David Blaine tonight at the Winspear

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.

—  Rich Lopez

TONIGHT: Lexus B’way Series, the gay perspective: “Les Miz”

As I did last fall for Hair, the Lexus Broadway Series has invited me back — and has for the entire season — to offer some insights from a gay perspective on their current production.

And that production is Les Miserables.

I have to say, this is the show I have least looked forward to profiling — not because I don’t like it, but because it is a challenge with a show that predates the word “gay.” But I’ll give it my best shot.

Here’s how it works: If you signed up for the “gay series” already, you probably got an email blast reminding you about the chat. If you didn’t, you can still come — just buy a ticket to tonight’s performance. (I liked this production, too — you can read my review here.) The talk will be in Hamon Hall, to the right when you enter the Winspear, starting about 7 p.m. I’ll even take questions if you have any.

And I’ll see you in March at In the Heights!

 

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

At the barricade

A newly imagined ‘Les Miz’ is just as grand, less operatic

09.LesMiserables-US-Enjolras-CROP

OCCUPY PARIS | ‘Les Miz’s’ theme of proletarian revolt resonates as strongly as the thrilling score.

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

Chances are if you have ever seen Les Miserables, you think that it is either the greatest musical ever conceived, or precisely what’s wrong with musical theater since Mary Martin retired from playing a pre-pubescent boy. Of course, it’s possible both are true.

Detractors claim the musical — adapted from Victor Hugo’s massive novel about a thief, Jean Valjean (J. Mark McVey) pursued relentlessly by obsessive Inspector Javert (Andrew Varela)  — slogs through French history with bombastic pretension and repetitive musical motifs. Admirers — whom I happily number myself among, and have ever since I saw the original London production 25 years ago — fall sway to its sweep, its Big Themes, its thrilling score. And the ideas that right wingers can’t beat down the common man forever and get away with it resonate especially strongly even today. There’s no way you can see Les Miz and not think the distinction between musical and opera is all but irrelevant.

You might feel differently, though, with the current national tour, now at the Winspear. It reconceives the original with mind-blowing rear projection (Valjean’s escape through the sewers of Paris is as cinematic as anything I’ve seen on a stage; Javert’s suicide is a technical marvel) and a more intimate, almost claustrophobic staging. The show is still grand, though it feels less like grand opera.

That’s also a side effect of the singing, which has been modified from the rich, fluid style of the original to a more conversational, pop sensibility. It’s almost as if the creative team figured everyone already knew the songs and wanted to give them a more radio-friendly, Susan Boyle-ish treatment. That may be arresting only to nerds like me who can recite the score by heart, but I bet there are a lot of us out there.

Even so, the “money songs” — especially Valjean’s haunting “Bring Him Home,” that ravaged the house on opening night, and the Act 1 finale, though also Fantine’s “I Dreamed a Dream” and Eponine’s “On My Own” — are as stirring and flamboyant as they ever were, and the bawdy “Master of the House” remains a comic gem.

The latter is due in great part to Richard Vida and Shawna M. Hamic (looking like Edna Turnblad) as the Thenardiers, whose comic mugging steals scenes, and McVey’s Valjean grows in depth and power throughout the three hour run-time.

But the length is almost inconsequential. Les Miz, of necessity, rushes through great swaths of emotions, and it’s occasionally difficult to toggle through them; your heart can’t keep up with your head. But when it does? Well, that’s when Les Miz is as touching as a musical can be.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 23, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Nobody does it Eder

Broadway diva Linda Eder talks of her longevity … and her drag queen imitators

concert-1

CHRISTMAS ANGEL | Singer Linda Eder will bring Christmas magic to her holiday concert at the Winspear and she’s hoping her gay fans will turn out. Being a Broadway diva with that voice — they likely will.

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

The earliest evidence of what Linda Eder would become is available, of course, on YouTube: A video of Eder, maybe 19 or 20, singing Melissa Manchester’s “Looking Through the Eyes of Love” at the 1980 Miss Minnesota pageant. (She didn’t win the title.)

But Eder doesn’t blanch with embarrassment when confronted with this relic of her past. Now a responsible adult, she offers that Linda Eder career advice.

“There’s a whole list of things I’d tell her not to do,” she insists. “My advice would be to save more money. Don’t spend so much because you don’t really need so much.”

Eder turned 50 this year, and the wisdom earned from the passage of time is clear in her tone. She’s relaxed, professional and unfazed discussing the range of her career, whether working with her ex-husband on her last album Now or the drag queens that perform her work. But she does seem to get jazzed about one thing — longevity.

“What makes me proud of this album is just the fact I am here at 50 and making records,” she says. “I’ve been most fortunate to have this kind of career and I have a real sense of accomplishment with this album.”

Now, her 13th that dropped in February, reunited her with longtime collaborate Frank Wildhorn, the man behind Jekyll and Hyde — the musical that put Eder on the Broadway map. But Wildhorn is also Eder’s ex-husband (they divorced in 2004). Still, she describes the experience as drama-free.

“You know, it worked out fine and it really was easy. We stay in contact,” she says. “For this album, we brought back some of the same people from before.

Things were slightly different now that I’m my own entity if you will. There was a little more freedom but it wasn’t he ever made me do anything I didn’t want.”
After 20 years since her first release, Eder knows she’s not radio fodder, but she also knows her audience.

“I certainly hoped for this kind of career. Making records is fun,” she says.

“Fortunately people enjoy my voice.”

That, of course, includes her large contingent of gay fans. She understands the territory that comes with being a Broadway diva. Eder even relishes it.

“I’ve been pretty lucky to have gay fans. They are my more lively audience and that’s why I love playing for them. I appreciate it so much,” she gushes.
Drag queens aren’t lost on her, either.

“Do you know that there is this drag show called Better than Eder? That’s so great,” she says.

She’ll likely introduce some of her new works when she returns to Dallas Sunday for her holiday concert at the Winspear. Eder helps ring in the season with The Linda Eder Holiday Show. Her Christmas Stays the Same CD from 2000 featured both original and traditional carols with that Eder touch; getting the chance to perform them on stage is what drives her at this time of year.

“You know, I’m an entertainer and doing these shows with talented people and musicians is just a fun hang,” she says. “It’s hard to believe still that I get to do this for a business.”

She’ll argue the celebrity label, but knows she is one in a certain sense. Eder doesn’t propose a false modesty either when asked about her past work. Instead, she actively strives for a sense of normalcy.

“I don’t think of myself [as a star],” she says. “I was driven early on and carved a niche career for myself but I found that I wanted to pull back to a level of success that was normal. I’m simply a musician. I might call myself a minor celebrity.”

Her fans might disagree.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

“A Gathering” totals $60k in proceeds

From the rehearsal for "A Gathering."

So how many people does it take to make A Gathering? About a thousand, it seems. That’s about how many folks turned out for the Tuesday evening event,  raising an estimated $60,000 in the process (a full figure will be available after all the donations made that evening and still coming in by are tabulated). Organizers are even continuing to bargain over some of the hard costs, getting more donated or reduced to maximize the donations to the four AIDS beneficiaries.

That’s great, but what was really great was how the show came together, moving quickly and movingly with terrific performances from all involved. Keep it up, and this could (should) become a habit.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

“A Gathering — 30 Years of AIDS” tonight at the Winspear

Come together

The Dallas arts community is coming together for a spectacular One-Night-Only performance commemorating 30 Years of AIDS. An unprecedented collaboration between some of the finest arts organizations in Dallas, A Gathering: The Dallas Arts Community Reflects on 30 Years of AIDS will feature eleven Dallas cultural institutions coming together and sharing their talents to create a powerful evening of entertainment. With a cast of more than 200 singers, dancers and actors, A Gathering promises to be a soul-stirring performance, and a night to remember.

All the organizations involved are donating their time and talent for this unique performance. 100% of the proceeds will directly benefit four of Dallas’ leading AIDS service organizations. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to be a part of an extraordinary night of song, dance, hope and solidarity.

Participating organizations: AT&T Performing Arts Center, Booker T. Washington High School of the Performing and Visual Arts, Bruce Wood Dance Project, CharlieUniformTango, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Dallas Opera, Dallas Theater Center, SMU Meadows School of the Arts, Texas Ballet Theater, TITAS and Turtle Creek Chorale

—AT&T Performing Arts Center

DEETS: Winspear Opera House, 2403 Flora St. 7 p.m. $12–$100. ATTPAC.org/Gathering

—  Rich Lopez

REVIEW: Racette an easy singer in a special TDO concert at the Winspear on Wednesday

Last night afforded opera fans the last chance to see a Dallas Opera presentation until 2012 — well, sort of. Soprano Pat Racette, who was supposed to portray Katya Kabonova this month before the production was canceled, still managed to play the Winspear in a special 70-minute cabaret set. (“In honor of Janacek, I have translated all the lyrics into Czech,” she joked.) Although she said she wouldn’t be singing opera, just classics, she couldn’t resist the chance to turn on the pipes big-time for “La Vie en Rose,” which was met with thunderous applause.

For those who sniff at the overblown style of opera, Racette could probably make a convert of ya. She was jokey and easy-going onstage with a torch singer’s facility. She also was refreshingly open. She someone from the audience yelled out, “Is Beth here?,” Racette didn’t hesitate to give shout-outs to her wife, mezzo Beth Clayton, and her in-laws, who were all in the hall. She even played around a bit with Gershwin, changing the lyric “I got my man” to “I got my gal” for one verse.

The set, consisted of several medleys and three encores, ran the gamut from Piaf to the novelty song “To Keep My Love Alive,” all met with warmth by the audience, populated with season subscribers. The worst thing about the evening? Being reminded that we would not get to see her do Katya. Here’s to hoping the TDO adds her back into the mix in a season real soon.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Santos celebrates 10 years at TITAS

Charles Santos has told the story many times — last in Dallas Voice here — about how, just days after accepting a job in Dallas, he dodged catastrophe, being near  the World Trade Center when the towers were attacked in New York.

That was 10 years ago last month. Which means that 10 years ago this month, Santos celebrated a decade as the executive director of TITAS. Thus, the board of TITAS, along with luminaries like Veletta Lill, Matrice Kirk, Chris Heinbaugh and city councilwoman Ann Margolin, noted the anniversary with a surprise party for Santos at Komali last night.

Santos was bestowed a sculpture, pictured, to mark his time here, and he indicated his desire to be around for another 10 years.

TITAS next brings the inventive dance troupe Pilobolus to the Winspear on Nov. 19.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

The Dallas Opera opens season with ‘Lucia di Lammermoor’

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.

—  Rich Lopez

Bill Maher gays it up (even more than usual) on HBO’s ‘Real Time’ this Friday

It’s no secret I think Bill Maher is a dangerous (in a good way) comedian, and love that he says what a lot of people feel uncomfortable giving words to (like on particular word he called Sarah Palin at the Winspear earlier this year). He’s proven over and over what a great gay ally he is, and he does so again this week with a roundtable lineup that includes openly gay newsfolk Rachel Maddow and Andrew Sullivan. Sullivan, of course, is famously conservative, but he’s also intellectual honest and very pro-gay. Should be a good discussion.

The new episode airs live on Friday at 9 p.m. on HBO, with replays all week (including one at 10 p.m.).

—  Arnold Wayne Jones