Get exclusive Voice discount to ‘Xanadu’

Aaron Green in ‘Xanadu’ (photo by James Jamison)

Xanadu is one of the gayest musicals of the last decade. (Just how gay? Check out this photo.) So we were pleased as punch that the folks at OnStage in Bedford, where a production of Xanadu is running through June 15, have offered Dallas Voice readers an exclusive deal. If you use the code VOICE at checkout when you buy online or call in for tickets, you get $3 off each ticket! (Limit of 4.)

Seriously: Disco music, short-shorts, roller skating? How can you pass that up?

Get tickets here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

This week’s takeaways: Life+Style

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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

This week’s takeaways: Life+Style

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It’s feeling like a charitable weekend around the gayborhood.

First, there’s the LifeWalk team the Elizabeth Trail’rs (sponsored by Dallas Voice) that is raising money for the October AIDS walk with a pool party at the Belmont Hotel on Sunday. Drop off a $20 donation and enjoy the sun and water, as well as cocktails, food, a 50/50 raffle and more. It starts at 1 p.m.

That leaves you time to head over to Mario’s on Lemmon Avenue until 4 p.m. for another Sunday Funday fundraiser: a happy hour benefiting the Lone Star Ride in September. If you can, try squeezing in Bagels & Booze at JR.’s with drag performances.

Even if you aren’t raising money, you can still enjoy some cocktail parties — both at the W Hotel. On Friday, Dick’s Night Out arrives at the Ghostbar from 6–10 p.m. with DJ Brandon Moses, pictured, spinning; then on Saturday, Lush Mixer takes place from 7–10 p.m. at Cook Hall, also at the W.

And you can say goodbye to one campy gay play and hello to another; Avenue Q finally ends its 100-plus performance run at Theatre 3 on Sunday. Then Monday is the official opening night of the hilarious musical Xanadu, which features roller-disco!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Ohlook revives “Trannie” late-night, kicks off gay-friendly summer season with “Hairspray”

Your son may not come out tomorrow, but Trannie will.

Ohlook Performing Arts Center, which debuted the weirdly sweet musical Trannie — about a cross-dressing teen searching for her two daddies — in 2011 at its previous home in Grapevine, is reviving the musical satire at their new home. It’s still a late-night, adults-only kind of show, written by Matthew Lord (he of the Redneck Tenors), with songs like “It’s a Knocked Up Life.”

It also caps off an otherwise pretty gay season planned at Ohlook: The summer season opens Friday with Hairspray (running through July 8), followed by Spring Awakening (July 13–22) and Xanadu (July 27–Aug. 5) — a triumvirate of queer-centric musical comedy (though I wouldn’t describe Spring Awakening as funny). Those shows start at 7:30 p.m., with Trannie running June 29–July 14 starting at 10:30 p.m. (on Sundays, it starts at 7:30 p.m. following an afternoon matinee). (The second half of the season features Scary Musical as the late-night show.)

We like Trannie the first time around, and Ohlook — which often performs shows aimed at children — is one of the most gay-friendly small theaters in North Texas. We like that, too.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

BREAKING: WaterTower’s (very gay) new season

Addison’s WaterTower Theatre released the schedule for its 2012-2013 season, and the line-up is among the gayest for the company in recent memory.

• The season begins in September with The Mystery of Irma Vep, experimental gay playwright Charles Ludlam’s hilarious send-up of melodramas revolving around the strange goings-on at a spooky estate. (Sept. 28–Oct. 21.)

• The holiday show will be It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play. This is a new concept for WTT, which typically stages a musical comedy or revue with a Christmas  theme. This production will transport the beloved film to the studio of a 1940s-era radio station for an authentic recreation of the old-school radio play. (Nov. 24–Dec. 16.)

• The season picks up again in January with Putting It Together, a musical revue featuring the music of gay composer extraordinaire Stephen Sondheim. Diana Sheehan, who played Big Edie in WTT’s Grey Gardens, stars. (Jan. 11–Feb. 3.)

• This past year, WTT’s Out of the Loop Fringe Festival was super-gay — it often is. Next year’s line-up won’t be announced until early next year, but you can always count on odd and engaging new works. (March 7–17.)

• WTT’s gay artistic director Terry Martin, who recently starred in the Dallas Theater Center’s production of Next Fall, pictured (Martin’s on the right), will direct Frank Galati’s award-winning adaptation of The Grapes of Wrath, about the Joad family’s journey from Dust Bowl Oklahoma to the fields of California in the 1930s. (April 5–28.)

• Prolific playwright A.R. Gurney, who mined the field of WASP culture in plays like Love Letters, tackles the formal wedding toast in Black Tie, a comedy about a father trying to maintain some dignity at his son’s upcoming nuptials, only to have his own late father appear as a ghost, offering advice. (May 31–June 23.)

• The season ends next summer with one of the gayest musicals ever conceived: Xanadu. Playwright Douglas Carter Beane’s hysterically campy adaptation of the godawful 1980s movie musical, released in the waning days of disco, inserts pop music into a revised plot about the establishment of a roller disco. (July 26–Aug. 18.)

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

The pleasure dome

It may not be stately, but LGA’s goofy ‘Xanadu’ is a great summer camp

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HAVE YOU NEVER BEEN MELLOW | A Muse (Misty Venters) inspires a bubble-brained street artist (Angel Velasco) in the camptastic (and very gay) musical ‘Xanadu.’

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

Sonny Malone (Angel Velasco) isn’t the smartest guy in the room — and that’s probably true even when he’s visiting the monkey house at the zoo. He’s the prototypical himbo, the man who’s at his best when he’s just looking pretty and keeping his mouth closed. Girls used to get relegated to such status; now it’s the boys’ turn.

But Sonny does like to create art, and he sees it in chalk drawings on the sidewalk in Venice Beach as well as the opportunity to open a roller disco in 1980. (He doesn’t have much foresight: By 1981, disco — on wheels and not — was dead and would remain that way for 15 years.) That’s when Kira aka Clio (Misty Venters), head Muse (of the Olympus Muses), intervenes. Her job is to inspire humans to create, though she’s forbidden to let them know that’s what she’s there for or create anything herself.

That’s what counts as a plot in Xanadu, the very loose stage adaptation of the disastrous Olivia Newton-John film of 1980 better remembered for its soundtrack than for any recognizable dramatic energy. But playwright Douglas Carter Beane took the loose idea of the movie and molded it — and it was pretty moldy to begin with — into a snarky, ironic period comedy where cut-offs, head bands, knee socks and Converse high-tops are the peak of fashion.

The main problem with Xanadu is, paradoxically, also it’s chief selling-point: Beane’s script. It’s very inside baseball, with lots of kitschy in-jokes about Southern California and gay culture, that simultaneously elevate the humor and weigh it down.

“This is children’s theater for 40-year-old gay people,” one character cracks self-referentially, letting the audience know the actors are just as aware of how ridiculous, even inane, the whole undertaking is, but sallying forth nevertheless through a phalanx of puns and creaky one-liners. Beane dares you not to camp it up with him; you resist at your peril.

All of which makes Xanadu fun and completely frivolous. From the sassy black drag queens who are several of the Muse “sisters” to co-director and supporting player Andi Allen in cat-glasses and a Lucille Ball color-and-wave haircut circa Season 2 of Here’s Lucy, it’s a calculated send-up of Gen-X iconography told with enthusiastic silliness.

The jukebox score is a pastiche of disco-era radio hits like “Strange Magic” and “Evil Woman,” shoehorned together like the random shuffle on an iPod … if you like that kind of stuff — and it’s nearly impossible not to like it, considering how committed the cast is to the whole aesthetic. This is Velasco’s best stage work (he played Juan in Uptown Players’ Altar Boyz three years back), as he projects adorable stupidity and naïvete. (“Even my suicide notes are clichés!” he whines in a moment of despair.)

The rest of the cast is equally adept (it ain’t easy dancing on roller skates), and this is Level Grounds Arts’ most polished production since moving into the KD Studio Theatre. Gnarly, dude.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 12, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

DFW Theater Critics bestow annual awards

'Opus' at Circle Theatre took awards for direction and ensemble.

Every year, members of the Dallas-Fort Worth Theater Critics Forum (which this time numbered a record 10 critics participating) gather in an East Dallas house and hash out the best in local theater during the preceding season. It’s usually a spirited debate with tears and blood and regretful recriminations, but this year it went very smoothly. Too smoothly, if you ask me. (I suspect Al Qaeda had a hand in it.) One reason might have been that there were a lot of good shows to agree upon, leading to an astonishing number of awards — more than usual. It was also a strong year for actresses.

For the first time in a long while, the winners’ list was led by the Dallas Theater Center, which took 11 citations (plus a special award) for seven shows, including all three “Beauty Plays:” Reasons to Be Pretty, Fat Pig and The Shape of Things.

Diana Sheehan and Pam Dougherty took actress awards for 'Grey Gardens' at WaterTower Theatre.

Coming up behind was Fort Worth’s Circle Theatre, which took seven awards across three shows (Bach at Leipzig, which just closed, Opus and Something Intangible), and young Upstart Productions, which won six awards for its two shows of the season (Talk Radio and subUrbia). Gay theater troupe Uptown Players took one, for actress Wendy Welch in Forbidden Broadway’s Greatest Hits.

A lot of gay themed shows and out members of the community took honors, including Lyric Stage’s world premiere musical The Road to Qatar!, actors Regan Adair and Elias Taylorson, and three of the four touring production winners (Spring Awakening, Xanadu and The Be(a)st of Taylor Mac).

The critics also announced a new award for emerging artist, presented to actor Joey Folsom for his exceptional season.

The complete list of winners appears after the jump.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones