‘Spring Awakening’ tonight at WaterTower

Coming of age

“This rock musical adaptation of an 1891 German play is set against the backdrop of a progressive and provincial late 19th century Germany.  Spring Awakening tells the timeless story of teenage self-discovery and budding sexuality through the eyes of three teenagers.  Haunting and provocative, Spring Awakening celebrates an unforgettable journey from youth to adulthood.  The musical won multiple Tony Awards (8 awards including Best Musical).”

— from WaterTowerTheatre.org

DEETS: WaterTower Theatre, 15650 Addison Road, Addison. 7:30 p.m. $20–$50. WaterTowerTheatre.org.

—  Rich Lopez

What’s Brewing: Hearing today on Prop 8 judge’s sexuality; Gov. Perry defends Day of Prayer

Judge Vaughn Walker

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Prop 8 suppporters today will ask Judge Vaughn Walker’s successor to vacate his ruling declaring California’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, on the grounds that Walker is in a long-term relationship with another man. Chief U.S. Judge James Ware will hear arguments on their motion this morning in San Francisco, and he could rule right away or at a later date. The motion to vacate a ruling based on the judge’s sexual orientation is highly unusual if not unprecedented, and experts say it’s unlikely to succeed. Meanwhile, it’s also unlikely that same-sex marriage will be back on the ballot in California in 2012.

2. In an e-mail to The New York Times, Gov. Rick Perry defended his plans for a Christian-only Day of Prayer event funded by the American Family Association, a designated anti-gay hate group. “The A.F.A. is a group that promotes faith and strong families, and this event is about bringing Americans together in prayer,” he said in his e-mail, adding that “I have made it clear that I believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman.”Ju

3. Sunday night’s Tony Awards ceremony was as gay as ever, with host Neil Patrick Harris performing “Theater is not just for gays any more” as the opening number, and the Broadway production of Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart taking three honors. Watch video below of the opening and read Arnold Wayne Jones’ full recap. For a full list of winners, go here.

—  John Wright

Tony Award wrap-up: Totally gay (again)

It was an untenable situation for the gay Dallasite: Watch the Tony Awards or game 6 of the Mavs? Thank god I had two DVRs. Best of both worlds.

Of course, the Tony Awards are always the gayest of award shows, and they did nothing to disguise that Sunday night starting with the opening number by the telecast’s gay host, Neil Patrick Harris, “‘[Theater] is not Just for Gays Anymore.” He then did a medley duet with Hugh Jackman that was damn funny. (It got even gayer when Martha Wash performed “It’s Raining Men” with cast of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.)

Then the first award of the evening went to Ellen Barkin for her Broadway debut in Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart, giving a shout out to the 30th anniversary of the AIDS epidemic. She was immediately followed by gay actor and Plano native John Benjamin Hickey for his role in The Normal Heart. (He even chastised his family: “You’d better not be watching the Mavericks game.” Sorry, John, I for one kept flipping between them.) The play also won the award for best revival — a controversial choice, since The Normal Heart never opened on Broadway until this year, usually a requirement for a revival nominations (some thought it should be eligible for best play). Kramer accepted the award. “To gay people everywhere whom I love so, The Normal Heart is our history. I could not have written it had not so many of us so needlessly died. Learn from it and carry on the fight.”

The very gay-friendly Book of Mormon from South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone won several off-camera awards, including score of a musical (the composers thanking gay producer Scott Rudin), orchestrations, scenic design, lighting design and sound design, before taking their first onscreen trophy for best direction of a musical to Parker and gay director Casey Nicholaw (The Drowsy Chaperone), on its way to winning nine total awards, including best musical, best featured actress (newcomer Nikki M. James, defeating prior winners Laura Benanti, Patti LuPone and Victoria Clark and prior nominee Tammy Blanchard) and book of a musical.

“This is such a waste of time — it’s like taking a hooker to dinner,” said best musical presenter Chris Rock before announcing The Book of Mormon for the night’s last prize, best musical.

Other winners in the musical category include John Larroquette for best featured actor (How to Succeed…, apparently the only straight nominee in his category), choreographer Kathleen Marshall for Anything Goes, which also beat How to Succeed for best revival of a musical and won best actress for Sutton Foster. Norbert Leo Butz was the surprise winner for best actor in a musical for Catch Me If You Can. One more really gay winner: Priscilla, Queen of the Desert took best costumes, natch.

The big winner in the play category (other than The Normal Heart) was the brilliant War Horse, which won 5: best play, direction, lighting design, sound design, scenic design, as well as a special Tony for the puppet designs of the horses.

Other play winners include The Importance of Being Earnest (costumes), Good People (best actress Frances McDormand) and Jerusalem, a surprise winner for best actor Mark Rylance.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Bi-polar bearable

 

Uptown-N2N-Press-008
SHOCK AND AWE | Stars Gary Floyd, left, and Patty Breckenridge, right, have both worked on hit productions with director Michael Serrecchia, but for ‘Next to Normal,’ they really brought their A-game. (Photo by Mike Morgan)

Understanding ‘Next to Normal,’ a musical about mental illness

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

Patty Breckenridge is entirely aware of the cliché that having a child changes your life. But she can’t avoid it.

Earlier this year, Breckenridge and her partner Carrie became mommies to son Logan, around the same time she changed jobs. Pursuing acting opportunities would have to take a backseat for a while.

And then she heard that Uptown Players was producing Next to Normal. And she made an exception.

“I put all my eggs in one basket and said, ‘This is it; this is the one show I will be able to do for a while [now that I am a mother],’” Breckenridge says. “My wife has been so supportive; Carrie is absolutely my hero.”

Especially since she is a new mom, tackling this role — that of a bi-polar woman coping with deep issues related to her son — struck unnervingly close to home.

“I’ve never done as much work for a role in my life,” she says. “When my brother, and my other friends, saw this on Broadway, they said, ‘This was meant for you.’”

It may have impressed her friends, but one person who wasn’t initially convinced was the show’s director, Michael Serrecchia.

“My first reaction [when I saw a scene performed on the Tony Awards] was, ‘I don’t like it,’” he says with an ironic smile. “Who would watch that?”

But Serrecchia, who teaches acting and voice in town, said his students began to convince him of its appeal; before long, he was “feeling addicted to the score.”

The 2009 Pulitzer Prize winner for drama, Next to Normal was an unlikely hit and has become a cult favorite, winning a Tony Award for its rock-opera score about the dark, often taboo topic of mental illness. It closed in January.

This is the second consecutive Pulitzer winner they have mounted (following The Young Man from Atlanta), and this marks the first production of the show outside of New York or the recently started national tour. It’s a coup for the company that only last season moved to the bigger digs of the historic Kalita Humphreys Theater.

Next to Normal fits with our mission statement of tolerance and dignity,” says company co-founder Jeff Rane. “And the family issues will be familiar to our audience.” It has sold so well, additional performances have already been added.

That puts the pressure on Breckenridge, Gary Floyd (who plays her husband) and Serrecchia to do it justice. None of them saw the Broadway production, nor do they have personal experience with bi-polar disorder. At least, they didn’t think so.

“I didn’t realize how many people I know who do suffer from it until they found out I was directing it,” Serrecchia says. “I’d say maybe a dozen people have called me.”

To be as accurate and respectful of the material as possible, Serrecchia arranged for a woman, whose life closely mirrors Breckenridge’s character Diane, to speak to the cast about what mental illness is like from the inside out.

“She made me really want to do it justice,” Breckenridge says. “We’re all bringing our A-game.”

That won’t be easy. The sung-through score is the equivalent of “vocal aerobics,” as Serrecchia puts it.

“As a singer, you have to pace yourself,” says Floyd. But it’s also necessary to convey the intense emotions of the songs. Floyd says the cue he was given to understand mental illness is that it is “like walking through cotton candy.”

Serrecchia also wanted to give the audience visual cues to the psychology of the characters. Andy Redmon’s set, a multi-story behemoth, qualifies as one of Uptown’s most ambitious ever.

“The whole play is in 2s,” he says. “There’s all this doubling, these mirror images, these layers. I wanted everything parallel. So you have all these intersecting stairs to show each transition.”

