Kristen Chenoweth‘s new album of country songs, Some Lessons Learned — a left-turn for the opera-trained singer of pop standards and showtunes. But Chenoweth is just an Oklahoma gal at heart, who grew up on country and church music (but has remained open-hearted and gay-friendly for years).

Well, she’s bringing that music to Frisco for a CD signing at Barnes & Noble at Stonebriar Center on Dec. 9. Chenoweth won’t be appearing until 6:30 p.m. that evening, but you can get a wristband starting at 9 a.m. — they are available on a first come, first served basis. You have to buy the CD at that location, and can only get it — and not other Wicked or Glee memorabilia — signed, though you can buy as many CDs as you want.

Of course, Chenoweth has another strong tie to North Texas — her upcoming ABS series, Good Christian Belles, is set in Dallas.

—  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

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

GIVEAWAY: Win tix to Clay Aiken tomorrow night at Verizon Theatre

Last week, I talked with Clay Aiken about his activist work and then his music. He’s kinda been all over the place singing pop, showtunes and now old school classics. He seems to have made a career out of being non-traditional in his approach to his musical catalog. We dig it.

His show comes to town tomorrow night at the Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie and we have tickets. Wanna go? Yes you do. If so, e-mail us here with “AIKEN” in the subject line and your name and number in the body. I should see you there, so you better say hi.


—  Rich Lopez

Kane’s ‘Why Am I Not Gay?’ has its ups and downs — but not tops and bottoms

Jason Kane
This ensemble is too straight to be gay — just like Jason Kane.

Last week, I talked with local actor Jason Kane and his new (to Dallas) one-man show Why Am I Not Gay? Growing up a fan of musical theater and the Pet Shop Boys, he apparently set off a lot of gaydar. In his show, he pokes fun at this throughout the years with a peppering of showtunes and pop songs (gay).

I hit up the show last night at Tucker’s Blues in Deep Ellum, which by the way, is an amazing venue. Kane, in appropriately drab clothing (straight) took the stage about 7:30 opening with a tune (gay) and launched into his monologue about the trials and tribulations of being mistaken for an M4M kinda guy.

Accompanying him, along with his music director Daniel Ezell, is a scoreboard with “G” and “S” and along the way, he added tic marks for his varying degrees of orientation (Get it? “G”ay, “S”traight.). With hilarious nods to  music preferences and The Golden Girls (way gay), he gains a whole lot of “G” marks, but counteracts with some of his more breeder-like tendencies that put “S” on the board. However, he didn’t employ this schtick enough. When he returned to the board, he was attempting to recall what he should have been marking which made for an awkward moment. Kane had great recovery time and easily whipped out (gay) snappy one-liners to compensate.

His audience threw him off his game a few times. Having friends come to your show is fine but some began mistaking his monologue for dialogue. Kane kept composure but high school tales that audience members begged for more information on upset song cues and rhythm.

Kane has great singing chops (gay). Sometimes the songs took a serious turn after a punchline, but a surprisingly beautiful voice emanated from this imposing gruff straight guy (closet gay). Add to that some key moments like his bear bar tale and explaining why every girl has become his BFF because “he doesn’t like vaginas.” Funny stuff.

The show could easily be misconstrued in a lot of ways. He uses “homo” enough to make any gay person wonder if he’s being derogatory (way straight). But then he relates how he’s always supported his LGBT friends and takes on issues like Prop 8 (gay-friendly). Admittedly, it took some time to process the show, but ultimately, I found it a fun piece that doesn’t just dole out the laughs, but leaves people, straight and gay, something to think about.

And yes, he’s straight — straighter than he thinks he is.

The show closes Thursday night: Why Am I Not Gay? at Tucker’s Blues, 2617 Commerce St. Aug. 19. 7 p.m. $10.

—  Rich Lopez