WaterTower announces lineup for Discovery Series

A gay Macy’s elf, an artist who seems to paint vaginas and a married couple on the rocks are featured in the three shows making up WaterTower Theatre‘s upcoming Discovery Series, which debuts in December.

Garret Storms reprises his role as a Christmastime employe Crumpet in the stage adaptation of David Sedaris’ amusing The Santaland Diaries. This is the sixth time the show has been performed at WTT, and the second with Storms.

That will be followed in January with Sexy Laundry, directed by WTT’s artistic director, Terry Martin. It’s an adult comedy about a couple who seek to spice up their stale marriage.

The final show of the series will be O’Keeffe, a one-woman show about Georgia O’Keeffe, whose flowery painting have made her a favorite artist in the LGBT community for decades, owing to their suggestive, erotic nature. The show features local actress Carolyn Wickwire, who has traveled extensively with the show in recent years. It opens in April.

Tickets for all the shows will be on sale by Dec. 9.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WATCH: WaterTower’s ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ cast goes ‘Bang Bang’

CriminalOK, so Kayla Carlyle doesn’t have a wardrobe malfunction like Nicki Minaj did at the VMAs, but otherwise this music video — produced by WaterTower Theatre to promote their current production of the musical Bonnie & Clyde (which I quite enjoyed) — has all the trappings of a fun time. Just watching Depression-era gangsters lip-synch to Jessie J, Ariana Grande and Nicki to “Bang Bang” is hilarious (especially starting around two minutes in). Enjoy!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Theater critics bestow awards

Liz Mikel, left, and Tiffany Hobbs, right, were singled out for their performances in ‘Raisin in the Sun,’ directed by Tre Garrett. (Photo courtesy Karen Almond)

The Dallas-Fort Worth Theater Critics Forum met as usual the first Saturday after Labor Day to hash out our awards for the best of North Texas theater over the preceding 12 months, and the Dallas Theater Center ended up the big winner, with five of its shows receiving citations. Les Miserables, Fortress of Solitude, Oedipus el Rey and its in-repertory pair of Raisin in the Sun and Clybourne Park (Raisin‘s quasi-sequel) all took home major awards, including direction for the first four. Cast members from many were also recognized, including Liz Mikel and Tiffany Hobbs from Raisin, Allison Pistorious from Clybourne and Steven Walters from Les Miz. Uptown Players, coming off one of its best seasons, also won accolades for two of its shows: The gay comedy Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (for direction and its ensemble) and for The Boy from Oz for its three stars and for its wig and makeup by Coy Covington. My own Actor of the Year winner for 2013, Tina Parker, won note for her performance in Detroit — one of nods to Kitchen Dog Theater, which also produced best new play winner Barbecue Apocalypse by Matt Lyle. WaterTower also fared well, especially for its recent musical Dogfight. The winners — which are voted on by a panel of 12 local theater critics, including me — are hashed out over a luncheon. There are between four and nine winners in each category this year.

The complete list is below.

Direction: Daniel Aukin, Fortress of Solitude (Dallas Theater Center); B.J. Cleveland, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (Uptown Players); David Denson, Year of the Rooster (Upstart Productions); Tre Garrett, A Raisin in the Sun (Dallas Theater Center) and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Jubilee Theatre); Tim Johnson, Detroit (Kitchen Dog Theater); Terry Martin, Dogfight (WaterTower Theatre); Kevin Moriarty, Oedipus el Rey (Dallas Theater Center); Susan Sargeant, The Diaries of Adam and Eve and Happy Days (WingSpan Theatre Co.); Liesl Tommy, Les Miserables (Dallas Theater Center).

Vanya-Show

The cast of ‘Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike’ was recognized as best ensemble, as was its director, B.J. Cleveland.

Actor: Adam A. Anderson, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Jubilee Theatre); Jaxon Beeson, Stiff (Fun House Theatre and Film); Joey Folsom, Year of the Rooster (Upstart Productions) and Hank Williams: Lost Highway (WaterTower Theatre); Alex Ross, The Boy from Oz (Uptown Players); Garret Storms, for his season of performances; Drew Wall, Nocturne (Second Thought Theatre); Steven Walters, Les Miserables (Dallas Theater Center).

Actress: Tiffany Hobbs, Raisin in the Sun (Dallas Theater Center) and Spunk (WaterTower Theatre); Janelle Lutz, The Boy from Oz (Uptown Players); Liz Mikel, Raisin in the Sun (Dallas Theater Center); Tina Parker, Detroit (Kitchen Dog Theater); Allison Pistorius, Venus in Fur (Circle Theatre) and Clybourne Park (Dallas Theater Center); Sarah Elizabeth Smith, The Boy from Oz (Uptown Players); Juliette Talley, Dogfight (WaterTower Theatre); Ashley Wilkerson, The Mountaintop (Jubilee Theatre).

Ensemble: Barbecue Apocalypse (Kitchen Dog Theater); Heroes (Stage West); The Echo Room Presents: Her Song (Echo Theatre); Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (Uptown Players).