For the cast and crew, just doing a show like this is a major transition itself into the big leagues.

Screen shot 2011-06-09 at 10.45.25 AM

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 10, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Cross-dressing B’way comedy plays at Angelikas

Lady Bracknell is one of the zoom-bang greatest characters in all theater, the pinched, appearances-heavy doyenne on Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. The ladies, of course, always get this juicy role. Until now.

Gay actor Brian Bedford donned a frock as the director and leading lady of the current revival of the play, now on Broadway and up for three Tony Awards later this month. But you don’t need to go to New York to see it. The Angelika Film Centers in Dallas and Plano are screening the direct broadcast of the actual play three more times this week: Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Angelika Mockingbird Station, Sunday at 2 p.m. and Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Angelika Plano.

Tickets can be purchased at AngelikaFilmCenter.com.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Neil Patrick Harris to return as Tony Awards host

Neil Patrick Harris is known to most of his fans as the womanizing Barney on the unwatchable How I Met Your Mother sitcom, but to many others, he’s the openly gay song-and-dance man who turned coming out into a career renaissance. Last year, he did an excellent, camped up job as the host of the Tony Awards, and he’ll be back again this year.

In addition to Harris, scheduled presenters and performers, announced today, include Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe (currently on Broadway in the revival of How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying), Oscar winner and Broadway producer Whoopi Goldberg, gay Tony winner David Hyde Pierce and his TV brother, Kelsey Grammer, who recently left the musical La Cage aux Folles, gay Emmy winner (The Big Bang Theory) Jim Parsons, currently in his Broadway debut of the AIDS play The Normal Heart, co-directed by  Oscar winner and fellow presenter Joel Grey.

The Tonys air on CBS June 12.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Exclusive: Theatre 3′s missing play

Last month, Theatre 3 announced its 50th anniversary season, a line-up that includes the very gay musical A Catered Affair, the Aaron Sorkin drama The Farnsworth Invention and the raucous musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. Missing from the season announcement was the fifth show, which executive producer Jac Alder was trying to schedule.

Last night, Jac told me he had just picked the final show:  Art of Murder by Joe DiPietro, a comedy thriller set in the world of fine art that won the Edgar Award for best play. It will probably be a good fit for T3 — DiPietro’s I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change has been a staple at T3 for a decade (it’s Dallas’ longest-running show ever — three years in its initial run). DiPietro won two Tony Awards last year for the Broadway hit Memphis.

Art of Murder runs April 12–May 12, 2012.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

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

Who’s Tommy?

Tommy
TAP, DOG | Tommy Tune’s new act traces his legendary Broadway career — and it all began in Dallas.

Maybe you think you know gay  stage icon Tommy Tune, but even he’s still learning things about himself

…………..

STEPS IN TIME

Fair Park Music Hall, 901 First Ave. March 15–20. $20–$75. DallasSummerMusicals.org.

…………..

When I get Tommy Tune  on the phone for the first time, I finally get to tell him about my three Tommy encounters: One was on Broadway when he appeared in My One and Only; one was in his one-man show Tommy Tune Tonight! at Fair Park Music Hall; but the first time was in the locker room of the Watergate Hotel where we were both staying. He was changing clothes after a swim. And I confess to him my 30-year secret: That I saw his naked ass.

“How’d it look?” he hoots with an excited cackle. “Great!” I tell him. “Well, you know dancers,” he says with a flirtatious laugh.
This dancer just turned 72 — a number that rather delights Tune: “If you add together 7 and 2, it equals nine. And nine has always been a lucky number for me.”

It has indeed. Tune directed and choreographed the original stage musical Nine, and has won an astonishing nine Tony Awards in four categories over his 50-year stage career — a career that launched, in several ways, here in North Texas.

“I began at the Dallas Summer Musicals,” says the Texas native, whose sister still lives in Fort Worth.“I got my Equity card there. John Rosenfield, who was the king of culture [in Dallas for decades], reviewed my first professional job in Redhead with Taina Elg. In the last paragraph of the review, he wrote: ‘We cannot let this report pass without mentioning Tommy Tune, who handles his incredible long form with grace control and power.’ That was the energy that sent me to New York. I had the courage after that. And I just linked that up.”

