Starvoice • 02.24.12

By Jack Fertigstarvoice

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAY

Antonio Sabato Jr. turns 40 on Wednesday. The handsome actor has made women and men swoon since his days as a Calvin Klein model and soap opera star. He embraced his appeal to gays by appearing on the cover of The Advocate in 2006. He played the “gay best friend” in an episode of Hot in Cleveland last year and appears in this year’s Celebrity Wife Swap.

…………………..

THIS WEEK

The sun in Pisces opposing Mars in Virgo starts lots of picky, whiney, hyper-critical arguments. Put aside your own “needs” and offer what you can to others.

…………………..

PISCES  Feb 19-Mar 19
Focus on being a better partner. That means allowing some space, being less co-ependent. Enjoy your birthday, but impulse spending would prove surprisingly expensive.

ARIES  Mar 20-Apr 19
Staying calm, focused and cooperative on the task ahead is a real challenge. Keep faultfinding to yourself; be mature, stoic and farsighted. It will get easier next week.

TAURUS  Apr 20-May 20
Friends feel like they’re more trouble than they’re worth. Go hide and relax. Social obligations at work are especially difficult. Prioritize; do what you must and save time to recharge your batteries.

GEMINI  May 21-Jun 20
Make the impossible work with a balance of inspiration and practicality. That crazy idea that comes out of nowhere could be the key. Test it before you commit, but at least check it out.

CANCER  Jun 21-Jul 22
New situations are overwhelming, even confusing. Resist temptation to retreat. Push through the fog. Not only can you rise to the occasion, but you will find the effort rewarding.

LEO  Jul 23-Aug 22
Efforts to smooth over problems backfire big time. Face the music and deal with it. Put that sunshine to work rallying support for a real solution.

VIRGO  Aug 23-Sep 22
Even well intended advice can go very wrong. Pay attention and receive it politely. If it sounds like a good idea, consider it very carefully before acting on it.

LIBRA  Sep 23-Oct 22
Don’t take anything for granted. It may seem tedious work to spell out all the little details, but it is worth the trouble. The less you boast, the more attractive they will make you.

SCORPIO  Oct 23-Nov 21
Losing friends without creating trouble is hard. Be gentle and polite. If they accuse you of being overly-critical, smile agreeably. That’s just a harsh way of saying you have higher standards.

SAGITTARIUS  Nov 22-Dec 20
You’re on a power surge. It could build momentum at work and push you into a better job. If you are considering any big risks with your work, this is the time to take them, but think ahead.

CAPRICORN  Dec 21-Jan 19
Your goals are realistic, but you need to get your ego out of the way. Negatives overshadow the issue now. Bring those to light. Soon you’ll see the positives more clearly.

AQUARIUS  Jan 20-Feb 18
A good argument could cost you. Be restrained and pragmatic; keep your ears open. Elicit information, but don’t contradict. You could learn something very useful, even profitable.

Jack Fertig can be reached at 415-864-8302 or Starjack.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 24, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Competing for your confection

Not all gourmet cupcakes are created equal

Cupcake

LET ’EM EAT CUPCAKE | From top, Gigi’s, The Cupcakery and Sprinkles’ vanilla cakes vary in their potency of flavor. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

howard lewis russell  | Contributing Writer
hlewisrussell@aol.com

With the fanfare surrounding the arrival of Sprinkles in Dallas five years ago — and its concomitant gangbusters success — a proliferation of me-too cupcake markets inevitably followed.

So which is best? At nearly four bucks a cupcake (about $1 per bite) we decided on a side-by-side comparison of three flavors (vanilla, chocolate, lemon) was warranted. We chose three area competitors: Sprinkles, Gigi’s Cupcakes and The Cupcakery. Each was devoured with a glass of milk.

Let’s just say that all $4 cupcakes are not created equal.

First, the good news: All three cupcake purveyors were impeccably clean, their staffs professionally (even gregariously!) friendly. Were I going in for a surgical procedure rather than a cupcake, they’d each receive four stars.

Indeed, just entering through the doors of these aromatically sparkling stores would send Willy Wonka himself into a swoon.

Sprinkles’ currently offers 24 weekly varieties, although cleverly, not all of them are available every day of the week. Dark chocolate and vanilla are staples, but lemon is only available Mondays, Thursdays and Sundays; ginger lemon takes over the Wednesday citrus spot, while orange fulfills Tuesday’s vitamin C-craving patrons and lemon coconut pinch hits on Friday  (poor, busy Saturday gets left out completely).

The Cupcakery, with five locations including one across from the Crescent, offers 30 styles, including (as do all these confectionaries) seasonal and limited-edition flavors; it will also prepare sugar-free and vegan incarnations. (The Cupcakery’s most distinctive feature is its signature lounge and champagne bar “for sharing your favorite cupcakes on fine porcelain plates with silver forks . . . with that perfect glass of red wine or aged port.”)

Of the three, Gigi’s probably appeals most to children and an adult’s inner child. Each of Gigi’s cakes is topped with something kid-friendly swirled in among the frosting. Its version of vanilla, called “Wedding Cake,” has buttercream frosting sprinkled with white nonpareils; the “Midnight Magic” chocolate is showered with cocoa chips; the “Lemon Dream Supreme” beacons with sparkly yellow sugar crystals and candied lemon slice. Gigi’s also has a loyalty program, offering one free cupcake for every dozen purchased.

That’s all good, but none scored a home run, though two came close.

Sprinkles and Gigi’s chocolate and vanilla cupcakes both received four stars out of a possible four from our two-man panel, while their lemon varieties garnered three stars each. Sprinkles’ lemon was a trifle skimpy on citrus flavor (although the frosting had a tart punch), while Gigi’s lemon faltered with a curd filling that tasted slightly canned (though the lemon jelly-wedge atop was a whimsically delightful flourish).

The Cupcakery’s highest score on any of its three cakes was a disappointing two, bestowed on its chocolate, despite a distinctly weird under-taste (one of us described it as raw, Swiss Miss cocoa; the other felt it tasted bizarrely metallic). The Cupcakery’s one-star vanilla came with an inexplicable pink frosting that tasted, oddly, of nothing but the color pink, while the cake itself had no discernable vanilla flavoring to speak of. Its lemon cupcake was … well, the best said is that it was at least unmistakably yellow (neon/saffron yellow) with watery frosting.

In a world competing to sell cake at $1 per bite, one’s bite-of-cake experience had better darn well be every bit as delicious, or more so, even, than sex itself.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 10, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Disc men

Matt Zarley tackles relationships while Adam Tyler delivers smart pop on new releases

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

……………………..

2.5 out of 5 stars
CHANGE BEGINS WITH ME
Matt Zarley
Independent

Matt Zarley may be all scruff and muscle, but he has a sweet delicacy to his voice that’s properly displayed on his newest album, Change Begins With Me. He’s the product of Broadway, but it would seem his sights are on the music charts.

Back in May, Zarley previewed his album with “WTF,” a whimsical dance track that pitted an earnestly lovestruck singer against the man who done him wrong. The song is borderline silly, if fun, though the accompanying video was painful to watch.

For the most part, the tone of Change is adult contemporary but by a refreshingly new, gay (and far hunkier) version of, say, Michael Bolton or Phil Collins. Well-polished songs beautifully showcase Zarley’s vocal talents, on songs like “Perfect“ and “Forgive Me (For Not Forgiving You)” which evidence a tenderness that makes it almost hard not to swoon along.

Dance tracks, though, don’t do him justice nor add much to the album. His sexy talk in “Trust Me” is unconvincing. As the fifth song, Change, marks a small decline in making a bigger impression. The previous ballads, and even the album opener “WTF,” are engaging enough, but from “Trust” on, the songs almost disappear.

‘CHANGE’ IS GONNA COME | Matt Zarley is a whole lotta hunk, but surprises with an insightful album about his past relationships.

“Apology” and “I’ll Always Remember” display sweet emotion, but with ordinary skill. This is a shame; the album is well paced before it downshifts at this point. The fault though, is in the music. Lyrics resonate strongly and are probably my new go-to when I can’t find the words to appease an angry or hurt boyfriend.

The title track suffers from cheese factor, but it is less a self-help tune than an admission of bad love-life decisions. Zarley holds himself accountable for mistakes he made as a gay man — I’m not sure I’ve heard that message recorded before.  Sure, “Change” swells into a clichéd climactic chorus, but it’s a fascinating juxtaposition from the lead song.

I’m not a big fan of remixes, but the two bonus tracks of “WTF” surpass the original. The beats are a helluva lot of fun to groove to. Instead of reworking the song into an unrecognizable version, the remixes amp up the rhythm and scale back on some of the gimmickry of the original.

With bumps along the way, Zarley provides a collection of songs that start him in a bad situation and result in a brighter tomorrow … so much so that it may beg for an immediate second listen with some songs making more sense.
………………………

3.5 out of 5 stars
SHATTERED ICE

Adam Tyler
Tiger Bay Records

Adam Tyler describes himself as a pop music geek and it shows on his debut release Shattered Ice. This is a good thing. He sidesteps a lot of easy traps to deliver 11 tracks of wow.
On first impression, Ice opens as any other dance album in the “dime a dozen” category, but quickly, the opening track, “Like a Drug,” moves into a techno-rock hybrid, hitting many correct notes. Tyler gives an onslaught of an opener that is held up by subsequent tracks.

The album leans more into electronica elements, but Tyler treats them with care, layering bass-lines and blippy flourishes into solid sounds. “Music Freak” could have easily been a pedestrian effort, but he saves it by not adding extraneous effects. Tyler has a gift for letting the song build itself rather than throwing everything against the wall to see what will stick.

Adam Tyler studies pop music enough to make some of his own with his debut album ‘Shattered Ice.’ With strong confidence, Tyler makes a stellar impression.

Tyler doesn’t have the vocal strength of Zarley, but he belts within reason and recalls some of the quality of Paul Lekakis. He has enough depth to go slower on the opening of “I Won’t Let You Go,” while offering a healthy set of lungs on the title track. There isn’t a lot of surprise in his vocal spectrum. This provides a particular comfort and even consistency, as his music should keep listeners on their toes.

The blemishes on this album are minimal and perhaps expected from a debut. “Forgive Me” is weak with middle school lyrics. “Touch” is a misguided track that begins with a keyboard track that sounds like a child trying to play ABBA’s “Lay All Your Love On Me.” Here, he makes the mistake of adding a little too much flair, and to a slower beat, it misses the bullseye.

The album recovers immediately with strong tracks like “Taking Back My Love” and “Let Me Breathe.”

Shattered Ice finishes with minimal versions of previous tracks that calm the robust energy down. “I Won’t Let You Go” on piano is a gorgeous ballad and “Forgive Me” fares far better as an acoustic tune than it did before in its electro incarnation. These add to Tyler’s versatility.

For a debut, Tyler seems to have set a goal and met it, which would explain the amount  of confidence in Ice. His songs don’t play as mere musical byproducts in search of superstardom. He has a true genuine sound that pulls you in and when it lets go, you almost wish it didn’t.
Thank goodness for the repeat button.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 26, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Beat the Heat softball tournament finale

Hanging out with the jocks
Although we don’t mind sitting through the Beat the Heat softball tourney all weekend long, we can’t help but swoon over the athletes all washed up for the awards finale. Besides, it’s air conditioned inside.

DEETS: Woody’s Sports & Video Bar, 4011 Cedar Springs Road. 7 p.m. DallasPSSA.org.

—  Rich Lopez

A perfect ten(or)

SING OUT, LOUISE! | Keane Fletcher, front, is one of the openly gay members of the popera dectet The Ten Tenors.

Getting down with Down Under’s Keane Fletcher, one of the gay singers in the Ten Tenors

STEVEN LINDSEY  | Contributing Writer
stevencraiglindsey@me.com

There are Ten Tenors, but one who we find totally swoon-worthy: Keane Fletcher, a gay 25-year-old Aussie who sings like an angel. And the Ten Tenors is a great place to be a gay man.

“I read an article where it said that 30 percent of the group is gay. Does that mean three out of the 10 tenors are gay, or just bits and pieces of us all — like my toes, someone else’s neck, an armpit or two? That would make sense. Some of the straight guys in the group are the campiest ones of the lot,” Fletcher jokes.

For as long as Fletcher can remember, being in front of an audience was all he wanted to do, even though singing itself came much later.

“I was always into performing. I did all the school plays, I was on the debating team — very Glee,” he says. ”Anything I could do to get some stage time. I didn’t start singing, though, until my drama teacher at high school made me audition for The King & I. I got the part and haven’t stopped singing since.”

Before joining the Ten Tenors in early 2010, Fletcher had a starring role in Altar Boyz and the musical Buddy, about Buddy Holly, back in Australia. That’s as close as he’s ever been to Texas — and, he admits, about all he knows about the Lone Star State. But after a year on the road with his nine brethren, he’s looking forward to his Texas debut — and sharing what the group has been famous for since forming Down Under in the mid ‘90s.

“It’s been a very challenging experience. The Tenors have really allowed me to go further with my vocals and have opened me up to different styles of singing that I wouldn’t normally have pursued. That, and touring the world. I’ve visited nearly every continent in the last year. We’ve yet to book a show in Antarctica, but I’ve got my fingers crossed!”

Perhaps even bigger than Antarctica is Oprah — metaphorically speaking. Fletcher says appearing on her show was surreal — the media queen is just as popular Down Under as she is in the states.

“She’s definitely a big deal in Australia!” he exclaims. “She almost seems mythological to some of my friends back home. I’m sure there’s an Oprah religion forming as we speak.”

But what can really be surreal is life on the road.

“The first year with the group I tried to explore every town we visited. Now that I’m older and wiser I’ve learned to pick and choose what I want to see. We got to visit the Teotihuacan pyramids in Mexico City a week ago; that was incredible,” he says. “I’ve had a couple of good nights out on the road, too. In Toronto last December, we ran into some of the cast of Priscilla the Musical and they kept getting us to talk so they could study our accents. Apparently we say ‘no’ really strangely, so it sounds more like ‘noi.’ Who knew?”

