Category: Entertainment

Cabaret Review: Justin Vivian Bond

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Back in the days when Justin Bond mostly performed as Kiki DuRane of Kiki & Herb, that deranged duo would always do Christmas shows that were the most hilariously blasphemous and vitriolic thing in town. Now that Justin Vivian Bond has shed the DuRane persona and stands ever more firmly center stage (and in the center of the gender specturm), v’s Christmas show naturally takes a much different form.

In “Snow Angel”, this year’s Christmas show, JVB’s own persona is plenty big enough and v’s wit is spontaneous, an acidly funny stream of consciousness – what do you know, hilarious blasphemy and vitriol still come pretty naturally to Justin! The stories v tells now are more personal; now, instead of toying with Kiki’s complicated fictional relationship with Christianity, Bond can actually put v’s own pagan ambivalence about Christmas at the heart of the show. And the music can be performed with less irony and greater feeling – after singing Jay-Z and Kanye’s “Made in America”, JVB specifically said “I hate post-rap irony, so I did my best to be sincere.”

There’s a lot of songs by Melanie Safka (of “Brand New Key” and “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)” fame), and Melanie’s dangerously earnest passion defines the tone of this act. The musical backing from Brett Every on piano and Nath Ann Carrera on guitar is sophisticated, warm and rich. Amber Martin on backing vocals can stand up to Bond’s titanic vocal power, a very tall order. There’s nothing particularly jazzy about the arrangements – if anything they are redolent of folk rock and chamber pop – but there is a powerful sense of improvisational give and take.

Bond is one of the most original and potent performers of our time, whom I think everybody should see at least once. Or more often – there’s something new and freshly rewarding about every single performance.

For tickets, click here.

For more reviews and interviews by Jonathan Warman, see his blog Drama Queen.

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Here are the nominees for the 7th Annual GaySocialites.com Awards honoring those who made significant contributions to the LGBT Community in the areas of nightlife, community service/politics, entertainment and by a celebrity as well as the Most Talked About LGBT Headline and the GaySocialite of the Year.   Watch it here, hosted by Charles Winters and Thomas Bistritz:

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Theatre Review: The Mystery of Edwin Drood

This revival is the best taste of good old-fashioned musical comedy fun so far this season! Or more accurately, good old musical hall fun, since Rupert Holmes, the musical’s author and composer, has set the Dickens whodunit in the context of a Victorian British musical hall. There, a raucous troupe of variety performers mounts a staging of the unfinished novel. Each performance ends differently, depending on what the audience decides.

I had a thoroughly good time, rarely thinking this could have been written or directed in a different way. And whenever I did, I decided it would be quibbling with a show that succeeds remarkably well on the modest terms it sets. For example, there’s a patter song that’s almost incomprehensible; however, the lyrics aren’t the point of the song, the sheer spectacle of speed is the point, so who cares!

Director Scott Ellis makes fine use of an irrepressibly energetic and committed company, headed by the incandescent Chita Rivera and Jim Norton. Gregg Edelman seems to be having a blast playing the dotty Rev. Crisparkle, Will Chase seems totally at home as the moustache-twirling Jasper, and Stephanie J. Block positively glows playing the “pants role” of the doomed Drood.

Drood is intended to be silly fun, and nobody in the creative team or cast spends any time pretending otherwise. Set designer Anita Louizos, for one, has created a lushly inviting facsimile of a late 19th Century British music hall, which lends the proceedings warm support. Likewise, costume designer William Ivey Long has convincingly captured the luxury of Victorian costuming. The musical Christmas Story oversells its good cheer, this Drood doesn’t have to, it actually is that entertaining.

For tickets, click here.

For more reviews and interviews by Jonathan Warman, see his blog Drama Queen.

 

Theatre Review: Dead Accounts

I’m something of a Teresa Rebeck fan. I’ve long enjoyed her sparkling, cutting dialogue – she gets to the heart of important issues with a wicked, satirical sense of humor. She’s softened her satirical knives for her latest, Dead Accounts, turning in a more straightforward comedy, albeit on serious themes, and with a handful of sharp jabs.

This seems to have befuddled the New York critical establishment, who either expect something more provocative from her, or just plain don’t get her at all. From my own point of view, Rebeck is currently on an artistic incline, each new work better than the last. And yes, that means that I like Dead Accounts more than her much-lauded Seminar (although I liked that well enough).

In the new play, prodigal son Jack (Norbert Leo Butz) returns to his Cincinnati family home after working at a big bank in New York. The play is thematically focused on the contrast between a New York mindset and a Midwestern one, while the plot hinges on the mystery of what happened to Jack in New York, and where did he get all this money that he’s throwing around.

For my money, Dead Accounts a great big success. The plot is complex but coherent, the tone just right to keep us intellectually on point, without descending into obvious tragedy or melodrama, or the too-caustic approach of Rebeck’s least-successful plays.

Jack is a big juicy Omaha steak of a part, and Midwestern-born Butz chews it thoroughly, as is his wont, to terrific effect. Jack O’Brien has directed with his usual razor-sharp attention to detail. The ex-Mrs. Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, acquits herself very well as Jack’s stressed-out sister Lorna, and Jane Houdyshell is, as always, a delight as the dotty but deeply Catholic matriarch Barbara.

But in the end, this is Rebeck’s achievement, and it’s a considerable one. Like I said, I’m a Rebeck fan, and Dead Accounts has everything I love about her work. Recommended.

For tickets, click here.

For more reviews and interviews by Jonathan Warman, see his blog Drama Queen.

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