175 posts categorized "THEATRE REVIEW"

Dec 17 2014
Just Like Heaven: NOT THE MESSIAH Preaches To The Choir Comments (0)
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BOY CULTURE RATING: *** out of ****

Eric Idle and John Du Prez's Not the Messiah (He's a Very Naughty Boy) raised holy hell at Carnegie Hall Monday and Tuesday night, marking the irreverent comic oratorio's New York debut. Based on the Monty Python movie Life of Brian (1979)—with which I'm very familiar, because it was illegal for any teenage boy growing up in Michigan not to be—the show featured Idle, Victoria Clark, Mark Kudisch, Lauren Worsham, William Ferguson and conductor Ted Sperling, all united for a bad cause: running down religion with sarcastic (but, ironically, beautifully sung) numbers along the lines of “We Love Sheep”.

Not-the-MessiahHigh crass

In this case, bad is good, with low humor, unapologetic wordplay (“She's great with child...and not half bad without!”) and Idle's genius delivery making for 90 minutes of fun worth the risk of eternal damnation.

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Dec 15 2014
The One Where Mink Stole Is Your Secret Santa Comments (0)

Mink StoleMink is offended that some people still think she's a drag queen. “I've been nude on screen! Where would I put it?”

I needed a little Christmas right that very minute, so I grabbed my theater husband and hit OMG! It's Christmas!—it's a one-woman show dedicated to giving in to the holidays, and it stars John Waters regular Mink Stole.

Matthew-Rettenmund-Mink-StoleStole, who looks great (she's 67 going on 45) sang a quirky selection of Christmas tunes, accompanied by a game band that included a very youthful Dylan Kaminkow, whose upright bass playing was downright adorable to watch as well as being ear candy.

She really had the crowd going with her erratic story-telling, which veered from alarmingly mainstream (Mink Stole has a crush on the Property Brothers???) to cackle-inducingly morbid (her take on “The Little Match Girl” was a scream) to cheerfully sacrilegious (to address any shock over her declaration that there is no God, she pointed out she couldn't have given Divine a fake handy with a rosary if she'd been a believer).

Mink was warm and fuzzy afterward, too. A real dream to meet a woman who lists Pink Flamingos (1974), Desperate Living (1977) and (the original, good) Hairspray (1988) on her résumé.

 
Dec 13 2014
Santa Claws: A Little Holiday Cheer From The Crawford Clan Comments (0)

Christmas-Crawfords

Joey-AriasHad a blast with my buddy last night at Christmas with the Crawfords, the notoriously caustic Joey Arias tribute to Joan, her brood and quite a few of her friends in fame.

Joey's Joan makes mincemeat of such ho-ho-hos as Judy Garland (Connie Champagne, whose uncanny Judy Garland provoked unwelcome audience participation), Baby Jane Hudson (Sherry Vine nearly stole the show with her effortless, slouchy approximation of the character), Hattie McDaniel (Flotilla DeBarge's biggest laughs come from her carefully observed gait), Carmen Miranda (Brett-Marco Glauser's high-kicks and gyrations provide some beefcake in a show filled with the cheese kind) and more.

But the break-out star is Chris March, who plays Christina Crawford as a brat with every right to be. His comic timing is impeccable, and the bitch sure can take a slap—Arias hit him so hard at one point even the SM daddies in the audience cringed. March also did the over-the-top-and-then-some costumes, which even drag virgins would kill to own.

The show (first performed in 1992) is a little creaky in spots, but that's part of its charm. Lots of fun for the holidays.

But whichever audience member stole my friend's gloves, you and your rabbit-faced wife can both go to hell.

 
Nov 17 2014
Freaking Out: A Review Of SIDE SHOW's Triumphant Return To Broadway Comments (0)

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BOY CULTURE RATING: ***1/2 out of ****

Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 1.36.01 AMThe original 1997 production of Bill Russell/Henry Krieger musical Side Show, with Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner, ran fewer than 100 performances before disappearing into cult status. It's back, with a robust re-imagining by Oscar-winning director Bill Condon that for the most part gives the already intriguing premise what should be enough razzle-dazzle to ensure a longer-lasting hit.

Erin Davie and Emily Padgett, singing powerfully and beautifully bringing their characters to life, play the real-life Hilton Twins, conjoined girls who were mercilessly exploited (sold, even) as children and then further exploited in Vaudeville as adults. Daisy wants the fame and adulation, whereas Violet just wants to be normal; neither will truly achieve her dream, and for better or for worse, neither will ever walk alone.

Ryan Silverman plays the complex backer who rescues the girls from indentured servitude at the hands of “Sir” (Robert Joy), and Matthew Hydzik is his sidekick, a closeted gay man with dreams of performing but who is saddled with a major flaw—a conscience. Together, the men help make the Hilton Twins into legit stage stars, but as the women slowly realize, performing for more people and more money never really removes them from the act of trading on their deformity—they are forever seen as freaks, no matter who's paying.

Former sideshow cannibal “Jake” (David St. Louis) is the only guy around who truly cares about the girls—especially Violet—but due to conventions (he's black) is not the right choice for a woman who wants to make no waves.

As the show zipped along, it seemed each of the leads was given a chance to truly shine dramatically as well as to show off his or her chops.

Featuring heartfelt singing that elevates some very talky, unlyrical songs (with obvious exceptions being “Who Will Love Me As I Am?” and “I Will Never Leave You”) and several charming Vaudeville numbers with good humor, razzle dazzle and some of the cutest male dancers this side of Broadway Bares, the show overall is an emotional success and a musical pleasure that connects with its audience through pathos and humor.

On a slightly separate note...

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Nov 12 2014
Barbara's Pleased: Don't Miss John Epperson As Lypsinka (And As John Epperson) In LYPSINKA: THE TRILOGY Comments (0)

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BOY CULTURE RATING: **** OUT OF **** STARS

A 28-year-old friend of mine who is the perfect man and would get a proposal of marriage from me if it weren't for the fact that I'd have to pay him to get naked for me said to me recently, when I invited him to see Lypsinka, “Am I a bad gay if I don't wanna see a drag show?”

Well, yes, yes, he is.

But not because he isn't into drag—so much of it is stale. He's a bad gay for thinking Lypsinka is a drag show. John Epperson's Lypsinka is more in the performance-art vein. And besides that, she's not a drag show...currently, she's three.

Lypsinka: The Trilogy is now playing on NYC's Lower East Side at The Connelly Theater. On alternating nights, the Queen of Drag Queens is performing Lypsinka! The Boxed Set, The Passion of the Crawford and John Epperson: Show Trash, three very different shows with very little overlap but lots of overlip.

JUST A FEW OF THE NAMES WHOSE VOICES APPEAR IN LYPSINKA! THE BOXED SET:

Judith Anderson Polly Bergen Arthur Blake Joan Crawford Bette Davis Olivia de Havilland Sandra Dee Phyllis Diller Ruth Draper Frances Faye Penny Fuller Judy Garland Dolores Gray T.C. Jones Gisele MacKenzie Fay McKay Ethel Merman Agnes Moorehead Kay Stevens Dorothy Squires Kim Stanley Gloria Swanson Natalie Wood

Lypsinka-legsThe first, and best, is Lypsinka! The Boxed Set, approximately 90 minutes' worth of Lypsinka in her robotically glamorous prime (she's even better as a man of a certain age playing a woman of a certain age than he was when he did it as a youngster), gliding across the stage and expertly mouthing a complicated soundtrack made up of obscure songs from musical theater and instantly recognizable soundbites from film, TV and the theater. His lip-synching style is so leisurely it becomes hypnotic. He never overemotes; rather, he simply parts his lips and lets the sounds seem to emerge from within. His best weapons are his eyes (the gams are still in working order, too—see inset), which light up the stage with shock, existential angst and/or malevolence, as each sonic snippet demands.

Also compelling is The Passion of the Crawford, the lioness's share of which consists of Epperson and Steve Cuiffo or Scott Wittman recreating Crawford's legendary 1973 Town Hall interview, in which she tweaks Bette Dvis, verbally spanks Marlon Brando, talks parenting and almost has a rolling orgasm while commenting on Greta Garbo. Lypsinka's visual adlibs, affecting expressions Crawford didn't but should have made, are delicious. She then segues into a somewhat dreary sequence of Crawford camp-earnestly reciting a religious text, but it comes to an end with a fantasmagoric remix of some of Crawford's famous lines as well as elements of the Town Hall Q&A that has to be seen to be believed. (If you're into latter-day Crawford, don't miss this video!)