Creative Contribution: Coy Covington for his wig and makeup design for The Boy from Oz (Uptown Players) and wig designs for Pageant (Uptown Players); Clare Floyd DeVries for her set design, Detroit (Kitchen Dog Theater); Jay Dias for his music direction, Nine and Titanic (Lyric Stage); Jeffrey Colangelo and Katy Tye for their movement design, Galatea (Prism Co.); the design team with Trinity Shakespeare Festival, for their season.

New Play or Musical: Barbecue Apocalypse by Matt Lyle (Kitchen Dog Theater); Booth by Steven Walters (Second Thought Theatre); Fortress of Solitude by Itamar Moses and Michael Friedman (Dallas Theater Center); mania/gift by Shelby-Allison Hibbs (Echo Theatre); Stiff by Jeff Swearingen (Fun House Theatre and Film).

Touring Production: Evita (Dallas Summer Musicals); The Gershwins’ Porgy & Bess (ATTPAC); Peter and the Starcatcher (ATTPAC); Trick Boxing (Sossy Mechanics).

Special Citations: To Matt Tomlanovich, for reviving the Margo Jones as a busy performance space, opening it to fledgling companies at a reasonable price, and making it available to small festivals, poetry slams, readings and dance groups; and to Lawson Taitte, for his distinguished career in arts criticism.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

LISTEN: ‘Nothing Short of Wonderful’ from ‘Dogfight’

In the current edition of Dallas Voice, we have an interview with Benj Pasek, the gay half of the composing team responsible for the musical Dogfight, which gets its outside-of-New York premiere at WaterTower Theatre, which opens tonight. You can listen to a sample of what the show has in store here, with one of the charming musical numbers form the show.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WaterTower Theatre announces 2014-15 season

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Terry Martin

Addison’s WaterTower Theatre extends its affiliation with Fort Worth’s Stage West with another co-production, and offers two regional premieres as well as a piece by local playwright Vicki Caroline Cheatwood in its upcoming season.

The season — the 15th for WTT’s artistic director, Terry Martin — opens with a musical biography with Dallas roots: Bonnie & Clyde (Oct. 10–Nov. 2), which had a brief run on Broadway two seasons ago.  That’s followed by a new holiday show built around a familiar group. The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical (Dec. 5–Jan. 4, 2015) follows the antics of the popular Great American Trailer Park Musical, which WTT has produced in the past to much acclaim.

The Explorers Club, co-produced with Stage West, runs Jan. 16–Feb. 8, 2015, followed by Arthur Miller’s Tony Award-winning drama All My Sons (April 17–May 10). Cheatwood’s new play Manicures & Monuments settles in for a summer run (June 5–28), and the musical Sweet Charity closes out the season (July 14–Aug. 16).

The Out of the Loop Fringe Festival returns for its 14th incarnation, March 5–15.

For more information or season tickets, visit WaterTowerTheatre.org.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

REVIEWS: ‘Evita,’ ‘Spunk’

caroline bowman as eva peron with CheFor many, Evita was the show that won over musical theater fans to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s side before he became the bombastic hit-monster of Cats and Sunset Boulevard. In some ways, it’s the most unlikely of musical subjects: The machiavellian machinations of the former first lady of Argentina, Eva Peron, who was long-dead by the time the show opened. And yet, it’s a compelling piece of operatic theater, a kind of political tragedy where Lady Macbeth never has second thoughts.

The original production made stars out of Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin (Madonna made the movie version 17 years later). The version now at Fair Park Music Hall, courtesy of Dallas Summer Musicals, doesn’t reach those legendary heights, but it’s a reminder of how solidly entertaining and innovative Evita has always been.

It’s the day Eva (Caroline Bowman) has died, and a disgruntled Che Guevara (Josh Young) seems alone in his lack of sentiment. Was she a devil or a saint? Madonna or whore? Is it possible to be all of these things? Through flashbacks, Che narrates her calculated rise from rural nobody to radio star to wife of military hero and eventual president Juan Peron (Sean MacLaughlin).

This is the national tour of the recent Broadway revival that starred Ricky Martin. Ricky doesn’t she-bang in this one, but with Tony Award nominee Josh Young in the role of Che, it doesn’t matter much — he has a powerful tenor and a fierce indignation (especially evident in the fantasy number “Waltz for Eva and Che”).

He’s not the only strong performance, though — indeed, of the many productions I’ve seen of Evita this is the first where all five man roles are equally well played. Bowman’s transformation from girl-from-the-sticks to trashy actress to steely political wife to, eventually, a frail and cancer-ridden ghost, is endlessly convincing. MacLaughlin is a strong, sexy Peron, and even Christopher Johnstone, as the cheezy singer Magaldi and Krystine Alabado as Peron’s former mistress do excellent, detailed work. Michael Grandage’s direction keeps the show moving effortlessly, and despite a few missed opportunities for irony and character development, it’s a stellar show, not revived often enough.

