Scott Nevins, that flashy boy from Flushing who abandoned NYC for Los Angeles (traitor!), was back in town with a new stand-up show at the Metropolitan Room, and he was not taking NO for an answer. He wanted me to come, and he wanted me to pay. This was a foreign concept to me. How did one do it...pay...for a show? (In reality, I do it all the time, but I'm definitely spoiled when it comes to shows I intend to review.)
As a kid, Scott says he shit glitter when he discovered a "Dorothy" from The Wizard of Oz doll.
Well, I believe in supporting theater, and in supporting talent, and let me tell you, dropping $20 on Scott Nevins is a can't-lose proposition and sounds fun even if no stage is around. His NYC comeback show was sharp, charming and as funny as he is ripped. It's cruel that someone with such prominent abs should be able to incite so many belly laughs, but Nevins, with a combo of scatological humor, family gossip, celebrity dish and self-targeted barbs about his own vanity and love life, does just that.
As funny as his other material was (in particular his tales of growing up in a drunken Irish Catholic family), I was partial to his celebrity observations, as in the shit the little spy noticed while he was working with people like Lisa Vanderpump (or was that "Vandercunt?"), Lorna Luft (a good pal of his now), Carol Channing (he's one of her favorite people once she figures out who the hell he is) and others. In the same way his wit captures their idiosyncrasies, his beautiful singing voice captures Judy Garland—he ended his raucous set by singing relatively contemporary songs like "What's Love Got to Do With It?", "Last Dance," "It's Not Right, But It's Okay" and "Like a Virgin" as Garland, the last of which I recorded and posted above with his kind permission.
Click through the above gallery for rehearsal shots of the entire Peninsula cast.
BOY CULTURE RATING: **** out of ****
Whenever I think about what life might be like if I were to move away from New York City, I immediately think of the varied entertainment readily available here, including such a wealth of theater that it's possible for even a buff like me to never find the time for the latest Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?The Annual New York International Fringe Festival is another example of the amazing theater you can find in NYC, and Nathan Wright's new play Peninsula is the cream of the crop among works I've seen at this fest over the years.
Everybody wants a piece of him.
Peninsula, presented in its final Fringe performance Thursday at 2:30PM and continuing as part of the Fringe Encore Series between September 6 and October 13), is a poetic work that never takes its eyes off of "Tiago" (Josué Gutierrez Guerra), a Brazilian working in Michigan's wine country whose beauty and innocence make him an object of desire for every single one of the people around him.
Tiagoing at it.
There's his girlfriend "Lily" (Vanessa Bartlett), who thinks she possesses him; "Tommy" (Kellan Peavy), a spoiled rich kid who wants his body and embarks on a painfully slow effort to seduce him; "Nelson" (Marc Sinoway), a toxic drug dealer who wastes no time in forcing the issue; and "Bennett" (John Zdrojeski), a good-hearted local yokel who doesn't seem to realize he wants Tiago as much as the next guy.
One of my favorite one-offs was when she said, "Glory, glory hole-ellujah."
(1) She looks the same 25 years after I first heard of her.
(2) Some of her jokes are the same 25 years after I first heard of her...but they're still funny.
(3) She's surprisingly topical, referencing Ke$ha (she even said it as "Ke$ha" and not "Kesha"), Beyoncé, Eliot Spitzer and Chris Christie. "The Love Goddess" was played on to the strains of Selena Gomez & The Scene's "Love You Like a Love Song."
(4) She takes audience participation to a new level; I think I was the only person in the house she didn't drag onstage.
(5) Her impression of Rita Rudner is more delicious than the Beechman's chocolate banana pudding.
(6) She implicitly rips her ex, Emo Phillips (they were married!), a new one with jokes about how it wouldn't take a very long jail sentence to get him to flip to guys.
(7) She marries a gay couple on stage.
(8) She has her hair done by a random gay audience member onstage.
(9) Yes, she recreates her Sarah Palin impersonation.
(10) Madonna's "Hung Up" is one of her jams.
Pole, dancing: The queen of audience participation.
To sum it up, Tenuta is like a female Rip Taylor—her humor is obvious, but is like comfort food. And she is way more clever than her physical humor sometimes is. The woman is totally at ease improvising and nursed guffaws out of lines that might have passed for ordinary conversation without the right delivery.
Judy, Judy, Judy!
