Best bets • 01.06.12

Friday 01.06

Harnessing a bargain
With the economy being such a bitch, you gotta find a good deal anywhere. That goes for leather masters and mistresses as well. New and used items go on the block at the Leather Silent Auction benefiting local groups. And if you can snag a harness, some paddles or a pair of boots for cheaper than usual, jump on it fast.

DEETS: Dallas Eagle, 5740 Maple Ave.  7–11 p.m. DallasEagle.com.

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Tuesday 01.10

Pecha what?
Pecha Kucha Dallas starts 2012 with the appropriately titled theme: A Clean Slate. A panel of speakers cover topics on helping build a new you.

OK, it sounds self-helpy, but PK’s structure keeps it tight and speakers cover a lot of ground in short time. So it’s short, sweet and ultra-fascinating. But ask them how you pronounce it.

DEETS: Texas Theatre 231 W. Jefferson Blvd.  7 p.m. $5–$10. PKNDallas.org.

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Thursday 01.12

He’s a magic man
We’ve seen David Blaine be buried alive, frozen and more, but what’s behind the man of magic? Blaine talks about what inspires his death-defying feats and hopefully he’ll throw in some tricks, too.

DEETS: Winspear Opera House, 2403 Flora St. 8 p.m. $20. ATTPAC.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 6, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

Spirit of Giving: A Gathering to remember

The benefit gala commemorates 30 years of AIDS and its impact on Dallas, North Texas

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RAISE YOUR VOICE | Gary Floyd, right, directs singers, from left, Damon K. Clark, Rachel Dupard and Denise Lee during a rehearsal for ‘A Gathering.’ (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

Arnold Wayne Jones  |  Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

Charles Santos was having breakfast at Lucky’s with Jonathan Palant last summer when the now-former artistic director of the Turtle Creek Chorale mentioned that the chorale was born in the time of AIDS. This year, Palant told him, marks 30 years since the first cases of what was first known as

“Gay-Related Immune Deficiency,” or GRID, were reported.

The comment got Santos thinking how deeply the arts — in North Texas and across the world — had been affected by the pandemic.

Some people might have spent time reflecting on how their lives and the world have changed; others might have felt compelled to discuss it with friends.

Maybe some might have written an op-ed piece of the “lest we forget” variety.

But Santos had a different idea.

As executive director of TITAS, which has brought art and music performances to Dallas for decades, Santos was in a unique position. He had access to the Winspear Opera House and a Rolodex that included every major performing arts leader in the region.

More than that, he had a passion to produce a show. And he wanted everyone within earshot to participate.

Santos started by gathering a core group of area leaders, including the Dallas Theater Center’s Joel Ferrell and Kevin Moriarty and AT&T Performing Arts Center external affairs director Chris Heinbaugh. They and others came up with the beneficiaries, how to approach arts organizations, the structure of the show.

“We wrote it, and it’s pretty remarkable, unlike the other events I have done,” says Santos. “We talked about what the pieces were and what we wanted to concentrate on.”

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GETTING READY | Charles Santos, right, and Millicent Johnnie, assistant professor of dance at SMU’s Meadows School of The Arts, second from right, look on during a recent rehearsal for ‘A Gathering.’ (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

The idea of the staging will be like a deconstructed musical that lays out three emotional “arcs” to be covered in two acts: First, loss, heroism and fury; second, faith, family, friends and caring; finally, action and change.

Thus was formed A Gathering: The Dallas Arts Community Reflects on 30 Years of AIDS, a one-night-only concert and fundraiser being held at the Winspear Opera House on Tuesday, Dec. 6.

Ultimately, about a dozen performing arts groups signed on, as well as many vocalists, musicians and other leaders. All told, more than 200 individuals will be taking part.

The ground rules for participation were simple: With the exception of certain unavoidable costs (unionized stage hands, licensing fees for music, etc.), everyone involved had to volunteer their time — every penny raised will benefit equally four local charities: AIDS Arms, AIDS Interfaith Network, AIDS Services of Dallas and Resource Center Dallas.

“Everyone’s been great,” Santos says. “ATTPAC donated the theater and waived all the ticket fees; a printer donated the programs and posters.

“I have been very clear that this is all being donated. When I was talking to one of the orchestras, they said they wanted to participate but couldn’t donate their time. I said, ‘I totally understand but I can’t use you.’ There are no comps — everyone is buying their own tickets. All the performers are buying tickets for their loved ones.”

The outpouring of support from the community has been reminiscent of the town of Bedford Falls helping out George Bailey at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life — a fitting metaphor during the holiday season. And while Santos has been grateful for the generosity, he says it really does not surprise him.

“One of the things the gay community learned during the early days of the AIDS crisis was that we had to take care of our own — we had to change the world. What a remarkable thing it was,” he says.

And it’s that spirit that has driven A Gathering.

“To my knowledge, this has never happened in this community, this many arts organizations collaborating on one event. Everyone has been so generous.

That’s why I’m interested to see what comes of it. I hope it generates more collaborative projects in our community. If these groups all say, ‘Let’s do another project, maybe in our own seasons,’ that would be excellent. In this economy, we are in a real period of wearing collaborative clothes.”

This kind of benefit wasn’t really new to Santos, though it had been a long time coming.

“When I was a dancer, I did shows like this,” he explains.

He put a performance fundraiser together in Austin that became an annual event. But since moving to Dallas in 2001, “I was focused on TITAS and didn’t do any more AIDS work. I haven’t done an AIDS benefit in years, so I’m really excited.”

It is perhaps for that reason that Santos threw himself head-long into producing this show with only three months of prep time.

“It’s a massive amount of work — I force myself to spend time on it every day,” he says. “Chris [Heinbaugh] has been great about keeping my thoughts grounded and relating it back to Dallas.”

Maintaining the focus on North Texas, in fact, was a key decision made early in the process.

“We all jointly made a decision to keep it local,” Santos says. “We all had the contacts to bring in headliners like Kristin Chenoweth and Bill T. Jones, but then that becomes a different animal. This is about our community.”
(The program will include a photo montage of locals who have died of AIDS.)

Nevertheless, Santos’ plan for A Gathering was a scope that extended beyond our borders — both Dallas’ and the gay community’s.

“One of the discussions I’ve had with everyone is that it doesn’t all have to be about the gay community and doesn’t have to be literal. We all know the impact on the gay community, but this is a global issue — gay, straight, single, married. It is a human issue.

“As we’re talking about a particular emotion, we noted that something taken out of context can be very helpful — it doesn’t all have to be Rent and The Normal Heart and Angels in America. There will be a microphone close to the audience where people [including former Mayor Laura Miller and various TV news anchors] will do readings.

“We include facts that deal with the impact of AIDS in Africa, so we have a piece of choreography that’s a tribute to [ composer and activist] Fela Kuti, who died of AIDS. We have a statement about discrimination. The opera is sending us a countertenor to sing for us. Some of the AIDS quilt panels will be flown in and be on display.”

While some tickets have been set aside for clients of the AIDS organizations served by the benefit, Santos’ great hope is that the entire community turns out to participate and reflect on AIDS.

“I hope the community comes out for it. It will be an amazing show, a real spectacular,” he said.

Participating organizations include the AT&T Performing Arts Center, Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Bruce Wood Dance Project, CharlieUniformTango, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Dallas Opera, Dallas Theater Center, SMU Meadows School for the Arts, Texas Ballet Theater, TITAS and the Turtle Creek Chorale. Vocalists include Gary Lynn Floyd, Damon K. Clark, Denise Lee, Patty Breckenridge, John Holiday, Rachel Dupard and Cory Cooper.

Winspear Opera House, 2403 Flora St. Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. $12–$200. 214-880-0202.

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

—  Kevin Thomas

Dancer Judith Jamison at the Winspear

She can dance

Judith Jamison is kind of a big deal. She danced with Baryshnikov, won an Emmy and went from being the principal dancer of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater to being its artistic director. She appears for one night as part of the Brinker International Forum. The Kennedy Center honoree and National Medal of Arts winner likely has some great stories to tell. And we’re all ears.