Where he links that up is in his new one-man showcase, Steps in Time, which opens Tuesday on the same stage where Tune got his start.

“Everything I do in Steps in Time is the truth,” says Tune. “I’ve done four acts and this one is the most personal and the purest and it works better than the others. It doesn’t have the glitz, but there’s depth.”

It’s also a work in progress. Tune has performed it about 100 times so far, but often in one- or two-night stands; he’ll be in Dallas a week, and the version includes new material he’s only recent added. It also has the added bonus of getting him back to his Texas roots.

“I still like to get my feet in the Texas mud, which is different than all other muds,” he says.

Tune kicks off his show with his arrival in New York on St. Patrick’s Day 1962. His beginnings were auspicious: He auditioned for a show and got the job on the spot. That led to dozens  more shows as an actor (Seesaw, which won him his first Tony), director and choreographer (Grand Hotel, Nine, The Will Rogers Follies). But he’s loathe to choose a favorite experience.

“I’m gonna have to answer the next one will be my favorite,” he says. “Every show I’ve done, I’m not satisfied with. But there is a sense of dissatisfaction that keeps you marching.”

Still, he coos about many of the talents he’s worked with over the years. Raul Julia “was a dream.” With Julia and Keith Carradine he recalls “not one bad moment. It’s so easy for an actor to give a director problems. Actors can be quite contrary. But these two guys worked for the good of the show.” And there was the great Vaudeville hoofer Charles ‘Honi’ Coles, whom Tune co-starred with in My One and Only and who “was the best dancer that I ever worked with. He taught me more than anybody. And when I worked with him he was 76, so he’s still got a few years on me.”

Tune recounts one joyful memory about appearing with Coles: They performed a number together — a charming soft-shoe — that on opening night led to a tumult of uncontrollable applause. It literally stopped the show.

“I was just gobsmacked,” he says. “I leaned over to Charles and said, ‘What should we do?’ He smiled up and said, ‘Let’s do it again.’ So I just broke the fourth wall like you don’t do and said, ‘Let’s take it again from the top of the dance.’ We did it! I just thought, ‘That’s opening night — everything’s up for grabs.’But we did over 1,000 performances together and we never failed to stop the show — it happened every night! It’s when that magic thing happens, when the audience takes control of the show, that you love like theater.”

Which is exactly what Tune didn’t enjoy about one aspect of his career: Making movies. Tune kicked off his film career with a prime role opposite Barbra Streisand in the Oscar-nominated adaptation of Hello, Dolly! but he quickly soured on Hollywood.

“I hated making movies,” he says. “My whole thing is about the audience connection. In movies, you are not performing for the crew but for a machine — the camera — or yourself. It was just so unfulfilling. You never get the joy of performing a number. After Hello, Dolly! they put me in a couple episodes of Nanny and the Professor but I was burning to be back on Broadway. I asked them, will you let me out of that deal? Off I went, and fast!”

And he’s still returning to it — as a performer, director and a patron. His favorite recent shows? Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and American Idiot.

“Those are my two favorites. And it worries me that neither has found their audience but both speak to now, but work through then. [The lead in Andrew Jackson] is so good, I saw it four times. It made me laugh so hard. Maybe it was a mistake that they moved it to Broadway, but it was better than the off-Broadway version. They really sharpened it. American Idiot is highlight. I was new to Green Day — I don’t usually do anything more contemporary than the ’50s — and they just knocked me out. I’m so grateful I’ve got to do this with my life. But we need to still be respectful of our fabulous invalid called the theater.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 11, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

‘Spring Awakening’ opens at Bass Hall tonight

Just two days for ‘Spring’ break
Once you get past the darkness of the original version on Monday, do a 180 with the updated musical Spring Awakening. Musician Duncan Sheik penned the music and the touring show features local actress Elizabeth Judd. She’s kind of a big deal as the female lead.  So is the show which won eight Tony awards including best musical.

DEETS: Bass Hall, 525 Commerce St., Fort Worth. Nov. 9–10. 7:30 p.m. BassHall.com.

—  Rich Lopez