After her show, which threatened to overlap with The Vaudevillians (I ran into Jinkx Monsoon, who was in a full-on blonde goddess summer look...just to walk to the theater and then change for her show!) it went on so long (the equivalent of a Big Gulp), Tenuta signed autographs and sold books upstairs. When we met, she embraced me like she knew me and called me adorable and wanted to know if I liked. I liked! I asked her her secret, telling her she looks ageless, and she said it's all about laughter. "Also, I have a wonderful mom. She's in heaven already, though." It was touching in the context of her out-there, anything-for-a-laugh personality, but that's probably why her fans love her—she's rarely mean (one Paris Jackson jibe aside) and clearly has heart.
A gallery of Nurse Sara entertaining the post-Sleep No More crowd.
BOY CULTURE REVIEW OF SLEEP NO MORE: **1/2 out of ****
Last night, I was invited to a performance of Sleep No More, a hard-to-describe theatrical experience at the McKittrick Hotel in NYC on W. 27th. Basically, you pay your money, are issued a creepy mask you must wear all night, and then wander through several dark-as-night, hot-as-hell floors that have been set-designed to an alarmingly specific degree to recreate '30s/'40s bars, graveyards, vintage hospitals, chapels and other places you might find ghosts, murderers and pregnant ladies. You're only spoken to when you're first escorted in, but anyone who does speak to you, such as the bellboy, lasciviously calls you "darling."
Based on Macbeth (allegedly!), the "show" consists of a loose group of vignettes performed simultaneously (so you can't see it all) and mostly in silence (you're not allowed to speak, either). We witnessed a man smashing a woman against a wall, modern-dance-infused scenes of couples in coitus/struggles to the death, patrons being led away from their companions and secreted behind locked doors, an artful orgy of sorts...and also some weird stuff. It was capped off by me standing next to a gorgeous guy, fully nude, showering, which was the most amazing 11 o'clock number in history.
Overall, I found it a unique experience, although one that was ultimately creatively frustrating (WTF was it all about?) and physically draining. I must've run up a flight of stairs 100 times in the sorta air conditioned building, tripping, stumbling, bumping into stuff, running into fellow spectators. I gotta say I think it's kind of a must-do (unless you're claustrophobic, can't see well, are prone to panic attacks, are afraid of demonic-seeming displays or are actually preggers) in spite of how exhausting it was mentally and physically and in spite of the fact that it has no final "a-ha!' moment at the end.
If they'd had more nudity, less of a feeling that there were an overarching story and if we'd been allowed to go full Eyes Wide Shut with the other patrons, I would have been much more on board.
BOY CULTURE REVIEW OF SARA BAREILLES: **** out of ****
Afterward, soaked in sweat, we were asked to stay for a brief set by Sara Bareilles, whose new album The Blessed Unrest drops July 16. After I got past the waitress teasing us about my friend's stamp (which allowed entry) having been rubbed off during Sleep No More, the show itself was amazing. We were 10 feet away from Bareilles (who'd been a nurse in the show!) as she charmingly and not without blue banter in-between performed a half dozen or so songs, including her euphoric new single "Brave" and her ubiquitous "Love Song" from 2007. She truly has an astonishing instrument, effortlessly piercing our hearts with her highs (especially) and lows.
We left the evening two pounds lighter, thanks to Sleep No More, and 10 times more impressed with Sara Bareilles than we already had been.
As gifted as Jinkx Monsoon aka Jerick Hoffer appeared to be on RuPaul's Drag Race, it turns out to have been a mere fraction of what she was capable of. The rest of what she's got is on full display in The Vaudevillians, a breathtakingly creative cabaret show at the Laurie Beechman starring Monsoon and composer/musician Major Scales aka Richard Andriessen. In 20 years of seeing everything NYC has to offer, it's one of the best, most original (which is hard when you're performing all covers) evenings of theater I've ever had.
Jinkx is as addictive as cocaine but not nearly as bad for you.
The concept is that "Kitty Witless" (Monsoon) and her hubby" Dr. Dan Von Dandy" (Scales), Vaudeville stars of the '20s, were frozen while touring the Antarctica and have been thawed out just in time to razzle dazzle us. Hilariously, they turn out to be the originators of a host of songs later stolen by other artists, songs that they perform in vintage style. Some of the transformations are not just entertaining but inspired—the audience gave Jinkx a spontaneous standing O for her deeply felt "I Will Survive." I don't think Gloria Gaynor herself understands the words as well as Jinkx does, nor would Gloria have conceived of pairing the performance with a riff on Ibsen's A Doll's House. (I should say A Doll's House 1, since Dr. Von Dandy has apparently written a sequel which, of course, is subtitled Electric Boogaloo.)
The 90-year-frozen duo was thaw-inspiring.
From the opening strains of Madonna's "Music," which sounds so right as a speakeasy soundtrack, to a dizzying version of "Gimme Dat Ding" to re-inventions of Janis Joplin, Queen and Britney Spears, both performers, immersed in their characters, are confident in their every move and gesture, like seasoned performers who've actually been doing this stuff for 90 years.
I've long said I don't understand why people my age and older know more about past decades' pop history than young people today when they have the benefit of Google and YouTube. Jinkx and her partner are like YouTube personified, and on top of a breadth of knowledge, they display great taste in deciding which parts of it to send up, spin and sample.
Along with having more talent on stage than a 25-year-old drag queen oughtta have a right to, Monsoon is strikingly beautiful in person, like a superpretty Hedwig, and is surprisingly Amazonian in stature. Her singing voice is powerful, never more so than when she's hamming it up by modulating her delivery to goose whatever lyric is on its way out of her mouth.
Jinkx's suffragette-inspired "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" showed her true colors.
Scales, debonair in a way that would give Taco such an inferiority complex, has fantastic chemistry with Jinkx, and while he lets her shine (as any diva should be allowed to do), he is anything but a mere accompanist—he's a star in his own right.
Dozens of images in the above gallery, kicked off by that heart-stopping Patrick Boyd snap.
ABOUT THIS POST: Please let me know of any names I got wrong or am missing. Please feel free to pluck photos for posting on Facebook (not the nudes), but tag me and the people in them. Shots too naughty for this blog appear at my adult tumblr (Work Unfriendly). And finally, my main Bares review is here. Enjoy, and please donate to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
In the gallery above, enjoy some hot images from the "Rotation" sequence of Broadway Bares: United Strips of America.
Below, a few stand-out images with dancers and/or situations identified.
ABOUT THIS POST: Please let me know of any names I got wrong or am missing. Please feel free to pluck photos for posting on Facebook, but tag me and the people in them. Shots too naughty for this blog appear at my adult tumblr (Work Unfriendly). And finally, a whole separate post for "Rotation" photos is here. Enjoy, and please donate to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
As most of my readers know, I am obsessed with Broadway Bares, the annual show that benefits Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Part of recovery is learning to admit you have a problem, and I have no qualms acknowledging that for someone wholly uninvolved with the production, I spend entirely too much time thinking about Bares.
Peter Nelson...that's the ticket!
I think about Bares so much that I have its many stand-out performers dancing around in my head in the days leading up to the show. This year, two days out, I spotted Peter Nelson—featured prominently in signage for the show—riding his bike, and promptly Facebooked that I'd seen him, and that it might herald the beginning of summer. Never mind that I've only met him briefly a couple of times. He gamely "liked" my comment and replied; a friend and I had been joking about this in terms of stalking, but I told him even most of my arresting officers agree that stalking has to be done on purpose, and chance encounters like this are just luck—his bad, my good.
Instead of laying off a bit this year, I doubled down—I decided to attend both the 9:30 and midnight shows. My reasoning was that perhaps I'd get lots of great photos from the first show and could then relax and watch the second one. This is the pretty lie I told myself.
I wound up with extra tickets for 9:30, so figured I'd pick them up early at the Roseland, around 3, and try to give them away. As I got my tickets, who is the only dancer walking up at 3 but Peter Nelson. We said hello and I promptly prayed for death; I hated the idea that he might think I was camped out at the theater hours early. If I made too much of a nuisance of myself, I worried I'd wind up in a half-Nelson, which isn't nearly as much fun as the full Monty.
I couldn't get rid of my tickets, so I offered the agents a swap—three G.A. tickets for VIP standing for the first show. Deal! I found myself in line with two really sweet guys, one of whom wound up being the boy pulled onstage by Brandon Rubendall in a video I'd shot for Boy Culture! It's a small, perverted world.
The most gorgeous guy ever came by selling souvenirs and making change; I just couldn't believe he wasn't a performer with an ass so bewitching it had something similar to the Medusa's power to turn men into stone upon viewing it. (Well, at least parts of them.) He gamely posed for a photo, thinking he'd never see it again. Later, I realized it was none other than Justen Kilmer, and had to beg him to let me post them. He thinks he looks out of shape, I think he looks like the last thing a straight man sees before swearing off pussy. You be the judge.
Not that we couldn't have watched the 250-pound drag queen working the entrance to Lucky Cheng's across the way all night, but it was a relief when they let us in early as a break from the steamy heat. Having never been to the first show, I was shocked to see very specific places to stand for priority vs. VIP vs. G.A. attendees, clearly marked off by ropes. I was afforded a spot flush against the central catwalk, a seemingly golden position. Determined to take great photos, I had to consciously overlook the wall-sized posters positioned everywhere, begging us to "respect the performers" and refrain from taking pictures. See, putting Peter Nelson's bare butt on a poster demanding that I not take a picture of it just does not work for me.
In a twist of fate, I now own this giant "don't photograph the dancers" poster. Peter has to sign it!
Unfortunately, my spot lost its charm early on. In spite of the gorgeous Latin guy across from me whose dark skin glowed under the blue gels, I had to deal with a jerk in front of me who pushed his way in after I'd staked my spot. He also maneuvered to get two more friends against the stage, pressing me into the seam between the catwalk and its circular termination. Not comfy, but a good way to brace myself for disrespecting every performer who came near. (Later in the show, he leaned back hard on me to get me to back off, so I said directly into his ear, "My shoulder is in the exact same spot it was when I first got here. You're pushing me. I'm not moving—at all—and I'm not going anywhere." He stopped.)
A male/female singing duo called The Skivvies took to to stage as the openers, or as they put it, the "fluffers." They were fun, singing a medley of America-themed songs. (But no "American Life," boo.) The adorable dude, Nick Cearley, went bare-assed at the end, but too quickly for me to shoot...yet another reason seeing both shows would come in handy.
Finallly, it was time for Broadway Bares 23: United Strips of America to begin. From here on out, I'm talking about both shows combined, mixing and matching the best of both worlds.
First, let me get out of the way my scant criticisms. (Hey, I'm slavishly devoted to the show, but it can't all be goodness and Judith Light.) I thought the show overall was less special than some previous years have been. I wasn't wild about the American theme, which gave us numbers based on states like Nebraska, Maine and Georgia, and the writing was not funny. It was also a huge let-down that Cyndi Lauper didn't "surprise" us; she did Bares one other time and she and the show's creator Jerry Mitchell just won Tonys for Kinky Boots, so a visitation seemed a shoo-in. There are so many gigantic stars on Broadway who would've been a treat to have pop up, not least of which was Bette Midler. If Bette had shown up in a towel, it would have been legendary.
But really, these complaints are not meant as attacks or to downplay the incredible stamina and talent of everyone involved; it's like ranking orgasms or Madonna tours...they're all amazing, even if some are your favorites and some are not.
On the plus side, the show, directed by Nick Kenkel, had to overcome not featuring some of its most high-profile performers from years past, including Matt Skrincosky, Josh Buscher, Matthew Steffens, Brandon Rubendall, Andy Mills, Guto Bittencourt, Steven Wenslawski and many others, and did so admirably, minting new stand-outs (though all had done the show before) like Nelson, Patrick Boyd, Jamal Story, Daniel Robinson, and others. And as for the choreography (by Kenkel, Derek Mitchell, Paul McGill, Michael Lee Scott, Al Blackstone, Jon Rua, Peter Gregus, Kate Rockwell, Marcos Santana, Mark Myars and Marc Kimelman), it was never less than rigorously entertaining.
Also catching my eye was the fact that the show felt more ethnically diverse, less overwhelmingly male and more peopled with mature men.
Max and Michael (top and bottom...one hopes), envision a Miss America with testicles.
The show's conceit is that two gay lovebirds (my boo Michael Cusumano as "Jay" and formerly mustachioed Evita star Max von Essen as "Jason") are stranded on opposite coasts, so wil travel cross-country and meet in Nebraska (of all places). Both are beyond adorable, though were not given as much to do as last year's central pair, Kyle Dean Massey and John Carroll (neither of whom were in the show this time around). They do make a disturbingly cute couple—cute enough that I could've stood more flesh from both!