DEETS: Winspear Opera House, 2403 Flora St. 8 p,m. $12.50–$125. ATTPAC.org.

—  Rich Lopez

Best Bets • 10.28.11

Friday 10.28img_9302

She’ll folk you up
Boston folk singer Catie Curtis brings a new set of tunes to town. Promoting her latest album Stretch Limousine on Fire, Curtis says this album has pushed her to her musical boundaries. So her live show must be just as inspired.

DEETS: With Melissa Greener. Uncle Calvin’s Coffeehouse,
555 N. Central Expressway. 8 p.m. $15–$18.
UncleCalvins.org.

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Saturday 10.29

This Halloween is full of treats
Saturday is all about decisions and it’s like you can’t make a wrong one. If you’re handy and have a couple of 5-Hour energy drinks, you could fit in a haunted house, The Women’s Chorus of Dallas masquerade ball and of course, what’s Halloween without the block party?

DEETS: Oak Lawn Halloween 2011,
3900 Cedar Springs Road. 7 p.m.
PartyAtTheBlock.com.

Masquerade 2011. Sammons Center for the Arts,
3630 Harry Hines Blvd. 7 p.m. $25.
TWCD.org.

Screams Theme Park,
2511 FM 66, Waxahachie. 7:30 p.m. $25.
ScreamsParks.com.

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Saturday 10.29

Diablos drag you to Hell
Before the costumes and the candy hits the fan, there’s Hellfest 2011 to get through. The Dallas Diablos host the annual rugby tournament with men’s and women’s teams from all over the country competing for top honors. Teams be warned. The Diablos say “in Hellfest, no one can hear you scream.”

DEETS: Lake Highlands Park,
9500 Lake Highlands Road. Noon. 
DallasDiablos.org.

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Thursday 11.03

She can dance
Judith Jamison is kind of a big deal. She danced with Baryshnikov, won an Emmy and went from being the principal dancer of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater to being its artistic director. She appears for one night as part of the Brinker International Forum. The Kennedy Center honoree and National Medal of Arts winner likely has some great stories to tell. And we’re all ears.

DEETS: Winspear Opera House,
2403 Flora St. 8 p,m. $12.50–$125.
ATTPAC.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 28, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Best bets • 10.21.11

Friday 10.21]

Who hasn’t had one?
The trials of dating can be rather daunting, but shoe fetishist and single mother Haley finds that her horrible taste in men isn’t paying off in the one-woman show Bad Dates, starrting Shannon J. McGrann. Haley suffers through mobsters, a teenage daughter and, well, some bad dates. But thankfully, she’s got her fabulous shoes to make her feel better.

DEETS: Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, 5601 Sears St. 8 p.m. Through Nov. 13. $27–$32.
ContemporaryTheatreOfDallas.com.

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Friday 10.21

She will cut you
The Dallas Opera opens its season with Lucia di Lammermoor, about Lucia, who isn’t too fond of her future husband. So much so, she takes matters into her own hands. For opera newbies, TDO offers a free public simulcast of the opening night in Sammons Park. One way or another, you’ll see how Lucia copes with a deceitful brother and the man he tricks her into marrying.

DEETS: Winspear Opera House, 2403 Flora St. 7:30 p.m. Through Nov. 6. $25–$275. ATTPAC.org.

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Saturday 10.22

Pleasure and pain
Fetish adult film star Tony Buff comes to Dallas for the weekend. He make a special appearance at The Tin Room Friday and Saturday and if you don’t like it, well, he’s might have to teach you a lesson. Like you’d mind.

DEETS: Tin Room, 2514 Hudnall St. 10 p.m. No cover. TinRoom.net

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 21, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

REVIEW: ‘Hair’ — The mane event

You could sense of a lot of the shock and discomfort from the audience at the Winspear Opera House as a bunch of half-naked hippies descended into their seats, swigging from their chardonnay glasses and grabbing their crotches (and hugging audience members) and handing out flowers like veterans at an airport. The ’60s were before a lot of these folks were born, and most of the ones who lived through it valeted for 25 bucks in Lexus Red Parking, so they are perhaps less receptive to the communal, pot-smoking free-love message of the play than audiences a generation ago. And in fact, after intermish — which begins with 20 fully frontally naked men and women wagging their business — virtually the entire row of seats in front of me cleared out, presumably to go pray for all us sinners who hung around for Act 2.

