Friends of Dorothy

stage-1
EASE ON DOWN | The Tin Man (Sydney James Harcourt, above left) steals the show in ‘The Wiz’ at DTC, while over at Fair Park, Megan Sikora, right, gives ‘Guys & Dolls’ its jolt.

If only DTC’s ‘Wiz’ had a heart. And I got yer horse right here, ‘Guys & Dolls’

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

If there’s one thing a gay guy can be counted on to know something about, it’s The Wizard of Oz. After all, the death of Judy Garland sparked the Stonewall Riots, and even before that, being a “friend of Dorothy” was code for practicing The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name. You wanna change it? Be prepared for theater queens to take note.

And so it is with The Wiz, the 1975 funked-up, all-black musical that serves as the Dallas Theater Center’s season ender.

The appeal of Dorothy’s adventure has always been the exploration of self-understanding with heavy doses of psychology. (The folks she meets in her reveries about Oz mirror real-life people she knows in Kansas.) This rushed 90-minute kiddie show so trims the classic structure of the film (it’s closer in plot to the book, but that’s not a good thing), it feels more like a series of unrelated vignettes than a mythological journey of personal discovery. Dorothy gets to Oz, meets a good witch (not Glinda), hooks up with three buddies (sans Toto, who is only heard barking offstage in the opening), dispatches an evil witch in about six minutes then presumably makes it back home (we never see Kansas again).

DTC is marketing it as a “family musical,” and I suppose it is in the sense that we might start referring to Michele Bachmann’s husband as “family.” The show — even in this abridged version — is gayer than Liberace on Halloween. The Lion, always the nelliest of the bunch, basically admits he’s gay due to an absent father and strong-willed mother; so many men are obsessed with Dorothy’s shiny shoes (here silver as in the book, not ruby like the movie), I expected one of the Munchkins to be Stanford Blatch; and director Kevin Moriarty employs lithe, half-naked dancers from Dallas Black Dance Theater to gyrate their moneymakers — is this Oz from the book or the gay club on Bourbon Street?

Still, this version of The Wiz is just children’s theater without much heart, brain or courage (it’s difficult to tell if that’s the fault of the book by William F. Brown or the direction, which feels stage-2rushed). The style is presentational and flat, with the actors projecting broadly to the balcony with exaggerated emotions.

Although the set famously includes moving “pods” of seats that move the audience around the space, the main actors rarely perform as in true theater-in-the-round, except when the dancers jump into them. I counted a dozen repositionings, but the sense of movement only genuinely grabs you once; during the cyclone, which should make you feel dizzy and excited, the pods move lumberingly around dancers portraying winds. It’s all oddly unsatisfying: It’s there, it ends.

What’s surprising is that there’s not more magic considering how balls-to-the-wall strong most of the singers are. The Tin Man has never been my favorite character — face it: He’s never been anyone’s favorite … until now. Sydney James Harcourt delivers the only truly wrenching musical performance on his solo “To Be Able to Feel,” just moments after the juiced-up eroticism of “Slide Some Oil to Me.” It’s a sexy, charismatic turn in sharp relief to David Ryan Smith’s hilariously flamboyant Lion and James Tyrone Lane’s limber goofing as Scarecrow.

Liz Mikel hams it up, both as good witch Addaperle and her wicked sister Evillene, which gives her the chance to seethe and gnash her teeth at the youngsters in between belt-‘em-out anthems. But Trisha Jeffrey as Dorothy makes little impression. In this construct, without Toto to talk to, the character is a cipher with little to do but watch the rest of Oz upstage her, wondering “Why, oh why can’t I?”

 

Over at Fair Park, the national tour of Guys & Dolls does a good job of reminding us how gosh-durn terrific a songwriter Frank Loesser was. The score plays like a master class in Broadway hits, with standards (the most famous, “Luck Be a Lady,” isn’t even the best) that convey character through complex harmonies with toe-tapping brio. It’s ironic that “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat” makes the audience want to jump to its feet.

If only the production were quite at the level it needs to be to showcase those numbers at their best. Four of the five leads — Ben Crawford (Sky Masterson), Steve Rosen (Nathan Detroit), Megan Sikora (Adelaide) and Glenn Rainey (Nicely Nicely) — have great voices, with Sikora stealing the show as the squeaky-voiced stripper. (Erin Davie never rises above the confines of the show’s least interesting role, missionary Sarah Brown.) The book, based on Damon Runyon’s caricatures of New York low-lifes, still has some zingers (and Crawford is especially good at making the dialogue feel contemporary), but it hasn’t aged well.

It doesn’t help that director Gordon Greenberg cleaves closely to outmoded conventions, like a long
introductory ballet (danced only serviceably by a disappointing chorus) and extended, stylized sequences throughout that do little to advance the plot. And with the show clocking in just shy of three hours, there is plenty of room to trim.

Sikora, though, makes it worth a look-see alone, and the songs have more energy and have endured better than those of The Wiz. Given a choice, it’s a crapshoot between the Loesser of two Evillenes.

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travel Travel Diary

Anyone who has ever been trapped in an airport during flight delays knows the madness can become infectious, but being balanced and serene is worth the effort. Here are some tips to get your Zen on.

Exercise. You might be on vacation, but your body is not. Exercise in your room, in your hotel’s gym, outside (run on the beach!) or find a nearby gym. Investing an hour in working out can reduce stress, improve sleep and increase energy.

Choose the right attitude. If you approach traveling with the attitude of, “Ugh! I hate to fly/drive/sit,” you’ve already decided it’s going to be a terrible experience. Instead, make the decision to enjoy the journey. Find a good book or download some interesting movies on your iPad. A long flight can be hell… or six hours of scheduled “me” time. The choice is yours.

Eat right. There’s no such thing as “vacation” calories. A calorie is a calorie and unhealthy options are as unhealthy at the beach as they are at home. Make food choices that nourish your body and you’ll feel strong and you’ll enjoy your vacation even more.

Do less, accomplish more. Many treat vacations as narrow windows into which they cram in as much “fun” as possible. While tempting, it can result in seeing a lot but experiencing nothing. Instead, do a few things you’ll actually enjoy rather than constantly looking at your watch.

Stay hydrated. Planes have notoriously dry air; make it a point to get some water whenever the stewards or stewardesses offer it. After going through security, buy a large bottle of water. It makes your body infinitely more comfortable, especially on longer flights.

Meditate. Even if you don’t normally meditate, taking 10 minutes a day to sit quietly is refreshing. Ideally, meditation is best in a quiet room, but even on a packed plane you can make it work. If there is chaos around you, make it part of your practice! Tune it out and find your center. Among other things, it will help reduce tension, relieve stress and improve your mood.

Wash your hands. Restaurants and public transportation facilities are rife with germs. Vacations are more enjoyable when you’re healthy, so minimize your risk of getting sick by washing your hands often.

— Davey Wavey

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 22, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Best bets • 06.03.11

Friday 06.03

All the Cox you could want
Could there be any better timing for this year’s 6th Annual MetroBall? The AIDS fundraiser is smack dab in the middle of Razzle Dazzle Dallas. We’d go no matter what since dance diva Deborah Cox is headlining. You know she’ll sing her signature hit “Nobody’s Supposed To Be Here,” to a packed house. Ironic, huh?

DEETS: Station 4, 3911 Cedar Springs Road. 7 p.m. $30. GDMAF.org.

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Saturday 06.04

This ain’t the Pink Floyd version
Musical accompaniment to The Wizard of Oz will not be a classic rock album this night. Instead, the DSO pays homage in Oz with Orchestra by performing the original soundtrack as the movie plays. And extra bonuses to the people who dress up as their favorite character.

DEETS: Meyerson Symphony Center, 2301 Flora St. 7:30 p.m. $30–$70. DallasSymphony.com.

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Tuesday 06.07

Now these cats can recycle
We wonder if the Stomp people throw anything away. Clearly everything, even trash, can be turned into a musical instrument or noisemaker, but these guys know how to do it the right way.

DEETS: Music Hall at Fair Park, 909 First Ave. Through June 12. $15–$75. Ticketmaster.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 3, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

The gayest birthday cake ever

My wife, Sandra, agreed to make a birthday cake for our friend, Mealia, who is not only gay but is from Kansas and loves The Wizard of Oz.

As it turns out, I think, this is the birthday cake every lesbian and gay person needs. Here’s a picture of this piece of culinary genius, so you can all start planning for your own birthdays. (And no, that isn’t an actual pair of ruby slippers. It’s a photo that has been cut out and attached to the cake with toothpicks.)

—  admin

Gay Dallas couple legally weds in Texas, aims to bring ‘e-marriage’ to the same-sex masses

Mark Reed, left, and Dante Walkup

John Wright  |  Online Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

Each year countless gay and lesbian couples travel from Texas to places where same-sex marriage is legal to tie the knot.

But Mark Reed hopes same-sex couples in Texas will soon be able to conveniently — and legally — marry without even leaving the state.

Reed, a board member for the national LGBT direct action group GetEQUAL, recently married his longtime partner, Dante Walkup, at the W Dallas Victory hotel.

Their “Skype” wedding was officiated via teleconference from Washington, D.C., where same-sex marriage is legal, and they received their license in the mail a short time later.

It’s called “e-marriage,” and it’s a sort of high-tech version of the proxy wedding traditionally held when one of the parties can’t be physically present — because, for example, they’re in the military stationed overseas.

“The reason we wanted to do it this way is because we wanted to have a wedding here in Dallas with our family and friends,” Reed said. “It was very important that all of our family came. It was the first time they actually met, even though we’ve been together 10 years. If we had to go to D.C., there’s no way we could have had the people there who we wanted to be there.”

Reed and Walkup, co-owners of WDM Lighting on Oak Lawn Avenue, were married in a conference room at the W hotel on Oct. 10, in front of about 80 people with a 6-by-8-foot screen looming behind them.

The couple had rented a similar room at a W hotel in Washington, where marriage quality activist Sheila Alexander-Reid officiated the wedding.

“When we walked down the aisle, as soon as we reached the front, she comes on the screen like The Wizard of Oz,” Reed said. “It was beautiful. It wasn’t make-believe. It was like she was really there.”

Although Reed and Walkup were able to hold their ceremony in Dallas, they had to go to D.C. beforehand to register. And Reed said while D.C.’s marriage law has no provision against e-marriage, the validity of the procedure could theoretically be challenged in court.

That’s why the couple is now working with legal experts and legislators from states where same-sex marriage is legal to draft statutes that would solidify the practice. Reed and Walkup traveled this week to Michigan for a symposium on e-marriage.

While the couple has no intention of using their case to challenge Texas’ bans on same-sex marriage, Reed said they want to make it more convenient and less expensive for same-sex couples to legally wed.

Reed is also in the process of changing his surname in a Texas court, and he’s been fighting The Dallas Morning News — thus far unsuccessfully — to print their announcement in “Weddings” instead of in another section called “Commitments.”

“It’s like the more equal we can get through creative ways, we’re going to do it,” Reed said. “It’s just important to do anything we can to find creative ways around inequality.”

—  John Wright

‘Pro-family activist’ calls on Obama to close bathhouses to stop the spread of AIDS

Welcome to 1985. That’s what it seems like if you listen to “pro-family activist” Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality. LaBarbera is calling on President Obama to shut down the gay bathhouses to stop the spread of AIDS.

OneNewsNow, a “Christian” news media outlet, ran this story Wednesday on LaBarbera’s reaction to the International AIDS Conference held last week in Vienna, Austria:

Peter LaBarbera

“At last week’s International AIDS Conference in Vienna, Austria, the Obama administration pledged the support of the U.S. in the global fight against AIDS. But one pro-family activist points out that an important aspect is missing from the undertaking.

“Both President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made prerecorded speeches at the close of the conference, committing the nation’s dedication to fight the disease. However, one key factor seemed to be absent from the rhetoric, says a prominent pro-family activist.

“‘It’s not a big mystery about what helps cause AIDS, and yet one key portion — homosexual practice, homosexual sex — is just off the table,’ notes Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH). ‘And then we wonder why we can’t keep this disease in check.’

“He compares this issue to the Wizard of Oz or the emperor who has no clothes. ‘There’s a lot of talk about fighting AIDS, but they’re not really serious about one of the key causes, which is homosexual behavior,’ he laments.

“Instead, LaBarbera says, President Obama promotes it. He wishes the president would take serious action to combat the disease — like shutting down homosexual bathhouses.

“‘Bathhouses are places where men can go practice this dangerous sexual activity in secret,’ the AFTAH president explains. ‘They can bring it home. If they’re bisexual, they can bring it back to their wife or their girlfriend and be the conduit for AIDS into the heterosexual community.’

“Based on the fact that the Obama administration has avoided the issue, the pro-family activist concludes that it is politically incorrect to talk about the dangers of homosexual behavior.”

OK, so once I wiped the tears of hysterical laughter from my eyes, I read this again and realized just how NOT funny it really is. Not funny for so many, many reasons.

First of all, this guy is trying to take us back to the dark ages of the AIDS epidemic, when fear and misinformation ruled.

I mean, c’mon, “homosexual behavior” does not CAUSE AIDS. Yes, HIV can be transmitted through sexual contact, whether it be homosexual or heterosexual sexual contact. But there is a big difference in means of transmission and cause. AIDS is CAUSED by a virus. And guess what, that virus does not discriminate based on sexual orientation.

And the reason we can’t “keep this disease in check” is because of people like LaBarbera and his ilk who are spreading hate and lies and misinformation. I mean, how many men actually believe this guy and think they won’t get AIDS as long as they never have sex with another guy?! THAT’s what adds to the spread of the virus.

I just want to make sure that Ol’ Pete knows HIV is already spreading like wildfire through the hetero community, and has been for years, and it is because of people like him who spout this kind of shit instead of actually paying attention to science and fact and reality.

We need to stop letting LaBarbera and others of his ilk get away with their crap about “the dangers of homosexual behavior” and we need to start talking even more about the very real dangers of stupidity. And of hate. And of shame. And of lies. LaBarbera and others like him are so full of hatred or self-hate or whatever, that they are putting lives at risk with their stupidity. We can’t stop them from talking, but we do have to call them on their lies.

So hey, Pete. I’m calling bullshit. You want to hate LGBT people, that’s fine. That’s your right. But your stupidity on AIDS/HIV is putting lives at risk. So either learn the facts or shut the hell up.

—  admin