The thin red line

Posted on 03 Mar 2011 at 6:24pm
WHO’S YOUR  DADDIES? | William Marshall Warren plays a cross-dressing orphan in this new satire.

Musical parody ‘Trannie’ toys with controversy but (sort of) rises above it

STEVEN LINDSEY  | Contributing Writer
stevencraiglindsey@me.com

It’s amazing how two little letters added to a word can make such a big change. By taking the legendary Broadway musical, Annie, and putting a simple “TR” in front, a small-town theater has created a parody that will forever change the way you look at cute little red-headed moppets singing about mañana.

Despite what a lightning rod the mere word “trannie” is to controversy, in the context of this new musical, it’s a necessary evil in order for the whole gag to succeed. It’s never made completely clear whether the title character is transgender or a transvestite, but the orphan’s search for her two dads and meaning in the world defies most labels. Except funny, which would apply wholeheartedly.

Tucked away in a tiny theater that looks like an old garage in Grapevine, Ohlook Performing Arts Center is just the kind of place you want to see pregnant teens dancing about and singing a song called “It’s A Knocked Up Life.” The fact that it’s BYOB and has late-night-only showtimes makes the cheap admission even more enticing. And what’s not to like about a show where the length of intermission is only as long as it takes patrons to use the single public restroom? Two members of our party were even asked to go pee behind a trailer so the show could go on.

Written by Matthew Lord and directed by his wife, Jill Blalock Lord (yes, this comes from a straight couple), the show has genuine moments of inspiration and some truly demented lyrics. It’s got the high-school-drama-club charm of a single piano accompanying the singers, but it’s that homespun quality that keeps the X-rated dialogue that much more off-kilter. Taking place at Unplanned Parenthood, a gay bar called The Manhole and Hooker’s Alley, and with musical numbers like “STD,” “Sleazy Street” and a newly imagined “Tomorrow,” it’s full not just of showstoppers, but pretty solid parodies.

In the lead, William Marshall Warren is a wisp of a man, but he infuses Trannie with just enough heart and old-fashioned gumption to elevate the whole thing to something with a sincere message and not just pondering. Sure, some people may not find the joke as funny as others and some may be put off by the low-budget production, but in the end, it does exactly what every small theater company should do: Experiment. Take risks. And make sure there’s at least one sight gag involving anal beads.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 4, 2011.

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