That’s the magic of Hair.

This production, which arrives direct from closing on Broadway, is full of the energy and the spirit of the original, which set the culture on its ear in 1968. That’s been awhile, of course, and what has often been called the definitive “rock musical” seems less rockin’ than, say, Spring Awakening, written by an actual rock musician, or Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson or American Idiot. We’re uses to loud numbers and nudity onstage now.

But also, not. The message of the show — trippy, anti-war and pro-youth, sexually frank and equally fluid — is, in an era of talk about “job creators” and “Obamacare” and FoxNews, equally radical, even if the songs have entered the realm of show-tune classics more than hippie anthems. It feels oddly relevant again — especially as it deals with the draft, on the morning of the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” All the sexual liberation and “what-makes-a-good-American” talk has renewed depth.

The production itself is fun, though it suffers a lot as it always has from  problems — a long Vietnam fantasy in Act 2, marginal character development, rituals like draft-card burning that may not resonate with an audience weaned on an all-volunteer Army — though the bromance between Claude and Berger, and the hot, heroin-chic bodies of the men, add a layer of homoeroticism that you’re kinda glad makes the audience a bit uncomfortable. It’s good to shake people up sometimes. Peace out.

Through Oct. 2. Attpac.org.

 

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

A good head on his shoulders

For actor Matt DeAngelis, the flower power musical ‘Hair’ isn’t just a time capsule — it’s a reminder of the transformative effect of theater

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

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HAIR
Winspear Opera House,
2403 Flora St.
Sept.. 20–Oct. 2
ATTPAC.org

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Matt DeAngelis wasn’t even alive when the hippie Summer of Love took place, but for the last two years, he’s happily relived it eight times a week as one of the original cast members in the Tony Award-winning revival of Hair.

“I didn’t know a lot about the show before I was cast in it,” says the 28-year-old Boston native who now makes his home in New York. “I’m sort of a contemporary rock musical theater singer and always have been, so when I started doing Hair I said, ‘How did I miss this for this long?’ But my parents never listened to it — they didn’t listen to the Beatles either, so I missed that, too.”

DeAngelis and other members of the original cast bring the show to that reddest of reds when they open at the Winspear Opera House Tuesday as part of the Lexus Broadway Series. In fact, this company is coming directly from the New York production, where they spent the summer.

That means DeAngelis was in New York when same-sex marriage was legalized in the Empire State. To commemorate it, three gay couples wed on the stage of the St. James Theatre while the Hair company looked on.
“I was standing center stage for that,” DeAngelis boasts. “A doorman and usher at different theaters were one couple, an actor whom I didn’t know and a playwright were another couple, Terri White and her longtime girlfriend got married — Terri’s a legend in our industry. It was fantastic!”

Combining theater and activism seems like a perfect fit for a show like Hair.

“Gay rights are important to theater people, ya know? Gavin Creel, who was our original Claude [and who performed at last year’s Black Tie Dinner], inspired us to do a bunch of work with Broadway Impact. We did a big benefit in London, we marched on Washington for the marriage equality rally. We have such a special group of producers — they lost $150,000 to let us go to Washington. But it’s such a special cause for our company, because right is right. We’ve all taken the message of Hair and the idea of advocacy for what you believe in.”

Don’t expect to see similar commitment ceremonies on the stage of the Winspear, though.

“To me, marriage isn’t symbolic — it is real,” DeAngelis says. “I wish we could [perform a same-sex marriage] every night in every city. But that was really just a victory lap for us: It said in the biggest metropolis in the U.S., you can get married. If it wasn’t legal it wouldn’t have mattered.”

Hair is a slightly formless musical, set in 1967 (before the madness of 1968 — the assassinations of MLK and RFK, the escalation of the war in Vietnam) where free-love (including then-provocative issues of interracial dating and homosexuality), drug use and counterculture attitudes are vigorously embraced. Still, some of the controversy over it, especially its notorious nude scene, puzzles DeAngelis.

