Gay Appreciation Critics’ Choice Award
Blame it on Covid brain or just because we got out of the routine after no Gay Appreciation Awards (GAAs) since 2019, but I and my colleague Tony Leggio neglected to bestow a Critics’ Choice Award on any production from the past year or so at the recent GAAs. To make up for that, we’d like to announce the following nominees, all of which featured LGBTQ characters or had a queer sensibility, for Outstanding Production–
Choir Boy, Le Petit
Dear Mr. Williams, Le Petit
For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls, Tennessee Williams Theater Company
Head Over Heels, Loyola University
She Kills Monsters, Tulane University
Stop Kiss, Loyola University
Varla Jean Merman’s Little Prick
The winner will be announced in my next column in September. And while there may not be a red carpet, a hearty “Congratulations!” to all involved in each of these shows.
For those who want a little culture before the end of August, a few productions open in the next few days. Then comes Labor Day Weekend and, after a three year intermission (thanks to Covid and Ida), the extravaganza known as Southern Decadence returns to the streets of New Orleans with as diverse a cast of characters as one could hope to imagine. Post-Decadence offers a variety of treats to keep you busy until Halloween arrives. For those who like their entertainment live and in person, here are some of the shows that’ll be on the boards in the next few weeks–
The plucky Company: A St. Bernard Community Theatre presents Company, Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s Tony Award-winning look at love & marriage & commitment and the joys & angst that go along with those things.
Directed by Chris Arthur and starring Derrick Toups as Bobby, Company runs August 25-28 at The Azienda Theatre in Chalmette (2000 Paris Rd.). If you didn’t have a chance to see the recent Broadway revival with Patti LuPone, you’ll be in good company with The Company for Company. More info at http://www.thecompanystb.com/
Further east, Slidell Little Theatre will mount Disney’s The Little Mermaid from August 26 through September 11. Based on the Hans Christian Anderson tale and animated movie, this Alan Menken/Howard Ashman musical tells the story of Ariel who dreams of life above her ocean home. She longs to meet the handsome Prince Eric and strikes a deal with the sea witch, Ursula, to do so.
Will Ariel and Eric live happily ever after? Head to 2024 Nellie Drive in St. Tammany Parish to see Ambie Award-winning Director Scott Sauber’s production to find out! Tickets and more info at https://www.slidelllittletheatre.org/2022-2023-season?pageid=176911
I don’t know too much about The Road to Damascus (As Told by Grandmother to Little Red), but anything written and performed by Ambie Award winner Kathy Randels is certain to be interesting, worthy theater. Add in lighting by Diane Baas and a set by Kevin Griffith, both fellow Ambie winners, and it’s guaranteed this ArtSpot production will be gorgeous to look at as well.
This “ performance work” opens Thursday, August 25, and runs for only four nights, through August 28 at the New Marigny Theater (1221 Mandeville St.), More info at https://artspotproductions.org/
Of course, there’ll be tons to do during Decadence weekend, but a visit to the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) may be in order when Laveau Contraire, a self-styled “Drag Queen Extraordinaire” and 2022 CAC Artist in Residence, presents COLORS, a new work created at the CAC and featuring 12 of New Orleans’ most vibrant performers of color, including Love Latonia, Maxx Lovewell, Simone Del Mar, sora, Ladi Phat Kat, Saya Meads, Synamin Vixen, Alexa Milano, Vanessa Carr Kennedy, Gigi DeLuxe, Juno, and Ariana Amour. Through storytelling and performance, each performer will use a specific color to paint a picture from their own colorful lives. Together, the cast of COLORS promises to splatter the walls of your mind with experiences and perspectives on what it means to live in a world full of color.
This decadent celebration of the cast’s vibrant lives plays in the CAC’s Black Box Theater (900 Camp St.) on September 2 & 3 at 7:30 pm. More info at https://cacno.org/performing-arts/colors-by-laveau-contraire There’ll also be an additional performance at The AllWays Lounge (2240 St Claude Ave.) at 7:30pm on the 4th!
Looking for more decadent fun? Then check out the 5th annual Bette Bathhouse and Beyond (Southern Decadence edition) on Sunday, September 4, from 9pm to 4am at Café Istanbul (2372 St. Claude Avenue).
NYC impresario and part-time New Orleanian Daniel Nardicio brings Bette Bathhouse and Beyond back to New Orleans where singer/comedienne Amber Martin will recreate one of Bette Midler’s iconic 1971 shows done at NYC’s infamous gay bathhouse, the Continental Baths. The audience will be required to wear only towels, bathrobes, or underwear (bring your own towel, or rent one from the Dworld staff for $2) to recreate the vibe of the notorious bathhouse.
Renowned DJ Johnny Dynell will be playing “Bathhouse Disco” from the era, while Drew Brody performs as “Barry M.” on piano to accompany Amber’s Bette. Three 20-minute all-Bette song sets at 10pm, 11pm and 12 midnight will feature the Continental go-go dancers–then all Bette’s are off! Tickets and more info at https://www.redeyetickets.com/bette-bathhouse-beyond-southern-decadence/
Things get more serious after Decadence with Nobel Prize winner Derek Walcott’s Pantomime, the first show of Crescent City Stage’s inaugural season. In this comedy set on the Caribbean island of Tobago, an English hotel owner proposes that he and his Black handyman work up a satire on the Robinson Crusoe story in the hope of entertaining future guests. Joy and dark humor abound as the hotel owner and handyman explore who is allowed to use language and in what way.
Pantomime opens on September 8 and runs through September 25 at Loyola University’s Marquette Theatre. More info at https://www.crescentcitystage.com/seasonofempowerment
Also playing at Loyola, in its Lower Depths Theatre, will be Clothes for a Summer Hotel, the last original play of Tennessee Williams to be presented on Broadway, back in 1980. Set outside an asylum on a windy hilltop in North Carolina, this “ghost play” takes F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald on a dark and desire-drenched ride down memory lane to reopen wounds made by jealousy & resentment, and perhaps, by the end, to heal them.
The Tennessee Williams Theatre Company of New Orleans presents this rarely seen memory play, which had an all too brief life on Broadway, from September 9 thru the 24th. Will it be an overlooked masterpiece or not? Either way, I’m very happy to have the opportunity to decide for myself. Directed by Augustin J Correro, Clothes stars Matthew Boese as one of America’s greatest novelists and Lauren Wells as his troubled wife. For tickets, go to https://ci.ovationtix.com/35398/production/1106772?utm_source=TWTC+Master+Email+List&utm_campaign=8f14d2e4d4-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_06_25_11_53_COPY_03&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_91ea48b996-8f14d2e4d4-244632125
Now, for reasons unclear, many of the rest of September’s shows seemed geared to or about “Queens” of one sort or another.
For a “Musical Fable” about America’s best known burlesque queen head to Mandeville for 30 by Ninety Theatre’s production of Gypsy, the ultimate tale of an ambitious stage mother and her relentless pursuit of fame for her daughters. This brilliant Jule Styne/Stephen Sondheim/Arthur Laurents musical about Gypsy Rose Lee takes place across America in the 1920s and 30s, when vaudeville was dying, and explores the world of the lower tiers of show business with brass, humor, heart, and sophistication.
Lori Molinary directs this show which features such classic songs as Let Me Entertain You, You Gotta Get a Gimmick, Together (Wherever We Go), and Everything’s Coming Up Roses and which runs September 10 until October 2. More info at https://30byninety.com/shows/gypsy/
To see how Lola, a drag queen, saves a shoe factory on the verge of collapse, head to Kenner for the local premiere of the Tony-winning Kinky Boots. Rivertown Theaters for the Performing Arts presents the Cyndi Lauper/Harvey Fierstein musical that’s based on improbably true events.
Directed & choreographed by Broadway veteran (Chicago, Aladdin, Frozen) & NOLA native Donald Jones, Jr., Kinky Boots is filled with glitter, glam & a whole lot of sole, and runs September 9-25. Tickets and more info at https://www.rivertowntheaters.com/event/Kinky-Boots
As Lola helps factory owner Charlie in Kinky Boots, Rivertown is helping others with Raise Your Voice 5, a musical revue featuring young performers of the New Orleans theater community that will benefit Covenant House New Orleans, a non-profit that helps teens and young adults in crisis.
Directed & choreographed by local teen Savannah Fouchi, Raise Your Voice 5 will be organized by her and the youth performers themselves. A cast of over 30 will share their talents as they perform musical theater and pop hits from shows like Anything Goes, SIX, Moulin Rouge, Catch Me If You Can, Footloose and more.
Covenant House offers homeless youth a safe place to live and heal. For those needing life’s basics of food, clothing and shelter, young people can come to Covenant House (611 N. Rampart St.) day or night, and are accepted without question or cost. Raise Your Voice 5 will be presented on Saturday, October 1, at 7:30pm and Sunday, October 2, at 2:00pm. For more information and tickets, go to https://www.rivertowntheaters.com/event/Raise-Your-Voice-5
If you want to see a real-life drag queen, get thee to Café Istanbul where international drag chanteuse Varla Jean Merman shall be kicking off the fall tour of Varla Jean Merman’s Ready to Blow on Friday, September 30, and Saturday, October 1. (UPDATE — Due to an accident, Ms. Merman’s dates will be postponed until after Mardi Gras 2023.)
