‘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

‘Corpus Christi’ documentary trailer debuts

Earlier this year, the will-it-or-won’t-it production of Terrence McNally’s controversial gay apostle play Corpus Christi generated tons of local (then national) buzz, first with a student production at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, later with an imported production at the Cathedral of Hope. The team doing the touring show were in the midst of making a documentary about their experiences.

They’ve just released a trailer of the video, and it actually looks pretty good. You can see it here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

‘Dream’ on

A true Broadway opera, the national tour of ‘Dreamgirls’ rocks

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

The Dreamettes
AND I’M TELLING YOU, I’M GOING | The Dreamettes climb the pop charts on the back of a former member in the Supremes fantasy ‘Dreamgirls.’

DREAMGIRLS
Fair Park Music Hall, 909 First Ave. Through July 18. $30–$85. DallasSummerMusicals.org.
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It’s odd that when we talk about modern opera, no one ever mentions Dreamgirls, the 1981 musical that fictionalizes the emergence of Motown. It’s got all the elements of genuine opera: Bigger than life and deeply flawed characters, extreme highs and lows, important themes and soaring music. It’s tragedy with a happy ending and a funky, constant R&B soundtrack.

Of course, the gays have always known that Dreamgirls had the cred; the Act 1 closing number “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” has been a drag anthem almost since the original production made Jennifer Holliday a star. But the show, like opera itself, can be problematic: The leading character, powerhouse plus-size singer Effie (Moya Angela), is passed over in favor of the sweet-voiced, prettier Deena (Syesha Mercado). But Effie is also a pill and a prima donna — is it all about talent or does attitude matter?

The touring show at Fair Park Music Hall doesn’t do much to illuminate these complexities, but this non-Equity production benefits immensely from Angela, some fabulous costumes and a minimal set punctuated by a giant Jumbotron of a video wall that adds a sense of contemporary flashiness.

Even all those positives are outshone, though, by Chester Gregory. As Jimmy Thunder Early — a high-energy mélange of James Brown and Little Richard — Gregory is smooth and predatory, and he’s got the moves and the voice to electrify an audience. The show is his.

Too bad Chaz Lamar Shepard as Curtis barely registers. He’s sleazy as the Berry Gordy like manipulator, but there’s no personality. Mercado also falters. The title song needs to establish the new Dreams as a potent girl group, but on press night, Mercado sounded like she was at 50 percent. Still, former America Idol star gets top billing. It’s as if talent doesn’t matter as much as surface appearance.
Sounds familiar.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 9, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens