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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In a post-Marriage Equality world, McKeever’s play might, on the surface, seem a few years out of date.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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Julia Scotti, the movie, is just Funny That Way

Life is funny that way—not working out quite the way we thought it would. And that is ultimately the point

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Graphic courtesy of Susan Sandler

WHITING, NJ. – “You are a piece of work, Julia!” Simon Cowell blurted during her landmark America’s Got Talent debut.  Julia Scotti had just completed her audition for the show that ended not only with a standing ovation, but with the revelation that she had once upon a time been a stand-up comedian named Rick. As that news crossed the faces of the four judges, their collective jaws dropped. “I mean like you come out as the nice little granny school teacher all sweet and then you go into your routine and like WHOA. Talk about surprises – they are never ending with you, are they?” Cowell finished.

With Julia Scotti, the surprises never end.

Her latest surprise for the public is a gem of a film, Julia Scotti: Funny That Way.  It is a documentary of her journey from the days of Rick, the up and coming comic who performed on bills with Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld to Julia, who is wowing millions.

Of her transition, Julia has remarked. “It is NEVER an easy process whether you’re a public figure or not. You are essentially killing your old self and ending your old life. And with that comes the history you’ve built with friends and family. Some are very accepting, but most are not. That is why the suicide attempt rate for Trans  folk is still at 41%.”

Funny That Way does not spare us the heart-breaking fallout from the virtual “death’ of Rick Scotti.  Filmmaker Susan Sandler weaves Julia’s story, the losses and damage, to her rebirth, healing and the reuniting with her kids after a 15-year estrangement.

Julia and Susan sat down with us on the podcast Rated LGBT Radio to talk about the film.  “This is a story and like all stories, there is a beginning and a middle and an end. In the end, I want the audience to know there is HOPE. It is bumpy at times, joyous at times.  It is not just isolated to my life. You can have that in your life when you walk through that door of your own truth and come out the other side and when you look back on all you went through, you go ‘what the hell was I so afraid of?’ Look how happy I am.” Julia explains.

Susan had never directed a documentary before, but as one of Hollywood’s master story tellers, and a Golden Globe nominee, she was unfazed.  “The impetus behind this film was falling in love with Julia, her, then and now.  If you are working from a really rich, complex, compelling character –which is Julia—that is the GIFT. All of my nerve endings, my story telling, told me this was dynamic documentary, and that’s the form in which I wanted to tell it.”

Susan took five years to research, document and interact with Julia’s past.  She went through old footage of Rick Scotti’s stage acts and restored many of them so they could be used in the film. She brought on composer Matt Hutchinson for a beautiful score, and animator Sam Roth for whimsical cartoons that tie the story together.

Before the filming started, Julia had just re-connected with her son Dan, and daughter Emma.  A decade and a half ago, when Julia announced to her then spouse that she was in fact a woman transitioning, her then-wife retaliated by taking their kids away.  Dan and Emma spent their whole adolescence not knowing Julia at all. The story of that pain is told in Funny That Way.  Susan wanted to show the relationships real-time in the film as they came to reconnect with Julia. “We were just at the beginning stages of reconciling,” recounts Julia. “I did not want them feeling like I was just reconnecting with them because I wanted them in this film. I did not want to distance them even more.”

Dan and Emma were onboard, however.  Also on board, albeit only by phone, was Kate. Kate was  Julia’s last wife, described as Julia’s “love of her life”. Kate supported Julia emotionally and spiritually through out the entire transition process.  One of the most poignant moments in the film was Julia hearing Kate describe the end of their relationship.  Kate’s support was significant, but once Julia became fully Julia, it was evident to both that their relationship had changed and they had to let it go.

Susan captured many live moments of Julia’s evolving life.  She caught the very first time that son Dan ever called Julia “his mother” and the effect was pronounced.  Also caught in the film was a moment when Julia and Dan are watching Rick’s old stand up routines.  One such performance  takes Julia by surprise—it was a routine that she had not remembered ever doing.  It was a set where then Rick expressed his revulsion to transgender women in no uncertain terms.  Julia sat shocked.

“My sensibilities have been ‘woked’, I think that is the term for it.” She told me about that experience. ”Thinking back, I was going through issues and aware that something was not right internally. It frightened me to no end.  Looking at that clip, I am totally ashamed of what I did. It embarrassed me.”

“I knew it was me. I knew I was there. But I don’t feel a connection with that person.  That is the truth.”

The film does not dwell long on the past shames and regrets.  It arcs to the present where an adult daughter gets to see her parent’s comedy routine for the very first time.

Some of the greatest joy in the film is witnessing the growing relationship between Julia and son Dan. Dan is sweet and compassionate, and they both have a deep love of comedy.  Through their discussions and collaboration on things funny, we witness something decidedly not funny, the deep re-kindling love they have for each other.

The film will make you laugh, and cry, and laugh again.  New clips of Julia’s now famous turn on America’s Got Talent shows her more personal reflective moments over a life changing triumph.

The only regret director Sandler has about the film is how it will be brought to the public. “I am happy to be brining the film now for the people who have an appetite for it. For the truth, the humor, the complete emotional honesty.  But I mourn. I mourn the moments not being able to sit with you in a theater. And experiencing the film with you. It was supposed to be seen by audiences, and then give them the opportunity to go down the street and see Julia live at a club.”  But, life is funny that way—not working out quite the way we thought it would.   And that is ultimately the point.

Editor’s Note: The film was originally slated for theatrical release which was delayed then put off by the coronavirus pandemic.

Julia Scotti: Funny That Way is available now on digital platforms! That means you can rent or buy it online, at places like iTunes, Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play and more.

Here’s the full list of where you can find it. 

DIGITAL

iTunes
Amazon
Google Play
Xbox
VUDU
FandangoNow
Vimeo On Demand

CABLE / SATELLITE

iN Demand Movies
Verizon
AT&T
Vubiquity
DirecTV
Dish
Telus

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Gigi Gorgeous to launch ‘Queerified’ podcast

The now-celebrated star and activist fist began her rise to stardom with the creation of her YouTube channel in 2008

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Gigi Gorgeous via YouTube

HOLLYWOOD – We all know there are a lot of podcasts out there, but there is always room for one more – especially when it comes from Gigi Gorgeous.

The social-media star, TV personality and transgender activist has announced the launch of “Queerified,” a weekly podcast she will co-hosted with longtime best friend Marc Lamentac – better known as Mimi. Timed for a Pride Month premiere, the show will be built around discussions between the two friends, touching on topics such as growing up queer, life lessons and successes, and the celebration of “queer joy” every day. Gigi and Mimi will also be joined by special guests in the LGBTQIA+ community and beyond.

Says Gorgeous in a statement, “On ‘Queerified,’ I wanted to start a conversation that is empowering, entertaining and humorous, having an open dialogue about the issues and experiences that made me the person I am today.”

The now-celebrated star and activist fist began her rise to stardom with the creation of her YouTube channel in 2008. Still a student at a high school in Toronto, she posted beauty, fashion and makeup tutorial videos, while offering viewers encouragement and inspiration to stand up to bullying and harassment by expressing themselves authentically. encouraging viewers to express themselves in the face of bullying and harassment. At the age of 19, she came out in a video as a gay male, and in 2013 announced that she was a transgender woman.

The next year, she documented her transition on YouTube, eventually laying the groundwork for the documentary “This Is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous.” In 2019, she published the memoir, “He Said, She Said: Lessons, Stories and Mistakes From My Transgender Journey.” The same year, she married fellow activist Nats Getty, a model, artist, and designer whose fashion line Strike Oil is currently being sold at Saks to benefit Pride charities.

“Queerified” – which launches Wednesday, June 16 – is produced by podcast network Ramble, a division of Cadence13. Chris Corcoran, chief content officer for the companies, says, “Gigi has a larger-than-life personality, and an equally powerful voice as an activist. As Pride is celebrated around the world, we’re excited to welcome Gigi and Mimi to the Ramble and Cadence13 family.”

The show’s producers have set up a toll-free hotline (in the U.S.) for listeners to offer feedback and leave comments for Gigi and Mimi, at 844-QUEERYS (844-783-3797). “This is totally a space that’s safe for you,” reads the description for their podcast.

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Colton Underwood, Greyson Chance+ more Amazon Live Pride Festival!

Greyson Chance and former Bachelor star, Colton Underwood, will be streaming live to discuss how they show their Pride, answer fan questions

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SEATTLE, WA. – Happy Pride Month! Amazon Live is hosting its first-ever Pride Festival this Thursday (6/10) and Friday (6/11) from 3-6pm ET. Your favorite celebrities and influencers, including recording artist, Greyson Chance and former Bachelor star, Colton Underwood, will be streaming live to discuss how they show their Pride, answer fan questions, and share their top Pride picks across fashion, beauty, books, movies, and TV.

Customers can watch HERE via desktop, mobile, or through the Amazon Live Shopping app on Fire TV. Customers can interact directly with the celebrities and influencers via live chat, and easily shop the products and brands discussed through a carousel that updates in real-time.

The scheduled events are as follows:

DAY ONE (6/10):

  • 3PM ET: Greyson Chance will perform from his upcoming EP Trophies, releasing on June 25, and share his curated selection of Pride merch.
  • 4PM ET: Jo Duree will stream a “get ready with me,” inviting viewers to do their makeup alongside her as she shows top tips and tricks.
  • 5PM ET: Pride House LA is throwing the ULTIMATE pride variety show! Featuring top products, you will be fully entertained with special guest performances and amazing talent!

DAY TWO (6/11):

  • 3PM ET: Colton Underwood will discuss his life, answer viewer questions, and share the products that help him show off his pride.
  • 4PM ET: Jake Warden will demo a Pride makeup look.
  • 5PM ET: Olga Von Light will discuss her coming out story, and share some favorite Pride related merchandise and why the products are meaningful to her. 

We’d love to have you join! Check out this blog post for more information about how Amazon is celebrating Pride Month.

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