Varla, who’s virtually as recognizable with a one word moniker as Cher or Madonna, is a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. After the craziest time in memory, the loosest gal in town is at loose ends. What’s a distressed diva to do? Tease her hair, steal someone’s Ativan, and get on with the show, of course! Miss Merman’s all-new show is filled with hilarious songs, dazzling costumes, and more thrills than a panic attack. Doors open at 6:45pm and the show begins promptly at 7:30pm. Tickets are available at https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/5539007
Queens of a different sort can be found in Westwego when Jefferson Performing Arts Society (JPAS) presents Sweet Potato Queens at its Teatro Wego! With music by Melissa (Midnight Blue) Manchester, book by Rupert (The Mystery of Edwin Drood) Holmes, and lyrics by Sharon Vaughn, Sweet Potato Queens tells the story of Jill & her closest friends and how they learn to grab life by the sequins, feathers, and tiaras to live their lives on their own terms.
Based on the successful New York Times best-selling Sweet Potato Queens books by Mississippi-based writer Jill Conner Browne, the musical will be directed by Kiane D. Davis; if Davis directs as well as she performs (earlier this year, I wrote that JPAS’ Shrek “came to full life when Kiane D. Davis, as the fiery Dragon, lit up the stage with her breathtaking rendition of Forever”) then Sweet Potato Queens should be yummy indeed. JPAS encourages you to “Bring Your Boa To This Bawdy and Bodacious, Sweet and Sassy Musical!” which runs September. 16 until October 2. For more info and tickets, go to https://www.jpas.org/performance/sweet-potato-queens/
And for you opera queens, New Orleans Opera gives us a new production of The Barber of Seville set in the antebellum French Quarter. Based on Beaumarchais’ comic play, Rossini’s two act opera buffa, with its madcap plot involving love and mistaken identities, should be well-suited to a New Orleans setting.
Conducted by Emily Senturia and staged by Ned Canty, Barber stars a trio of young up’n’coming opera singers, soprano Raven McMillon as Rosina, tenor Matthew Swensen as Count Almaviva, and baritone John Moore as Figaro. Performances are Friday, September 30, and Sunday, October 2, at the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts. Tickets and more can be found at https://neworleansopera.org/the-barber-of-seville-2022/
Two kings of comedy arrive in New Orleans on September 25 when Steve Martin and Martin Short appear at the Saenger Theatre in their You Won’t Believe What They Look Like Today!, a subversive, but always joyous self-deprecating romp from two comic masters driven to make each other laugh as much as the audience. Mocking Hollywood and the fickle nature of celebrity, the ha-ha-ha’s should truly soar when they lovingly (and relentlessly) roast each other.
Martin and Short’s chemistry and timing on stage reflect a friendship forged over three decades which developed when they first met on the set of the 1986 film Three Amigos. Tickets and other funny stuff at https://www.saengernola.com/shows/steve-martin-and-martin-short
He’s too young to be a King, so let’s just call Ryan Rogers a “Prince” (or “Princess”). Rogers is a New Orleans-based comedian with a full slate of events coming up starting with A Decadent Comedy Weekend at Comedy House Nola (609-610 Fulton St.) on September 3 and 4 which features Heelarious, a drag comedy show hosted by local queen Wontanya Dumpling, and Sunday Funday: A Standup Marathon, with more than 15 comedians taking the stage in what sounds like a comic orgy.
Next, on September 9, Rogers hosts Roast Fantasy League Winners Show, a special showcase also at Comedy House Nola. CHERRY! A Comedy Show About “First Times”, which Rogerscreated, follows on September 13 at Virgin Hotels New Orleans (550 Baronne St.). And every Friday night, Rogers hosts Raw Dog Comedy at the Ugly Dog Saloon (401 Andrew Higgins Blvd.), the only Friday night open-mic comedy show in New Orleans; it also spotlights BIPOC & and LGBTQIA+ talent. Since we can all use a laugh these days, do check him out.
And last but certainly not least, the kings and queens of Aqua Mob, New Orleans’ first and only community-based water ballet ensemble, return with Ripley and the Cat: A Water Ballet Spectacular, an aquatic musical adaptation of Alien. Apparently, under water, no one can hear you scream.
In Aqua Mob’s fifth season production, the crew of the Amazonus is on their way home to Earth when the Bezoos Corporation diverts them on a dangerous mission to investigate alien life. Featuring artistic swimming and a score by local band Big Leather, Ripley and the Cat promises to be an unforgettable story about capitalism, survival, and the true love between a woman and a cat.
Directed by Alayne Gobeille, Ripley and the Cat opens on September 29 and runs until October 8 at The Drifter Hotel (3522 Tulane Avenue). Doors open at 7:30pm, and the show begins at 8:00pm. As I learned the tough way last year, get there early for best seats! Tickets and more info at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/ripley-and-the-cat-a-water-ballet-spectacular-tickets-401634057277