JohnEppersonCompleting your set is John Epperon: Show Trash, in which Lypsinka fades to black so that Epperson himself can shine—and shine he does, as an outstanding pianist and inimitable singer. He offers original compositions that illustrate the trajectory of his life from Southern sissy to big-city sensation, as well as a few lip-synching interludes as a nod to his alter ego. (In an odd tribute to Katharine Hepburn, Epperson impersonats her singing Rapper's Delight—and it just so happened to be the very same day Sugarhill Gang's Big Bank Hank died.)

For Epperson to take on the responsibility of doing three shows simultaneously is some kind of cry for help. Don't ignore it—see all three so you don't have to wait another 20 years to drink in his loopy, intelligent, darkly funny, queerly nostalgic tribute to popular and unpopular culture.

And if you don't wanna see a drag show, then you are your rabbit-faced wife can go to hell.

 
Oct 21 2014
And She's Looking Good: An Intimate Evening With Linda Lavin Comments (0)
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I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend a private, for-donors-only performance by Linda Lavin at Baruch College last night, celebrating the 15th anniversary of the George and Mildred Weissman School of Arts and Sciences and the 10th anniversary of the Baruch Performing Arts Center. 

LavinWith Stritch (L), and taking her bows

Lavin performed with accompaniment by Billy Stritch and her top-notch band (including her painter/actor/jazz drummer of a hubby, Steve Bakunas, of whom she said, “I married the drummer. Cool!”).

Lavin is leggy and lovely at a hard-t0-believe 77, and was having (1) a ball, (2) a great hair day and (3) a better leg day than most will have in a lifetime; it's incredible to think that she is actually slightly older than Elaine Stritch (February 2, 1925—July 17, 2014) was when the latter dame first performed her legendary Elaine Stritch at Liberty show in 2001. Lavin is so youthful that unless you're an IMDb addict like me, the impact of her cabaret act has little in common with Stritch's—there's no “I'm Still Here” vibe because Lavin looks like she's mid-way through a career, not defiantly placing an exclamation point at the end of it. Just absolutely ageless, in good voice and effortlessly able to engage an audience of bigshots with her girlish banter and wry, nostalgic peeks back at her career.

And yes, she fully embraces Alice (1976—1985).

Above, check out the delicious Sondheim number Lavin sang in 1966...she recreated it last night and it's still a hoot.

I won't go into great detail about the song selection (which was pleasingly heavy on the bossa nova) since this was a one-off, but if you're interested in hearing Lavin sing a loving rendition of her Alice theme song and charming versions of songs she first sang upwards of 50 years ago when she (and Joan Rivers and Rodney Dangerfield and many other greats) was playing in, as she recalls, every venue with “Downstairs” in the title, be on the look-out for a 2015 show at 54 Below. You'd be a damn fool to miss this.

Linda-Lavin-Baruch-Matthew-Rettenmund-2014-AliceGoin' through life with blinders on, it's tough to see how Lavin manages to make 77 the new 50!

Lavin made a brief appearance at a post-show champagne toast. I was able to congratulate her and to ask if she would honor my friend and I with a photo. Have you got a camera? she shot back, ready to get 'er done. Lovely, classy lady.

After the jump, listen to Lavin tackle that Alice theme in 2013...

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Oct 14 2014
2 Die 4: A Review Of DEARLY BELOVED Comments (0)
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Promo images courtesy of JD Urban, live images by Matthew Rettenmund for BoyCulture.com

BOY CULTURE REVIEW: ***1/2 out of ****

I still wasn't being allowed to see R-rated movies in 1984 when Prince's Purple Rain came out, making him seem like Jehovah's gift to the multiplex, and I was probably a bit protective of my diva Madonna due to Prince's chart-busting achievements with its legendary soundtrack. But as an American Top 40 freak, I was acutely aware of the many hits the record launched...it was like Minneapolis spooged all over Billboard.

Dearly-Beloved-Prince-Robin-de-JesusMaking his big entrance

Lena-HallPurple reina

Robin-de-Jesus-profileTake from him his lace.

Flash forward 30 (!) years, and I'm seated in 42West (514 West 42 St., NYC), watching Dearly Beloved, an anniversary tribute to the album (and the film), directed by Jacob Langfelder and starring Robin de Jesús (as Prince—I don't honor the whole Artist Formerly Known As thing) and Lena Hall (as Apollonia), and with featured performances by E. Clayton Cornelius, Kiyan Taghaboni and Ariel Bellvalaire.