“I think it’s an incredibly powerful moment in the context of the show. We had one walkout where a woman grabbed her daughter and stormed out. People get all bent out of shape because we took our clothes off for 30 seconds, and it’s not even sexual. But we do far more offensive things in the show with our clothes on: humping, drug use, language. I sing a song called ‘Sodomy’ — though granted, people walk out during that too,” he laughs.

A show like this may be a good fit in gay-friendly NYC, but DeAngelis likes the idea of bringing the message to the people, and not just preaching to the choir.

“Not always playing to a liberal New York audience is sort of the point of the show for us,” he says. “It’s such a message show; taking it to the people is important. Just because you come see Hair doesn’t mean you need to leave as a flower child. We say what we have to say and confront people. If we change a few minds, that’s awesome, but what we really want to do is force people to think about it.That’s the art form. Theater is important — I couldn’t do it for a living if I didn’t believe that. It really has an impact on people, shining a light on the darkest of corners.”

And, like few other musicals, Hair certainly does let the sunshine in.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Weekly Best Bets: 07.08.11

Friday 07.08

What the Del?
Del Shores returns to Dallas with More Sordid Confessions, his one-man show that’s part comedy, part biography and we’re figuring, a whole lotta funny. His partner Jason Dottley performs later that night at BJ’s NXS! the same night. We’re sure that one won’t miss the other’s show. And you shouldn’t miss either of them.

DEETS: The Rose Room, 3911 Cedar Springs Road. 8 p.m. $15–$20. PartyAtTheBlock.com.

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Friday 07.08

Who can blow out a 100 candles?
The legendary venue Sons of Hermann Hall celebrates a century this weekend and as part of the vast music lineup, LGBT faves Patrice Pike and Kathy & Bell join in on the celebration. Two days of Texas music in this Dallas gem is pretty much the equivalent to heaven.

DEETS: SOHH, 3414 Elm St. Through Saturday. $25­–$45. SonsOfHermann.org.

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Thursday 07.14

Fake news the way you like it
When the real news gets to be too much, The Onion is a nice reprieve. But how will the writers and editors pull it off live? The staff comes to talk about its satire and place in today’s media.

DEETS: Winspear Opera House, 2403 Flora St. . $25­–$45. ATTPAC.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 8, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

REVIEW: Emmylou Harris and the Red Dirt Boys on Thursday at the Winspear

Emmylou Harris

Let me start by saying that I like Emmylou Harris, but I can’t say that I’ve followed her enough to know much from her catalog save some signature tunes. But I had to see her. I mean, it is Emmylou Harris, and while I can’t say she disappointed, she wasn’t quite what I expected.

On tour for her 2011 release Hard Bargain, Harris played a healthy set of old and new Thursday night, coming in just over the two-hour mark. With an impressive catalog of 26 albums, she wasn’t short for material. She opened the show with the new “Six White Cadillacs,” a playful tune that set a welcoming tone. Without missing a beat, she followed up with “Orphan Girl” from her 1995 landmark album Wrecking Ball. A song I liked, but this is where the unexpected part began.

“Orphan” has a middle pacing that’s not too slow and not too fast. It coasts on beautiful guitars and mid-tempo beats. Which is fine, but almost every song after it followed this same formula. Regardless of the quality of the songs, the pacing was so even-keeled that it was a couple of shades shy of boring. She did punctuate it with a couple of rousing ditties, but the first one came an hour into the show. If she had just added two or three more of those, it would have had a better flow.

—  Rich Lopez

Out of step

Fitting in seems overrated in two musicals of substance

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

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ON THE BOARDS
NEXT TO NORMAL at the Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd.
Through July 3. UptownPlayers.org.

BILLY ELLIOT at the Winspear Opera House,
4103 Flora St. Through June 19.
ATTPAC.org.