The Tenors’ accents may not come through when they sing, but that’s just fine by their legions of fans.

“People can expect to see 10 guys belting their guts out. The biggest misconception is that all we sing is classical repertoire. I would say our show is more like a rock concert with suits. Or a classical concert with electric guitars. It’s classo-rock. Or maybe just cl’ock,” Fletcher says.

Perhaps most of all, he wants the LGBT community to come makes some noise.

“We love our gay fans, except they tend to be a little quiet,” he says. “It’s not until they get to the [autograph] signing line that they go berserk. I want to see people dancing in the aisles. And screaming, there is definitely not enough screaming.”

Consider the challenge accepted.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

Teen gay dream

GLEEK HERO   |  In just four episodes, Criss has become a popular gay on ‘Glee.’ (Photo by Robert Hart)

Darren Criss, the breakout heartthrob from ‘Glee,’ isn’t gay or a teen, but welcomes more romance for Blaine

MARK LOWRY  |  Special Contributor
mark@theaterjones.com

Aside from the hot pink sunglasses, and the assistant who occasionally makes sure that his natural curls fall just so on his forehead, Darren Criss doesn’t come across as the young actor whose star is on a rocket’s upward path.

A new, popular actor on the hit Fox show Glee, Criss possesses an articulate intelligence and level-headedness that belies his age (he turns 24 in under a month). On the show, Criss plays Dalton Academy gay student Blaine, the teenage dream with the glassy brown eyes and plush eyebrows that make Kurt (Chris Colfer) — not to mention the rest of gay America — swoon.

Criss was in North Texas last weekend at the Fort Worth auditions for The Glee Project, a reality show that will debut on Oxygen in June where 12 contestants will vie for a role on Glee. The winner is guaranteed multiple episodes next season. Whether this new character (which hasn’t been written yet, so it’s open to gender and type) becomes a recurring character depends on his or her popularity with audiences.

The winner would be lucky to repeat the feat accomplished by Criss, who in a scant four episodes has already proven so popular that he’s been confirmed as a series regular for the rest of Seasons 2 and 3. The real question that the gay fans of the show — and we hear there are a few — are asking: Will the Kurt/Blaine friendship develop into something more?

“I’m just as curious as everybody else,” Criss says. “Obviously the potential is there. As much as all of us want to see that happen immediately, I think the most important thing to convey between the two of them is that of a support system. It’s really important to show young people especially that there’s a person to confide in, and that friendship is possible. If that does evolve into a romantic relationship, then awesome. But let’s hope that it’s warranted, and real. And there’s no greater way to portray a love story than to prolong it as long as possible.”

Criss knows a thing or two about fictional love stories. The San Francisco native has been doing theater for much of his short life. In high school and as a student at the University of Michigan, he appeared in musicals like the “lost Sondheim” show Do I Hear a Waltz and the Rodgers and Hart classic Babes in Arms.

“I’m a big Rodgers and Hart fan. For my audition for Blaine, I sang ‘Where or When’ [from Babes],” he says. “I was a big musical theater rat. I was just a fanboy who got lucky.”

During college, Criss became a member of the UM alumni theater company Team Starkid, playing Harry Potter in the spoof A Very Potter Musical and writing songs for the original musical Me and My Dick (the recording is available on iTunes). He also released a solo EP called Human, showing off his smooth tenor. (There’s a Facebook group called “I liked Darren Criss before he was on Glee.”)

He landed a few TV roles (Cold Case, the short-lived series Eastwick), but it was with Glee that he became an instant hit singing lead in an all-male a capella version of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream.” The opportunity is something that the actor, who is straight, doesn’t take lightly.

“It’s incredibly important to me,” he says. “As an actor, you’re always worried that you’re going to be stuck doing ancillary things, like the boyfriend or the cop or the football coach or something. You just hope for something that you feel has some kind of significance. This would be one of those things that has a great amount of value to me personally and, I think, to a greater community.”

As for his rising fame, he’s cautious to use the word “celebrity”(although the screaming fans in Fort Worth on Saturday would argue otherwise). But he’s preparing himself for it.

“Everybody wants to know who you are, which is a very unfair position to be in because all of us are trying to figure that out on a consistent basis,” he says. “So it really forces you to evaluate and analyze yourself. It’s really forced me into really trying to solidify myself because if people are paying attention, it’s important to step up to the plate and make sure that [I’m] representing something positive.”

Millions of Gleeks can’t be wrong.

New episodes of Glee resume with a special Super Bowl Sunday episode.

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

—  John Wright