Saturday fundraiser raises close to $5 mil for DMA and amfAR

Untitled (In and Out of the Darkness Face 43.01) by Mark Grotjahn

The star-studded Two x Two for AIDS and Art benefit dinner  and art auction reached a record with an astounding $4.8 million sold in art and other items. The money raised will benefit amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research and the Dallas Museum of Art. Not too shabby. And neither was the event.

Held at the Rachofsky House, the night included appearances by actor Stanley Tucci, singer Patti LaBelle and emceed by Tony-winner John Benjamin Hickey, also a 2011 Two x Two co-chair. Designer Kenneith Cole and amfAR chairman offered remarks. The Saturday event was a sell-out.

“This record-breaking year is testament to the generous donations by artists and dealers worldwide,” Howard Rachofsky said in the press release.  “The artwork by Mark Grotjahn and its $1 million selling price in the live auction took us over the top. Both Cindy and I are speechless. The audience and bidders continue to recognize the outstanding work of both these important institutions and put their hearts and money into this event.”

The $1 million bid for Grotjahn’s Untitled (In and Out of the Darkness Face 43.01), pictured, was the highest on any one piece in the history of the event.

—  Rich Lopez

Hollywood notes: Groff returns to the stage, Knight returns to TV

When a gay white male playwright poses as an African-American female in order to pen a story about an alcoholic black mother, only to be discovered in that lie, the consequences aren’t going to be the stuff of fluffy musical theater. So when the non-musical drama The Submission opens Off Broadway this fall, audiences can expect to see a side of Jonathan Groff (Spring Awakening/Glee) they might not have experienced before. The Tony nominee will be joined by True Blood star Rutina Wesley (as a woman who becomes involved in Groff’s hoax) as well as by Eddie Kaye Thomas (American Pie) as Groff’s boyfriend, with directing duties handled by Tony winner Walter Bobbie. So if you’re planning a New York theater trip this fall, put it at the top of your to-see list; serious drama — especially serious drama about touchy issues like race — never sticks around as long as the ones with catchy songs and cat costumes.

It’s been about two years since Grey’s Anatomy star T.R. Knight quit that show amidst conflict with fellow actor Isaiah Washington. He’s kept busy in the theater world in the meantime, including taking a starring role in the 2010 Broadway show A Life In The Theatre, opposite Patrick Stewart. But Hollywood called again, so now he’s coming back to work in front of the cameras on an upcoming episode of Law & Order: SVU. The episode in question — currently in production — finds Knight playing a suspected serial rapist, so that’s an interesting out-of-the-box step for the actor, a role worlds away from the nice-guy character he portrayed on Grey’s.  Maybe he can parlay it into meaty villain roles and become the next Joan Collins. There’s no airdate for the SVU episode just yet, so keep a close watch on your DVR.

Rocket Pictures, the movie producing arm of the empire run by Elton John (pictured), scored a solid hit with this spring’s Gnomeo & Juliet, an animated reworking of Romeo and Juliet featuring talking, singing garden gnomes. Filled to the brim with John’s classic hit singles, the film made almost $200 million worldwide. And because it’s a short leap from gnomes to trolls, that’s where Rocket’s going next. Will Gallows and the Snake-Bellied Troll, a mixed liveaction/CGI-animated feature based on the first in a series of kid-aimed books by author Derek Keilty, is already in production with Gnomeo’s writer/director Kelly Asbury. The story combines elements of Wild West cowboy adventure and, well, trolls from a fantasy universe. There’s no voice cast set up just yet, but it’s safe to expect that John will contribute in some way to the film’s score. No gay troll jokes please.

— Romeo San Vicente

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 2, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Applause: Broadgay at Winspear

Lexus series adds queer event to upcoming season of musicals

What’s gay about ‘Jersey Boys’? The GLBT Broadway subscriber series at the Winspear will tell you.

The Lexus Broadway Series offers a muscular lineup of shows that feature classic stories and contemporary rock ‘n’ roll. But they go one step further in the 2011-12 season with the stage equivalent of special edition DVDs, featuring enhanced performances and pre-show engagements for subscribers — including its gay patrons.

Dallas Voice Life+Style Editor Arnold Wayne Jones will host a conversation every second-week Tuesday about 45 minutes before each show. The series, called GLBT Broadway, will highlight the appeal for queer audiences for the shows in the series. The discussion will touch on issues of gender identity and sexuality in regards to the show and the teams behind them. Some — such as the season lead-off, Hair — might be easier to analyze from a gay perspective than, say, Jersey Boys, but that’s part of the fun of the series.

The season starts with Hair, which won the Tony in 2009 for best musical revival. Youth in 1960s America are all about peace, love and understanding — including nudity and homosexuality — in this iconic musical. Sept. 20–Oct. 2.

The epic Les Miserables follows with a new 25th anniversary production. Dec. 20–Jan. 1.

Best musical Tony winner In the Heights details the immigrant experience as characters find a new life in their new country. March 13–25.

Alt-rockers Green Day went Broadway with American Idiot, touted as a mashup of a rock concert and staged musical. May 8–20.

The season concludes with Jersey Boys and Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Classic hits like “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” tell the tale of this well-accomplished music group from the ‘50s. June 12–July 15.

Other subscriber series include Broadway University, hosted by SMU theater professor Kevin Hofeditz which will explore themes of the show and its place in theater history (every second Saturday matinee) and Broadway Uncorked (every second-week Wednesday), where an expert sommelier will host a wine tasting based on the show. We wonder what American Idiot’s wine will be.

— Rich Lopez

For more information on the Lexus Broadway Series and its enhanced performances, visit ATTPAC.org.

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

—  Michael Stephens

Dallas Summer Musicals announces 2011 season

The Dallas Summer Musicals’ big State Fair production will be the recent revival of West Side Story, complete with Spanish-language rewrites, as well as a few other revivals, returns … and one new show.

The season kicks off with gay Texan Tommy Tune, the biggest Tony winner of all time. in Tommy Tune Steps in Time with the Manhattan Rhythm Kings. for a one-week run beginning March 15. That will be followed by the return of another dance show, Burn the Floor, for two weeks in April.

The official summer season begins May 18 with the recent Dolly Parton musical of 9 to 5, followed by the returns of Stomp and Monty Python’s Spamalot in June and Guys and Dolls in July.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones