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A perfect pair of plays for Pride month

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Bill Brochtrup and Tim Cummings star in “Daniel’s Husband” at the Fountain Theatre (Photo by Paul DiMalanta).

For fans of LGBTQ-themed theatre, Pride month is rich with opportunities, with at least two excellent productions onstage in Los Angeles that deserve your attention, your time, and your box office dollars.

At the Fountain Theatre (5060 Fountain Avenue) is the acclaimed “Daniel’s Husband” by Michael McKeever, which has extended its run through July 28, an intimate, five-character play centered on a same-sex couple, Daniel and Mitchell, who seem to be living the dream. Successful, affluent, and deeply in love, they might be the perfect poster couple for gay marriage – except that Mitchell doesn’t believe in it. In his own words, he would “fight to the death” for the right of others to get married, but for himself, it represents an assimilation into “normal” society that goes against everything his radical queer activist heart believes in.

When this sore spot between the couple emerges during a social gathering in their home early in the play, it seems little more than an amusing hypothetical argument. After all, the two have the necessary protections in place to prove the validity of their partnership; the only outside family member involved, Daniel’s mother, is an ally who loves Mitchell as much as if he were her own son, too.  But when an unexpected crisis hits without warning, they may be powerless to prevent the life they have built together from being ripped away from them.

In a post-Marriage Equality world, McKeever’s play might, on the surface, seem a few years out of date.  That’s a deceptive viewpoint to take. “Daniel’s Husband” isn’t asking us whether LGBTQ people deserve to get married; through its sparkling dialogue, layered and loving characterizations, and even-handed treatment of the issues, it’s asking us whether they should get married just because they can.

Thanks in large part to the beautiful performances of Bill Brochtrup (Daniel) and Tim Cummings (Mitchell), it answers that question by cutting through the rhetoric and focusing on the love that makes two people want to commit to each other for life.  It extends its perspective through the inclusion of Daniel’s mother (the deeply affecting Jenny O’Hara), who walks an increasingly narrow emotional tightrope as the play progresses, as well as through Mitchell’s wisecracking longtime agent (the superb Ed Martin) and a young friend who brings millennial freshness to the conversation (the endearing Jose Fernando).  The talented players receive sure-handed guidance from director Simon Levy, who never allows the characters to be anything less than human.

“Daniel’s Husband” goes from being light-hearted to heart-breaking over the course of its two acts, reminding us along the way of the practical benefits of marriage and offering a grim warning against the hubris of making a choice based on philosophical principal when the real-world stakes are so high.  This Los Angeles premiere production drives home its points without equivocation, but what makes it must-see theatre is that it does so without losing sight of the love story at its core.

Taubert Nadalini (center) and the cast of “Shooting Star” (Photo by Ed Olen).

“Shooting Star: A Revealing New Musical,” is a love story, too, but it comes at the subject from a very different angle.  Onstage at the Hudson Theatre (6539 Santa Monica Blvd) through June 30, this world premiere piece was written by Florian Klein, who works in gay adult films under the name Hans Berlin and wanted to tell a story reflecting his own experiences in the porn world.

When a wholesome midwestern gay kid named Taylor comes to Hollywood with dreams of stardom, it isn’t long before he realizes what a tough road he’s chosen for himself; in need of extra money, he accepts a job stripping at a gay club frequented by porn stars, and before long he’s on his way to a different kind of stardom than he had foreseen.  To his surprise, he finds himself surrounded by a loving porn family and falling for one of his co-stars; but a multi-billion-dollar industry is a tricky place for love to find a way – and the more successful he becomes, the further it seems out of reach.

All of this is told, of course, with the help of a rock-infused song score, composed by Thomas Zaufke with lyrics by Erik Ransom, that takes the ideas covered in Klein’s libretto – the de-stigmatization of porn and the people who work in it, the pursuit of emotional happiness alongside professional success, the difficulty of being a romantic in a world saturated with easy sex – and brings them to life with the help of an exuberant cast of performers.  Taubert Nadalini and Nathan Mohebbi are more than charming as the show’s star-crossed lovers, but the stand-out performances come, unsurprisingly, from the trio of actors playing the show’s more colorful characters – Bettis Richardson, Karole Foreman, and Michael Scott Harris (as a bad-boy porn star, a “porn mama” director, and an aging gay porn legend clinging to his past glory, respectively) each have show-stopping musical numbers that stick with you long after the curtain call.  Director Michael Bello takes all that talent and ties it into a package that, combined with Jim Cooney’s flashy choreography and the sound of a tight ensemble of musicians that accompanies the show from upstage makes the evening feel as much like a party as a theatrical presentation.

As for the show’s content, it’s hard not to be engaged.  There’s a ring of authenticity to a behind-the-scenes look at gay porn served up by an actual porn star that makes it all feel that much more delicious; and there’s a refreshing sweetness about it that somehow seems even more appealing against the hedonistic backdrop of the adult entertainment business.

It’s this contrast between old-fashioned romance and unapologetic sexuality, however, that undercuts Klein’s intended message that porn stars are people, just like you and me; and even though his musical fantasia acknowledges that there’s a dark side to the industry – drugs, greed, exploitation, ageism, sexism, and all the other evils associated with it – it also insists that working there can be a rich and rewarding life if you can keep your priorities straight.  The trouble is, even though it celebrates the porn life with all the sex-positivity it can muster, Klein’s script has a conflicted soul that still feels unresolved with the show’s eventual “happily-ever-after” finale.  “Shooting Star” wants to tell us that it’s possible to have it both ways, but it isn’t quite able to show us how.

That’s okay, though.  Even if it doesn’t quite convince us of its main argument, Klein’s musical is a terrific time, and with an attractive cast of diverse performers – sometimes fully naked ones, at that – it’s doubtful that most audiences will quibble over the fine points.  Besides, it’s a new show, in its first run of performances; there’s plenty of room for the improvements which will doubtless be made as “Shooting Star” makes what seems an inevitable journey to further, bigger, and glitzier productions in the future.  It’s hard to imagine any of those will seem as audacious or as cocky as this one, though – essential qualities for a “gay porn musical,” surely – and besides, you’ll be able to say you saw it here first.

 

 

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“Sex and The City” star Willie Garson has died at age 57

Garson found professional success on shows including “Sex and the City” but his favorite job happened when the cameras stopped rolling

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Willie Garson image via Titus Welliver Twitter

NEW YORK – In a tweet on Tuesday, actor Titus Welliver broke the news of the death from pancreatic cancer of his friend and fellow actor Willie Garson. Garson’s 20 year-old son Nathan, a student at The College of Wooster, a private liberal arts college in Wooster, Ohio, added his own heartbreaking tribute to his father in an Instagram post.

The actor was in New York City reprising his role of Stanford Blatch in HBO’s Sex and the City‘s revival series,  And Just Like That.

According to an exclusive interview by Page Six in 2020, the actor’s favorite role however was that of ‘Dad.’

Willie Garson found professional success on shows including “Sex and the City” and “White Collar,” but his favorite job happened when the cameras stopped rolling. […] “He’s an adult and soon to be taking care of me which is really why I got him to be honest,” Garson said at the time. “He’s lovely and a really special guy. He’s wonderful and he’s in college in Ohio.”

The New Jersey-born actor also told us that he “always wanted to have a child,” so he decided to pursue adoption as a single parent.

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Online Culture

Video: A straight & a gay guy react to “That’s what I want” by Lil Nas X

StanChris is a 20-something vlogger from the Northeastern U.S. who chronicles his life as a young everyday average gay guy

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StanChris (Screenshot via YouTube)

LOS ANGELES – The twenty-something StanChris, the Out YouTuber who has been building his audience on his channel by vlogging about the ordinary everyday experiences of his life as a young gay guy, is back with his straight friend and together they react to the brand new Lil Nas X’s new music video THATS WHAT I WANT which was released on September 16, 2021.

WATCH:

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Out & About

Audra McDonald and Chita Rivera come to Gay Days Disneyland

During Gay Days thousands of LGBTQ+ Disney fans celebrate in Disneyland and Disney California Adventure in Anaheim

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Photo courtesy of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, Inc.

ANAHEIM- Broadway is back, and it’s come to Anaheim. The legendary Audra McDonald and Chita Rivera, two absolute Titans of musical theatre, stopped by Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel Friday night for two intimate back to back engagements for the crowds at the annual Gay Days Anaheim, or as it is more popularly known: Disneyland Gay Days. 

During Gay Days thousands of LGBTQ+ Disney fans celebrate in Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, with a weekend filled with scavenger hunts, meetups and parties. The park and the hotels almost feel like West Hollywood on a Friday night. The energy this year is especially lively, as Covid prevented last year’s celebration. 

Gay Days began in 1998, attracting a crowd of 2,500 visitors. The weekend now pulls in over ten times that, with 30,000 visitors joining in on the magic in 2019. In a massive group photo outside Sleeping Beauty’s castle, the entire group is decked out in the signature Gay Days red t-shirts – the 2019 edition featured a fabulous Star Wars Storm Trooper with the text “May the Fierce Be With You.”

While the event is not officially sanctioned by Disney, it is supported by it. Disney Pride, as well as several other branches of the Disney empire, have joined in as sponsors for the weekend. It’s also a favorite weekend for the Disneyland cast and staff. 

Photo courtesy of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, Inc.

The schedule is simple: Friday is arrival day, Saturday is about Disneyland and Sunday is about  California Adventure and the pool party. But Gay Days has got so much more than just a park visit: it now has Hollywood Bowl level-talent coming in for concerts. Kicking off the return to Disneyland this year is Audra McDonald and Chita Rivera. 

The two stars headlined Broadway Night at the 23rd annual Gay Days, kicking off the weekend-long celebration which ran from September 17–19. Drag Race fan favorites Nina West, Jackie Cox and Jan Sport joined in the weekend’s entertainments, with shows on Saturday and Sunday.

Friday night is buzzing. In the hotel lobby, Gay Days visitors are striking up conversations, getting to know each other, sharing stories about Gwen Verdon, Bob Fosse and that time they worked with Debbie Reynolds. Gay Days is definitely a great way to meet your Prince Charming. 

Three-time Tony Award winner Chita Rivera began the evening with An Intimate Conversation With Chita Rivera featuring the Broadway legend in conversation with theatre historian Eddie Shapiro. She’s a decorated performer with a score of firsts. She was the original Velma Kelly in Chicago, she was the original Anita in West Side Story, and she’s the first Latino American to receive a Kennedy Center Honor. 

When Rivera was called out on the stage she kicked her leg out high from behind the curtain, and then strutted her way to her chair. She’s 88 years old, but has the bright energy, wit and sparkle of someone decades younger. With charm and humor she tells a captivated audience about that time she won the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama, dancing with Dick Van Dyke and why she loves gay audiences – “they get it.”

She looks back on her storied career with humble gratitude, unexpected for someone who has an award named after themselves (The Chita Rivera Awards for Dance and Choreography). When asked about a star studded concert she appeared in recognizing entertainment’s greats she simply said “it’s God’s way of saying you’re doing something right.” Chita Rivera left the Disney audience spellbound. 

An hour later, Audra McDonald walked out on the same stage for a piano concert – with Chita Rivera in the front row! Audra is a record-breaking icon. She’s a 6-time Tony winner, and has won at least one Tony in all four acting categories. But, like Chita, she is down to Earth, well-spoken and incredibly gracious. Between songs she peppers in stories about her daughter, playing Mother Superior in Sound of Music Live and Chita Rivera’s influence. 

Audra McDonald sings with a flawlessly smooth, often operatic quality. Standouts from her set include her cover of “Children will Listen” from Sondheim’s Into the Woods and an eerie reimagining of the title track from “Cabaret”, which she performed at The Met Gala by Anna Wintour’s request. She also included a moving performance of the song “I’ll be Here” from the lesser known musical Ordinary Days. The narrative of the song centers on a woman’s relationship with her husband who dies in 9/11. In the capable hands of McDonald, the audience is moved to tears.

The evening is a shining example of the exceptional programming Gay Days has added to an already incredible weekend. The two live performances are signs that a pre-Covid world is slowly returning.

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