KA2_8128Up at the Addison Theatre Centre, WaterTower Theatre has its own stellar musical on the boards. Based on three short stories by Zora Neale Hurston, Spunk is a jaunty little 90-minute show that has the smoky appeal of a Lenox Avenue speakeasy in the 1930s.

Liz Mikel is this show’s Che, a kind of narrator who escort us through three unrelated scenes by one of the few female voices to emerge from the Harlem Renaissance. The stories are largely unrelated both in tale and tone, but Hurston’s clear, precise style bursts through each of them. In one, a woman (Tiffany D. Hobbs) in the rural south endures the abuses of her drunken husband … until an opportunity presents itself that may free her. In another, zoot-suited dandies throw more shade than a drag queen at noon as they try to woo a liberated woman in post-War NYC. In the third, a loving family man deals with the anguish caused when his wife cheats on him in a weird twist on The Gift of the Magi.

This is toe-tapping theater, full of energy and dark beauty, magnificently lighted by Jason C. Foster (who imbues the Art Deco, Gatsby-inspired set with fire and mood) and performed by a gifted cast. Just try not to have a good time.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WaterTower announces lineup for 2014 Out of the Loop Fringe Festival

AztecButcher15WaterTower Theatre announced today the lineup of shows for its 2014 Out of the Loop Fringe Festival, which takes place March 6–16.  The Addison theater will host seven world premieres and several returning favorites, Terry Martin, the artistic director, said. As always, the festival will include dance, theatre, cabaret artists and visual arts

Eighteen artists and performing arts organizations will participate in this year’s festival. Among the  world premieres will be Mozart’s Muse (presented by Jendi Tarde), Beware of Plastics (Actor’s Conservatory Theater), local actress-singer Diana Sheehan in Searching for Gertrude Lawrence and returning gay playwright David Parr’s Express from 59th. Best of Loop will also return this year. 

The gayest of the plays is certainly Falling Man, about a drag queen, a hustler and Jeffrey Dahmer.

Read the full line up after the jump.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Collin Duwe wants to be a rich world traveler and you can help him

CollinDuweCollin Duwe wants the best job in the world. And we kinda want him to have it.

Actually, we wouldn’t mind having the job, either. This is it: Become a world traveler at a hefty salary ($100k) and spend a year reporting on destinations from Atlanta to the Maldives for the website Jauntaroo.com. Pretty sweet. (GayTravel.com has had a similar contest, with the GayTravel Guru, which I’ve reported on.)

Now, we’d all want a job like that, but Collin is actually close: He’s one of 30 finalists worldwide, and he needs people to vote for him. We certainly don’t mind throwing a word out for him. Collin is part of North Texas’ LGBT community, and works at Dallas Theater Center right now, so the theater community probably knows him, too. And I think DTC could manage if he decided to travel internationally for a year.

If you’re so inclined, all you have to do to help Collin is click here and vote. I’m sure he’d appreciate it — maybe he’ll even send you a postcard of thanks from exotic Fort Worth — that’s one of the stops on his tour.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

This week’s takeaways: Life+Style

Uptown Kiss 196Rl

Following a slowdown right around the Fourth of July, the theater scene is hopping again, with the opening tonight of Uptown Players‘ Kiss of the Spider Woman, pictured, while up in Addison WaterTower continues its super-gay show, Xanadu. Best idea: Check out Spider Woman this weekend and go to LGBT night at WTT on Wednesday, with a pre-show cocktail hour and discounted ticket. Then on Thursday two more shows open: Men on the Verge of a His-Panic Breakdown at Teatro Dallas and the first preview for Theatre 3‘s first show of its season, So Help Me God.

If you’re in the mood for a little drag, there’s plenty of options as well. The Hidden Door hosts its 26th annual Leo Party and Miss Leo Contest on Saturday, with proceeds benefiting AIN’s Daire Center. And drag king troupe Mustache Envy gives its fans a gender-bending show at Sue Ellen‘s on Friday.

If you’re in the mood for even more giving, Resource Center Dallas holds a cocktail reception marking its 30th anniversary on Friday, and the Be An Angel fundraiser benefiting Legacy Counseling Center is on Saturday.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Remembering actor Ryan Roach

Ryan Roach, right, in one of his signature roles in ‘Greater Tuna,’ alongside close friend Chris Robinson.

A theater community really is a “community.” Even if you aren’t close personal friends with everyone who’s ever done a show, if you’ve been around long enough, you get to know people — by reputation, by seeing them in a show, by acting alongside them … and that applies to actors, directors, technicians — and even theater critics.

So, as anyone who was Facebook friends with Charles Ryan Roach — and judging by the news feeds over the weekend, that’s a lot of people — know, Ryan passed away suddenly on Saturday. He was 44.

The first indication something was wrong was last Thursday, when Ryan called his dear friend (and frequent co-star) Chris Robinson to saying he wasn’t feeling well and was headed to an urgent care facility. After some testing, it was determined Ryan’s blood pressure was dangerously high. He was checked into a hospital in Fort Worth.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones