Archive for the ‘drag’ Category
I’m back for my annual musings on the finest SF/Bay Area live performances of the year (#whatiattended)! As always, there’s a very healthy dose of opera, musical theatre, and jazz here, so they are more than well represented. And, I’m well aware of some great shows I had to miss because of my budget, or other commitments, but alas…it’s still a scrumptious array. Reflecting on these is a favorite way I savor and reexperience them once again.
What were your favorite Bay Area performances of the year?
1) Champion, Opera Parallèle, SFJAZZ Center
This unique jazz opera by Terence Blanchard is about the life of world champion boxer Emile Griffith, including his struggle with trauma-related dementia. A deeply affecting, tragic story, with gay content that was very impactful on a personal level. It features a great score, which deserves to land on the stages of the top American opera companies. It was heading to the Kennedy Center next, so it at least also had that audience. Unfortunately, it’s up against Charlie Parker’s “Yardbird” (featuring Lawrence Brownlee), so I fear it’s doubtful two jazz/jazz-oriented operas can have major legs. But, I get ahead of myself. This evening (Feb. 27th) had a sense of event, with Tuck and Patti, and Terence Blanchard in the audience, and lingering in the lobby afterwards as well. And we had the good fortune there of briefly meeting the contemporary opera legend, baritone Robert Orth, who passionately played Howie Albert.
The opening scene was so alive it reached out and grabbed the audience. The orchestral palette was rich, with the percussion and bass real stand outs. The orchestral hand-clapping-as-percussion really resonated. Former Merolini Karen Slack lit up the stage as Emelda Griffith, as did Arthur Woodley as the elder Emile, who was devastatingly real. The Herman’s Hole/”pussy” scene, with its fluid sexual expression was compelling and confusing, reflecting his confusion and the surrounding culture. Victor Ryan Robertson as Benny ‘Kid’ Paret was also very touching, a great physical actor, with a pleasing lyric voice in the midst of all the dramatic voices. A couple of scenes featured an actual boxer/dancer/percussionist who moved onstage in an unstoppable fashion.
Some lighting/projection cues revealed glaring flaws, and a couple of voices sounded tired. Also, where we sat there were frequent challenging sight lines, but it was thrilling to experience this opera in a true hall to jazz.
2) Dolly Tour: Pure & Simple, Shoreline Pavilion (Mountain View)
Not much needs to be said about this legendary woman. There may be many great drag impersonators of her, but there is only 1 Dolly. Her mix of goodness, simplicity, and yet worldliness and acceptance seems to be without peer.
It was a lovely night out as well, reminding me of concerts of my youth at Riverbend in Cincinnati. My favorite songs/moments included “Little Sparrow/If I Had Wings,” “9 to 5,” and two vocal quartets: “I’ll Fly Away,” and “The Seeker,” which skewed more towards bluegrass. Also, “Coat of Many Colors” and her new single “Pure and Simple” were really lovely.
I was in some disbelief that she sang it all live. The nuance and tone was so fresh…as if she was 25 again. She offered many quotable moments. When inviting a handsome band member to the spotlight for a featured musical moment, she shared: “I said I was married I didn’t say I was blind.” Her costumes take a page from Elvis’ book…bell bottoms and sequins for days!
3) Cabaret, National Tour, Golden Gate Theatre
The Emcee, Randy Harrison surely brought in audience based on his Queer as Folk celebrity, but he exceeded my expectations on stage. He offered a more solid, robust voice and technique than I expected, and than most of this role previous exponents had. I also appreciated that he used his voice in a somewhat less caricature-y fashion. He expressed plenty of lithe, engaging movement as well.
Andrea Goss, a petite Sally Bowles, was fantastic, offering a gamine, pixie appeal. Her small-scale delivered a big presence and impression. My date, who has seen a dozen or so Cabaret productions put her in his top 3…the slew of past celebrity Sallys not holding up real great by comparison.
As is often the case with this show, the love story between Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz tugged on many a heart string. The set design, and how it was used was engaging throughout, integrating the orchestra in an authentic way, true to the milieu.
It was another stunning year of live performance in the Bay Area and beyond. I’m forgoing reviews this time, thanks to grad school demands. I’m grateful yet again for the embarrassment of riches…one of the many reasons I gladly call San Francisco home!
1) Matt Alber @ The Rickshaw Stop
Presented by SF Bear Pride
With NAKIA, Jeb Havens…
Program incl.: Monarch, The River, Velvet Goldmine, Old Wallingford, Tightrope, I Wanna Dance With Somebody, Field Trip Buddy, Hide & Seek, Always (ACAP), End of the World, Yellow, New York, Old Ghosts…
A taste of Matt live
2) Pink Martini @ The Hollywood Bowl
With China Forbes, Storm Large, Saori Yuki, Ari Shapiro…
Program incl.: Brazil, Zundoko bushi, Splendor in the Grass, Eugene, Hang on Little Tomato, Get Happy/Happy Days medley, And Then You’re Gone/But Now I’m Back medley, Yo Te Quiero Siempre…
3) Mephistopheles, San Francisco Opera
With Ildar Abdrazakov, Patricia Racette, Ramón Vargas, Marina Harris…
4) Anything Goes, Broadway Tour, Curran Theatre
With Rachel York, Fred Applegate, Erich Bergen, Alex Finke…
It’s that time again! I’m serving up my second annual Top 10 LIVE Performances of the year. It’s a follow-up to my ‘09 list. Sadly, there are no Broadway shows on this list. I plan on remedying that in 2011!
