Thursday, May 28, 2009

Three Fabulous, Campy Shows Arrive in Berkshires June 4-6

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Forbidden Broadway spoofs the great musicals. Can you name all the shows in this composite photo lineup?

While it may still be pre-season for most folks in the Berkshires, the GLBTQ community is about to enjoy the most exciting weekend of 2009. From June 4-7 both Great Barrington's Mahaiwe and Pittsfield's Colonial Theatres will host shows for lovers of camp, satire and just plain naughty fun.

They are Forbidden Broadway and Bjorn Again, the ABBA Tribute Show at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center. and The Producers at the Colonial Theatre. Let's take them in chronological order.

The Producers celebrates Springtime for Hitler. Seen here is the Berlin Company.

The Producers actually arrives at the Colonial on Thursday, June 4 at 7:30 for four performances, including Friday at 8:00 and Saturday at 3:00 and 8:00. You can read a campy preview of this show on the Arts America Blog. There are some great looking cast pictures there, too.

The music and era of ABBA is lovingly skewered.

On Friday, June 5 at 8:00, The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center will present Bjorn Again, the world's greatest ABBA tribute band. Bjorn Again is one of Australia’s greatest musical exports and the most successful tribute band of all time. They’re so successful that their longevity trumps that of the original ABBA and there are five Bjorn Again troupes performing around the world.  Playing on the name of original ABBA member Bjorn Ulvaeus, Bjorn Again first performed their light-hearted send-up of ABBA at The Tote, a small pub in Melbourne in 1989.

Faithful to ABBA’s music and humorous in their portrayal of the original ABBA members, the group sings magnificently, dresses in campy mid-70s and early 80s garb, and speaks to one another and the audience in faux-Swedish accents. Long-time ABBA session musicians Rutger Sonofagunn (bass guitar) and Ola Drumkitt (drums) round out the group.

Forbidden Broadway lampoons both The Lion King and Avenue Q.

Then on Saturday, June 6 at 8:00 the pièce de résistance the ultimate vampy, campy send up of all things musical and theatrical, Forbidden Broadway. Despite its irreverent approach to Broadway, it has garnered a Tony itself.

Written and directed by Gerard Alessandrini and Phillip George, Forbidden Broadway shows no mercy to the best and worst show tunes, characters and plots from current productions.  No one escapes the shows sharp wit, from Broadway actors and writers to composers, directors, choreographers, and producers. With its intoxicatingly funny lines and entertaining references to old favorites, the show is a pleasure for anyone who enjoys musical comedy—whether they are up on the latest Broadway shows or not.

Alessandrini has stated that he takes pleasure in spoofing serious and substantial shows like Spring Awakening (whose composer, Duncan Sheik, played The Mahaiwe last year) and the works of Stephen Sondheim.


The Mahaiwe is located in historic downtown Great Barrington, MA, at 14 Castle Street, across from Town Hall. Tickets are available for Bjorn Again and Forbidden Broadway, online at and through the Mahaiwe Box Office at 413-528-0100. Members of “Friends of the Mahaiwe” receive $5.00 discounts per ticket. Both shows are reserved seating: $45 ($40 for members) or $30 limited balcony. The Mahaiwe Box Office is open Wednesday through Saturday from noon to 6pm and three hours prior to all show times.


For The Producers, dates include: June 4 at 7:30PM, June 5th at 8PM and June 6th at 3PM and 8PM. Tickets for the performance are $25-45 and can be purchased in person at the Colonial Ticket Office at 111 South Street Monday-Friday 10AM-5PM, performance Saturdays 10AM-2PM, by calling (413) 997-4444 or online at

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sotomayor Supreme Court Nomination and Gay Marriage

Incoming and outgoing.
A single vote decides most issues.

Choosing Sonia Sotomayor, a woman of Puerto Rican descent who was raised in the projects of New York is a bold Supreme Court nomination by President Obama. She would be the nation's first Hispanic justice, and interestingly, would be the sixth Supreme Court judge with a Roman Catholic background. That may get in her in trouble if right-wing groups like the Catholic League jump down her throat and call her anti-Catholic. You know they will if they detect that she might uphold a woman's right to choose, or be sympathetic to LGBT issues. Even though she is the embodiement of the American Dream, the back room talk from the bigots and their defenders suggests we are going to hear a lot about gay marriage in the coming battle for her confirmation.

Two anti-gay conservative organizations are preparing for pitched battle to prevent a triple threat like her from ascending the marble steps up to the Supreme Court. The first is the so-called Judicial Confirmation Network which says: "She thinks that judges should dictate policy and that one’s sex, race and ethnicity ought to affect the decisions one renders from the bench." Spokesperson Wendy Long added, "Judge Sotomayor is a liberal activist of the first order who thinks her own personal political agenda is more important than the law as written."

A step up from the projects.


In decades past, the abortion issue was the primary battleground, though affirmative action often came close to being even more divisive. That was last Century. “Abortion is in some sense a stale issue that has been fought over many times, but gay marriage is very much up for grabs,” said Curt Levey, executive director of the Committee for Justice, a legal group. “Gay marriage will be bigger than abortion.” So the naysayers will focus on her ruling in a New Haven affirmative action case or on how she might rule on same-sex marriage.

Boston's gay newspaper of record, Bay Windows had an interesting take on her history, and included this personal quote:

Long-time gay legal activist Paula Ettelbrick said she met Sotomayor in about 1991 when they both served on then-New York Governor Mario Cuomo's advisory committee on fighting bias.

"Nobody wanted to talk to the queer person at that time," said Ettelbrick, who represented Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. "She was the only one [on the advisory committee] who made a point to come over and introduce herself. She was totally interested [in gay civil rights issues] and supportive."

"From everything I know, Judge Sotomayor is an outstanding choice - fair and aware, open and judicious," said Evan Wolfson, head of the national Freedom to Marry organization. "I believe she has the demonstrated commitment to principles of equal protection and inclusion that defines a good nominee to the Supreme Court. In choosing Judge Sotomayor, the first Latino candidate for the Supreme Court, President Obama has made a strong and appealing nomination that should and will receive the supportof those committed to equality for lesbians and gay men."

And gay marriage is not even on the Supreme Court docket. It's going to be a nasty battle, and let's hope that it doesn't scare the right leaning Dixie Democrats into voting against her.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

"Easy Virtue" - Another Great Film We Won't See at the Mall

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Jessica Biel is the picture of patience while she and costar Ben Barnes gets prepped for a scene in their period piece, Easy Virtue

I am here to rave about Stephen Elliott's Easy Vitue, a sparkling movie that recalls his fizzy style that made his 1994 film, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert so hilarious. The new film is based on a 1924 Noel Coward play that attacks the hypocrisy, smugness and high brow values of the English landed gentry wen they meet a down to earth American woman. But it won't be playing around here.

If you love films that have sly humor, clever characters and reflect a more subtle and meaningful view of life, well, put this film in your queue on Netflix. We can also hope that it might eventually play the Images Theatre in Williamstown or, even less likely, the Triplex in Great Barrington. You know it will never be at the Berkshire Mall or North Adams Multiplex. Popular taste can be so stultifying.

Yes, I am perturbed that there is little likelihood of seeing Easy Virtue - which opens in New York this week - on a Big Berkshire Screen. First we really don't have any big screens in daily use, though thank goodness for the Colonial and Mahaiwe theatres when they do show films. And second, the cinema fare around here is abysmal, playing the commercial Hollywood fare in little dark boxes that are not even soundproofed. All too often we can hear two movies at once.

If you enjoy all those bang-bang-boom! movies that pass for entertainment, head for the multiplex this weekend. There is a new Terminator out that is destined to be a Dolby Digital sound test, and our local movie places will fail it miserably. Still, I am sure it will attract quite a big audience.

Instead, my friend Gail and I will tavel away from the Berkshires tonight to Cambridge, NY to see Noel Coward's Present Laughter done by the modest but talented company that keeps Hubbard Hall busy and inviting. Then tomorrow we will head south to Stockbridge and the Berkshire Theatre Festival to see Faith Healer, and Sunday to Pittsfield's Barrington Stage to enjoy Poolside at the Hotel Bel Air. Thank god for live theatre which remembers that the human mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Will "Glee" Attract the GLBTQ Audience?

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It is always fascinating to see what programming attracts us to watch. The new series titled Glee on Fox seems to have done just that. My sense is that a show about our high school years, one that makes winners out of losers, strikes a chord with most of us. After all, high school is a lot like the bar scene, one in which only a select few achieve high popularity and real success.




The creators of Glee know what they are doing. Here's how they describe its creation: "From Ryan Murphy, the creator of "Nip/Tuck" and "Popular," comes Glee, a one-hour musical comedy (um, guys that is more like 43 minutes, with 17 minutes of commercials!) that follows an optimistic high school teacher as he tries to transform the Glee Club and inspire a group of ragtag performers to make it to the biggest competition of all: Nationals. Will Schuester, a young optimistic teacher, has offered to take on the Herculean task of restoring McKinley's Glee Club to its former glory. Everyone around him thinks he's nuts. He's out to prove them all wrong." Bla bla bla.




You can see the pilot episode over at the Fox website and right now it is at the top of their offerings. I can hardly wait for Fall to see if the series holds our interest week after week. The kids are cute and lovable, the music is upbeat and the characters are all too familiar. Who knows, it might be a winner.




Oh, and one more thing. It is on one of the Fox channels, and if you are like me, you may block them from your cable or satellite selections along with the homophobic religious broadcasters in order not to be dissed constantly. I have to manually program this back in to see it.

Yeah, I am touchy about that stuff.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Third Thursday in Pittsfield - Fun, Entertainment, Information

Pittsfield and the Berkshires continue to be a gay welcoming region, though sometimes the GLBTQ community is not too visible. That's why it would be great to come out for the new series of Third Thursdays which - in my view - kicks off "the season" in the Berkshires.

This Thursday, May 21 at THIRD THURSDAY IN PITTSFIELD. the Berkshire Stonewall Community Coalition will join other organizations staffing display/information tables in the small park on the west side of North Street near the Regional Transportation Center on Columbus Avenue.

Stop by to say hello, see what’s new, and pick up information for yourself or someone who needs support. And don't stop there. There will be a great deal to see and do all evening long, starting at 5:00. Look at the back of any Third Thursday flyer for a complete rundown.

And if you would like to know a little about the woman behind this great series of events (and she will be the first to tell you that it takes a community to make a great party like this!) you might drop by Berkshire Fine Arts for a profile of Megan Whilden, the Director of Cultural Development for Pittsfield. While you are at BFA you could also look at my Preview and Guide to all things artsy and cultural in the next couple of weeks, plus the humongous plans for a summer of amazing arts happenings in North Adams, titled Down Street Art.

Third Thursday has been a success because it has helped increase Pittsfield business during the event and beyond.

"Every single one of them have benefited, including restaurants," said Downtown Inc. Executive Director Yvonne Pearson. "Third Thursday has also created awareness that (North Street) is a safe place to be."

There will be five more events this year. Live music, street performers, and food and craft vendors join with the established merchants to attract thousands of people every third Thursday from May to October. Not only does it boost the local economy but it also brings all segments of the community together.


There is the big deal Mass MoCA 10th Annivsary Gala Saturday but at $100 a head - and mostly the "in crowd" that goes to such things - but none of my friends will be there. I've attended dozens of these sorts of soirees over the decades and find most of them can be dreadful bores, the usual suspects nattering in little cliques. (Dishes are going to fly over that comment!)