Performers-PrinceTheir chemistry was something that you cannot comprehend.

AiiaKKDl7Si4TFI0gR89Iw-YluRYWcexTg1mVjjlL5wE. Clayton Cornelius was Morris Day all night long!

The show was a straight-up revue, but certainly wasn't karaoke. De Jesús suggested Prince without copying him exactly, sounding perfectly confident in every number, with the possible exception of “When Doves Cry”, with its odd, nasal vocal, which proved a little too offbeat for him to nail.

Hall, looking the opposite of her male Hedwig and the Angry Inch character in her bustier and Katy Perry via Bettie Page glamour makeup, soared in her numbers, making even the delightfully sugary “Sex Shooter” sound like a whole different animal coming from such powerful pipes.

Sexy-Robin-de-JesusCock 'n' Robin

The audience was mesmerized by the whole thing, especially de Jesús's libidinous writhing—it will be hard to see him in his In the Heights mold after witnessing this transformation.

Prince-fansThese fans acted surprised that I wanted their picture...

Lena-Hall-Prince-Robin-de-JesusMy pal Jason shot these. Yes, I wore purple...I wasn't kidding around!

The show felt like a try-out for a more elaborate, sung-through musical based on the already very musical movie; if that's the case, I think everyone involved proved it's an idea worth exploring.

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After the jump, check out the original “Sex Shooter”...

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Oct 13 2014
Rossy Is A Rossy Is A Rossy Is A Rossy Is A Rossy: A Review Of Jessica Mitrani's TRAVELING LADY Comments (0)
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BOY CULTURE REVIEW: *** out of ****

It's not every day that I'm invited to the U.S. stage debut of a Pedro Almodovar superstar, so how could I refuse when offered the chance to see Traveling Lady, a multi-media presentation by Colombian visual artist/director Jessica Mitrani and Spanish film icon Rossy de Palma? Answer: I couldn't, and I didn't.

IMG_9348De Palma & Mitrani, post-partum

After initially bobbling the invite for me plus-one (sorry, Nathaniel!), I showed up fresh from a full day at New York Comic Con and a quick visit with Don Bachardy to find a long line outside FIAF Florence Gould Hall (55. E. 59th). A passer-by seemed nonplused when I told her we were waiting for a show. “A theatrical performance???” she sputtered. It was as if she knew what was in store for us; we didn't, however, so I went in thinking we were seeing a play while my companion Jason though it would be a movie. We were both kinda right.

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Rossy-de-PalmaWith “Kika” herself!

A part of FIAF's Crossing the Line 2014 series, Traveling Lady turned out to be a singular experience. I wish I had seen it both nights it played to get a firmer grasp on it, but I did divine its staunchly feminist roots, using as a jumping-off point the 19th-Century travels of journalist Nellie Bly. The show made use of a booming female voice-over, outstandingly dazzling projections, a somewhat goofy, talking, 8-foot dress with no body in it (voiced with an insinuating authority by Joan Juliet Buck), original music and all-too-brief appearances by de Palma in the flesh, lip-synching to her pre-recorded recitations.

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De Palma plays more than Bly; it quickly becomes obvious she is embodying various female archetypes. In so doing, she only had to appear briefly, allowing her unique visage to do all the talking. She merely had to stand there in order to give the show a twisted depth. Her presence is so arresting it was shocking later to meet her and see that she herself isn't 8 feet tall.

6a00d8341c2ca253ef01bb0796ee37970d-550wiThe show lagged when it became too esoteric for its own good, but I felt was saved from being a parody of NYC performance art excess thanks to its tongue-in-cheek humor. While it's true enough that some of its odder visuals would have baffled the real Bly (who once feigned insanity in order to explore the depravity of early insane asylums), I felt the show's broad send-up of branding and marketing were spot-on and LOL hilarious. I was also very taken with the show's tangential embrace of passages from the writings of Gertrude Stein (Ida: A Novel), which gave perfect voice to some of Mitrani's visuals.

Ida Gerrtrude Stien

All in all, Mitrani and de Palma's collaboration seemed a match made in heaven.

Afterward, we were invited to a champagne toast, at which de Palma was mobbed and a child was given a birthday cake. When I met her and congratulated her on the show, de Palma rasped in her wonderful way, “Wasn't it great???” and enthusiastically posed for photos.