1. Die Walküre, San Francisco Opera (Details)
This production offered one of the finest casts that could possibly be assembled for this opera (and The Ring) in the current operatic landscape. The production said some new things, and offered a few fresh perspectives, but didn’t try too hard, or overshadow the score. Maestro Runnicles is a Wagnerian master, and he and the orchestra rose to the occasion again. Yeah, I was a “Supernumerary” in the production, but I was able to watch much of it from the orchestra during rehearsals, and even accounting for my bias, this would still takes my top spot. Enjoy my full review here.
2. Scalpel! The Musical, Brava Theatre (Details)
Can you say fun? It had me at the opening number, with countless heals and drag runway walks. It was the first show I’ve seen in the Brava, and I immediately loved this venue…the warm lighting, the urban ambience, and the straight, raked seating offering direct views. Even with all the camp and hijinks, the entire cast was completely committed to the material. This was the second mounting of the show, and my fingers are crossed that it returns yet again. Apparently, there was a bit of a curse on the production, with multiple cast injuries (including a very unfortunate broken leg for leading man, Mike Finn), but they pushed through, with some quick and fortuitous replacements and prevailed. Picturing Sara Moore as “poop-raking” TV reporter Kitty Kelly (“Hardballs” host) still makes me laugh.
3. Heidi Melton: Salon at the Rex, The Rex Hotel (Details)
To hear Heidi Melton plead in spoken french AND debut her chest voice was alone faint-worthy, and positively scintillating. And, to hear her in repertoire much outside her core operatic rep and comfort genres was a treat (ie: Irving Berlin and Kurt Weill cabaret, and Korngold songs). Her rendition of Berlin’s “Always” left not a dry eye in the audience. (Her Noe Valley Chamber Music Recital a few weeks before was also very beautiful). No thanks to the Adler “Future is Now” concert, which was on the same night, the recital was over all too soon (evidenced by a jcm quotation here and here)! I stuck around and imbibed and dined at the bar…I wanted to savor the spell Heidi had cast.
Two guest list tickets for an upcoming Pink Martini show, as well as some “other gifts” (possibly P.M. schwag?!). We’re contemplating one of the Hollywood Bowl Pink Martini shows in September. But, it’s tempting to save up for a European concert locale.
What people are saying
Pink Martini’s Business Manager shared this:
“We’ve been consistently amused by your video since its submission. In fact, it was the first video we received that we really loved, and at that time, unsure how the contest would go, we were relieved to know we had at least one gem. By far the best of the “home video” type entries we received.
We’d love to…post it permanently on our YouTube channel and on our website, and use it at other venues too. Thanks again for your video, and thank your fabulous cast for us as well!”
The creation of the video was a joy, but the contest announcements have brought it all to life again!
I now present to you my entry for La Cieca’s (parterre.com) light-hearted lip dub video competition:
Although a winner hasn’t been announced, happily, my entry was featured today on parterre.com: Darkest Before the Dawn
[UPDATE: I won! My video received the winning prize worth $200.00, and cries of “Bravissimo!,” “genius,” “brilliant,” “poignant” and “hilarious.” Woo-hoo!]
The song is opera diva Renée Fleming’s recent crossover single “Endlessly” (originally by Muse). It was GOBS of fun to create…a tragic tranny mess? Visionary? You be the judge, but it’s nothing if not fun. Plus, I didn’t know I was a blonde (the look chosen to APPROXIMATE the album cover)…the results proved me SO wrong.
For non-opera aficionados, the paper dolls are of Peter Gelb (he runs the Metropolitan Opera), Barbara Walters (operagoer), Mary Zimmerman (director), James Levine (music director and conductor at the Met), and La Cieca! (Yes, the inside jokes abound.)
I invite you to share comments directly below the video at vimeo.com link provided above! Praise me, roast me, sex me up, and so on!
Here’s the official collectible album cover:
Eleven months ago CJ and I launched the plans for my 40th Birthday celebration at the stylish, Mid-Century resort: The Century Palm Springs. Taking our favorite band’s festive inspiration, and our plans to imbibe cocktails aplenty, we named the weekend “Pink Martini-Land!”
Fast forwarding to one week before our departure, CJ made the very happy discovery on facebook of the Pink Martini music video contest. When I saw that “Ohayoo Ohio” (“Hello Ohio”) was one of the options, it was clearly kismet (I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio). The stars had aligned, and we heeded their creative calling!
We hope you have even half as much fun as we did creating it! And now, we cross our fingers and hope that the judges get swept up into our world of muumuu runway shows, gleeful synchronized swimming, swingin’ faux percussion, “Mrs. Groper” (CJ as a baked Mrs. Roper-type) and more!
Lucky me that my 40th B-day landed on the same day as one of the most fabulous San Francisco parties of the year: “Halestorm.” It was a masquerade hosted by Ken Fulk at his SOMA interior design/staging studio, in honor of socialite Denise Hale. It also marked the creation of the Denise Hale Fund at the SF SPCA.
The entire cast of my current show “Pearls Over Shanghai” was invited to attend, in costume. (Perhaps Denise’s attendance at our March performance was research?) Other attending luminaries included the Newsoms, Michael Tilson Thomas, Ann Getty, Mark Leno, etc.
It was an unforgettable night, highlit by the yummy “Halestorm” cocktail (vodka, lime juice, thyme sprig+), and the parting gift, a breakfast McMuffin-sort of sandwich, wrapped in a branded wax paper sleeve. Perfection!
Entertainment included jazz singer Paula West, “Pearls…” cast member Connie Champagne, as well as faux queen Fauxnique. Upstairs we showed our moves on the dance floor.
Here are some of the priceless pix from our fun in the “Dressed to Kill” photobooth! As you can see, Chang gets luckier and luckier with each photo…but, by the end looses his seat to Russian femme fatale Petrushka (Veronica Klaus):
There’s been SO much press and discussion about Johnny’s “STARS On Ice” exclusion, and of him wanting to produce his own alternative show, complete with his Lady Gaga. I didn’t trust that any producer could get this off the ground as a tour…MAYBE as a one-time tv special (Johnny, please prove me wrong!). So, with my wildest fantasies sparked, I took the bull by the horns, and dreamt up something truly “family friendly” (nudge nudge, wink wink): “GAY STARS On Ice & Friends!” Instead of creating an entirely new name, it’s a more effective rubbing-in-the-face to alter it slightly…and “RAINBOWS On Ice” just doesn’t have any ring to it.
Some would argue that “STARS On Ice” IS essentially “GAY STARS On Ice…” already, in everything but name. However, the reaction to Johnny’s request for inclusion has clued us into the fact that this is not the case, at least as per some of the mainstream target audience. No, surprisingly, Johnny hasn’t verbally “come out,” but he upholds “gay” where it counts, and I, and gay kids everywhere applaud him for that.
My concept is for an independent skating show that would travel to only the hippest urban spots, aka the biggest gay cities: SF, NY, LA, Chicago, Boston, Washington, Dallas, Miami, etc. Oh, and the top-billing sponsor (ala Smuckers) goes to the maker of Twinkies® and Ho-Hos®…not to mention Sno Balls®! Yes, that’s “Hostess’ GAY Stars on Ice!”
The programs and performances would tip the scales in favor of the campy, flamboyant, and festive. BUT, there would be plenty of true, heartfelt gravitas as well, with a strong nod to high-classical repertoire (ie: from full-length ballet, and opera). It would honor and encourage the young aesthetic and spirit, AND the old gays.
What would be forbidden? Typical Pro/EX-skating fare: cheesy-sexy-faker rock (ala Michael Weiss, Josef Sabovcik, and just about any American pair’s EX), alpha-male, testosterone-filled movie soundtracks (ala Eldredge), karate-inspired numbers (ala Stojko), vanilla hip-hop (ala Belbin & Agosto, and Evan Lysacek), and so on. Basically, all the stuff that makes me yawn and avoid most Pro shows altogether these days.
What makes something “gay“ (besides the skater)? In short…1) a triumphant rising-from-the-ashes return of a diva (see Bobek and Harding); 2) male face makeup and glitter (ie: Johnny doing Gaga); 3) pride anthems (see Sandhu and Sawyer’s programs); 4) a nod to the older gay generation(s), who paved the way and, yes, we know, had it much harder (see Cranston); 5) plenty of pop and opera diva icons; and all this:
Program (Act I)
Vogue — Complete Cast
If You Were Gay (from Avenue Q) – Brian Boitano & Brian Orser
One (LIVE, by Adam Lambert) – Denise Biellmann
Bad Romance (LIVE, by Lady Gaga) – Johnny Weir
It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green (by Kermit) – Rudy Galindo
Guess Who I Saw Today (by Nancy Wilson, AMAZING video!) – Weir, Gregory
You Gotta Have a Gimmick (from Gypsy) – Tonya Harding
Sag Mir Wo die Blumen Sind (Where Have All the Flowers Gone?) (Marlene Dietrich) – Katarina Witt
Sisters (from White Christmas) – Stéphane Lambiel & Rudy Galindo (featuring a throw triple axel)
Act II: Le Lac Des Cygnes (from Swan Lake) – ALL the boys in tutus (ala Les Ballets du Trockadero)