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OUT, OUT BRIEF CANDLE | A birthday cake triggers a couple’s painful memories in ‘Next to Normal.’ (Photo by Mike Morgan)

Reality: It’s so inconvenient sometimes. For Diana, the wife and mother in Next to Normal, reality often means staying drugged to the point of catatonia; for 12-year-old working class kid Billy Elliot struggling through life in an England mining town interferes with his passion to dance. Mental illness and politico-economic upheaval — not exactly the stuff of the typical song-and-dance musical. But there is little typical about either of these shows.

For Uptown Players, the regional premiere of Next to Normal is the best show the company has ever done: The best cast, all of whom are at the top of their games; the best set; the best band (a pitch-perfect performance, led by music director Scott A. Eckert); and the best directing personally for Michael Serrecchia, who moves the scenes seamlessly as the play hits you in waves, alternatingly poignant and humorous.

It’s not the easiest material to make into a musical. Diana (Patty Breckenridge) had struggled with bipolar disorder for years, ever since a tragedy left her with a slipping grip on reality. Her husband Dan (Gary Floyd) has soldiered on, monitoring her prescription use and looking for warning signs. But what if Diana doesn’t want to feel “normal”? What if feeling a little crazy is her baseline — it’s normal for her?

At the same time we watch Dan and Diana work through their marriage, we see how their daughter Natalie (Erica Harte) and her new boyfriend Henry (Jonathan W. Gilland) mirror their relationship from 20 years ago.

These are heavy issues, but for each moment of devastation, you are simultaneously awed by its beauty and power. It helps that the score — basically a rock opera — is performed by some of the best singers around. On all her songs, Breckenridge reaches into the emotion and the musicality; nowhere is she better than on “I Miss the Mountains,” a heartfelt ballad of the Jewel-Indigo Girls variety that you can imagine hearing on the radio.

Floyd’s lilting tenor melds gorgeously with Anthony Carillo, playing Dan and Diana’s son Gabe, especially on “I Am the One” and “It’s Gonna Be Good.” Carillo imbues his performance with an impressing physicality as well, bursting out of his skin on the anthem “I’m Alive.”

Next to Normal, which won the Tony Award for best score as well as the Pulitzer Prize for drama, sounds sad, and sometimes it is, but its genius is leaving the audience with the memory of the power of the human spirit. This is not a musical about depression; it is a musical about hope.
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GOTTA DANCE | A working class boy imagines a future, dancing ballet with himself, in ‘Billy Elliot.’ (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

You could say almost the same thing about Billy Elliot, now at the Winspear Opera House. This national tour of the Elton John hit about how a boy discovers ballet is perhaps an even less likely topic for a musical treatment, given its context: A strike during the Thatcher Administration that, in the mid-1980s, nearly resulted in a British civil war, and polarized the classes in a way that hadn’t been seen in a century.

Billy (played on press night by Giuseppe Basilio, but with a rotating Billy almost each performance) is growing up amid the fiercely testosterone-fueled environs of Northern England, with a father and older brother who are miners, with only the memory of his late mother and his often soused grandmother to nurture him.

Billy is forced to study boxing, but when he wanders into a ballet class led by Mrs. Wilkinson (Faith Prince), he begins to realize that being different isn’t easy, but it sure is liberating.

You know you’re in a strange world, even in musical theater, where the showstopping number in the first act (“Expressing Yourself”) is a lavish tap-dancing fantasy about the joys of cross-dressing, led by Billy’s fey companion Michael, who seems more at home in his burgeoning sexuality than his older friend.

Everything about this production is massive — the sets, the themes, the score, the dances, the talent, even the accents — except the kernel of it: The lone boy who wants to make a better world for himself. (In the show’s most moving sequence, miners contribute what they can to help fund Billy’s audition for the Royal School of Ballet, because they realize — sadly, beautifully — that Billy represents the future, their future, as their industry is being gutted by right wing bullies.)

Broadway veteran Prince demonstrates her star-power with a flashy supporting role, but Basilio is a remarkable young dancer, with fine lines and a commanding presence during a duet with his older self and on his big solo number, “Electricity.” On opening night, the audience swelled in a sustained, spontaneous ovation. It was completely deserved. It was, itself, electric.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 17, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens