Sometimes it’s important to step away from our televisions and computer screens for a bit and immerse ourselves in art. Live theatre and performance can touch us in ways that other entertainment simply can’t, by letting us share the same space as our fellow audience members and performers. A night at the theatre can be magic. While big cities like New York, Philly, LA and DC get the majority of spoils, the great work there certainly leads to inspiration around the country. Not to mention a great excuse to take an artistic vacation. Here are some of this year’s notable productions.
Photo courtesy of PublicTheatre.org
The Broadway stage has long been a safe haven for gay men. There, their vital and important stories have been given a much louder voice at a time when the experiences and struggles of the community were barely a whisper to the rest of society. Lesbians however, have not been nearly as much of a focus in popular theatrical entertainment. Sure, we have Maureen and JoAnn from Rent, and the simmering sexual tension between Glinda and Elphaba in Wicked, but lesbian roles and storylines have often been relegated to the background. Fun Home, the new musical by Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori based on the graphic memoir by out artist/writer Alison Bechdel, changes everything. The musical is currently running through January 12th at the Public Theatre, and has already been extended four times. And for good reason. It’s a superb piece of theatre, with a brilliant cast and music that will haunt you for days afterward. The show centers on Allison and her troubled relationship with her father, a closeted gay man who committed suicide when she was in college. The show jumps around in time, with three actresses of different ages playing Allison. Michael Cervaris, who plays her father, is remarkable and at his absolute finest in the role. The show has truly become the must see piece of new theatre this season. For those who can’t make it to NY to see the show, the original cast recording will be available in February 2014.
Showgirls the movie has been called one of the worst films ever made. It’s campy without being self aware, offensive without cause, and often, simply terrible. A smoldering pile of dreck and bad choices. Showgirls the Musical however, is the phoenix rising out of the film’s ashes. Writers Bob and Tobly McSmith and their muse, the astounding April Kidwell, bring Showgirls to life in a way that doesn’t leave a dry seat in the house. Kidwell, who bears a striking resemblance to Elizabeth Berkley, plays Nomi Malone with a level of such sheer, manic commitment, that you can’t help but completely root for the sexy drifter. The film has always been a cult hit with gay men, but it’s chock full of lesbionic near misses, and inexplicable sexual tension. The musical embraces these elements, and runs with them at full speed. Also, there are breasts. Lots of breasts. It’s about the most fun you can have at the theatre this year. Showgirls the Musical is currently playing at Theatre 80 in NYC, through the end of January.
The 2010 cast of Lesbian Love Octagon photo by Liz Liguori
Picture it. Lower East Side. Late Nineties. Lesbians, genderqueers, and bisexuals alike, convened, fell into bed, into art, into love and lust with one another at the precipice of great cultural change. The Lesbian Love Octagon brings you right back to that time, capturing the nineties queer vibe perfectly. Kim Kressal and Will Larche brought back their leztastic indie musical this past summer, after a wildly successful run in 2010. The show centers on the recently heartbroken Sue, her bevy of friends and exes, and their plan to help her find new love…or at least something close enough. The melodic score ranges in tone from rompy, sexy fun, to tender and poignant. While the show has closed, you can still listen to some of the terrific songs here.
Shakespeare gets genderflipped in Julius Caeser and Romeo and Juliet
Photo courtesty of the Donmar Warehouse
Gender flipping is nothing new for Shakespearian drama. In fact, during Shakespeare’s time, women were not permitted to be actors. Modern Shakespearian productions have been taking liberties with time period and settings for quite some time, and it’s particularly exciting to see male characters played by actresses. In the recent St. Ann’s Warehouse production of Julius Caesar, an all-female, British based cast took the reigns of the traditionally, male heavy show. Set at a women’s prison, the dynamics and power struggles took on a life of their own. The result was a memorizing and transcending piece of theatre. In Philadelphia, the Curio Theatre launched a production of Romeo and Juliet, with two female leads. The modernized, and queerified show received positive reviews, and quite a bit of attention for its button pushing poster of the two lovers, in their skivvies, embracing. “O, wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied?”
Photo courtesy of the Curio Theatre Company
Photo courtesy of ForeverDusty.com
Dusty Springfield was best known for her mod style and mega hits like “Son of a Preacher Man,” and “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me.” The singer was also bisexual and had numerous relationships with women throughout her career. Forever Dusty, a biographic musical written and starring Kristen Holly Smith had a healthy run this season at the New World Stages. While the show had its pacing issues and challenges with the script, Smith was dead on as Dusty Springfield. She inhabited the role with gusto and detail, even down to Dusty’s live performance gestures. The musical does not shy away from her sexuality, making it a major centerpiece of the story. The show was certainly a love letter to Ms. Springfield a performer who meant a lot to many fans around the world. What were some of your favorite live performances this year?