The hosts with the most attitude, Sieber and Margherita.
Daniel Lynn Evans and Sidney Erik Wright get a leg up on the competition.
Miss Georgia thinks of a polite way to threaten to "cut a bitch."
Giving America what it wants: Sidney Erik Wright's nipples???
John Paul LaPorte was pageant-ready.
They hope for world piece.
The kick-off number—"United States of America"—featured Christopher Sieber (revealing shots of him here) and Lesli Margherita as smarmy beauty-pageant hosts, sniping at each other as they announce the Top 10. Cusumano and von Essen are picking the show apart by phone, and wind up fantasizing what it would be like if the producers gave America what it really wants...which turned out to be drag queens and hosts who are way into the SM scene—and whose safe word appears to be, "Harder!" Sieber looks good in a harness, by the way.
Next up, my buddy Andrew Glaszek, one of the show's most visible stars year after year (he's done 10 in a row!), headed up Team "New York" as they offered their take on Madonna's "Vogue," playing a photographer who will bend over backwards to get the hottest shots of model Robb Sherman, who's never looked more striking.
Andrew Glaszek was the night's big shooter.
In the process of being Robbed.
For Jon Cooper and Michael Prince, there's nothin' to it.
Team New York, deep in vogue.
The choreography was light on this one, more about hitting the poses, but I loved the styling; so much ginger and the strong brows on the likes of Dave August and Michael Prince were fierce. (Since a little more skin is always in, click here if you're not at work.)
"I'll show you mine if you show me yours..."
Dodge and (Katy) Perry.
Daniel Robinson: Life's a beach and then you strip.
"California" (snippet of video here) was up next, using Katy Perry's "California Gurls" as an excuse for delicious Daniel Robinson, a lifeguard, to perform mouth-to-mouth before getting into a conga line for a little mouth-to-ass. Speaking of ass, you can see his here in all its glory.
Friday in NYC was a misery—the rain was persistent and heavy. As the day wore on, it was with absolute dread that I realized I had promised my Facebook pal Dewey Chaffee that I would see his show with Douglas Edwards, The Screw You Revue, which looked to be an outrageous drag performance...boy, haven't we had enough of those?
Mother/daughter matching outfits!
But I had not been able to go the last time, so I forced myself. I arrived at The Duplex with waterlogged shoes and jeans, perching near the stage in anticipation of a litany of reasons why I should've stayed home.
Then Edwards emerged, fully done up as Miss Didi Panache, a sort of giant redwood version of a drag queen with a (rumor has it) shit-eating grin painted on her painted-on lips. She was so charming, working the crowd and simultaneously mining us for bits the demonic duo could use later in the show. Mood dispelled.
The show, which went on for close to 90 minutes, turned out to be an acidly funny bit of extended improv peppered with kitschy songs sung straight by Edwards and audience participation led by Chaffee, whose uncensored, accidentally aggressive Lady Winifred resembles Hermione Gingold after a stroke and before the rescue. And it was a riot.
Lady Winifred's headpiece was tutu much!
Turns out that you don't have to reinvent the wheel to cook up a show that works. In this case, the performers are as quick-witted as they are long-legged, and even when they're doling out horrendously offensive humor, they do it with a mischievous air that renders it harmless.
Indian man as piñata...though this white guy spent over 10 minutes squirmily guessing black names vs. pharmaceuticals.
Watching them cherry-pick people of color from the audience to torment was a bit terrifying; with no shame or fear, Lady Winifred razzed an Indian man named Nikhil about his name, accent and none-too-surprising profession. But a black patron named Richard got revenge for lines about black people smelling bad, not reading books and naming their children things that could be confused with prescription drugs, asking Lady Winifred a hilarious question you have to hear to believe:
Don't be offended! The show makes fun of everyone. Well, except for white people. But if you're watching it as intended, you'll understand that the very characters themselves are the white-people parodies, and the actors skillfully exploit our cultural discomfort with any talk about race.
The moment I finally accepted that I'm not actually 5'10".
I don't want to spoil the jokes, so if you're in NYC, reserve tickets now for the show's next go 'round, which happens Friday, July 5, at 9:30PM at The Duplex.
Keep reading for several musical highlights from the show...