Rather I would choose either the Barrington Stage's "staged reading" of Poolside at the Hotel Bel Air at Stage II, The Paul Taylor Dance Company at the Mahaiwe, or the opening of Faith Healer at the Berkshire Theatre Festival's Unicorn Theatre.


Friday, May 22. HIKE. 6:30 pm. Meet at Kennedy Park parking lot, West Dugway Road, Lenox (north of the Arcadian Shop). All are welcome.

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Grey Gardens Available for Summer Rental

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Grey Gardens - Before

Grey Gardens - After

New York Magazine's Intel blog has reported that Grey Gardens, the famous East Hampton manse of the Bouvier-Beals, is for rent. "Little" Edie, the cousin and "Big" Edie, the aunt of Jacqueline Kennedy became famous cult figures once their strange life and surroundings were documented by the Maysles brothers documentary of the same name. After "Big Edie" passed away, "Little Edie" sold the run down, unspeakably filthy house to Sally Quinn and Washinton Post Editor, Ben Bradlee. They spent a year and a small fortune fixing it up and making it habitable again. Even so, it is reported, the smell of cat urine can be had on humid days.

You can rent this now famous dune shack for $30,000 which will give you bragging rights from August 28 to Labor Day. However, no pets are allowed.

The Beals and the Maysles

The story of Grey Gardens was first told in the documentary, followed by the Broadway musical, now running in various cities around the country, including Boston, where I saw and reviewed it for Berkshire Fine Arts.

The interior has been beautifully restored.

For this blog entry I had hoped to talk more about the cast members, especially Aimee Doherty who played the young Edie in Act One and the blushingly handsome R. Patrick Ryan who portrayed both Joe Kennedy and "Jerry". However, we are still awaiting replies from the Lyric Stage PR person.

For anyone who has seen the musical, this room will be familiar.

It is a lot of money for ten days rental, which comes to about $3,000 a day, but it has 7 bedrooms, a pool and tennis court, and the cachet that comes from being the most fabled house in America. If fifteen people kicked in a share it would cost only $2,000 a head. Almost affordable. And the bragging rights?


Friday, May 15, 2009

Sunday in New York with Marriage Activists? Perfect!

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Andrew Keenan-Bolger

Among our messages this morning was one from Andrew Keenan-Bolger. A special "heads-up" for our New York readers - time to put on those marching boots and join the Marriage equality folks in a high visibility gathering in Manhattan. Andrew is in Chicago. I am in the Berkshires. But we are totally in solidarity with our show business sisters and brothers who are going to make this rally one of the most enjoyable and effective to date!

Tomorrow is Andrew's birthday - he will become a grizzled patriarch of 24. But this guy is a star on the rise, still available for ingenue roles. He's currently in Chicago in the company of Mary Poppins at the Palace Theatre. It's a great show based on the famous movie.

Sunday is the Action=Marriage Equality Rally in NYC

Thursday, May 14, 2009

NH Governor Lynch to Sign Gay Marriage Bill

New Hampshire Governor John Lynch

New Hampshire will be the sixth state to legalize gay marriage. Governor John Lynch has promised to sign the bill - with some minor revisions - when it is sent to his desk. Lynch agreed provided the already-approved legislation would be revised to better protect churches and their employees against lawsuits if their beliefs preclude them from marrying gays. Gay marriage supporters said they do not object. There is no movement to force churches to marry gays, it is a ridiculous fear.

In explaining his intentions (Lynch is a Roman Catholic) the Democratic Governor said: "New Hampshire's great tradition has always been to come down on the side of individual liberties and protections."

It is a very odd situation, since Lynch has consistently been against gay marriage. He likes to say that he sees the issue through a broader lens, one of civil liberties.

Senate President Sylvia Larsen and House Speaker Terie Norelli predicted the New Hampshire Legislature would act quickly to make the changes, likely next week. The bills primary sponsor, state Representative James Splaine was happy that the Governor stands for marriage equality.

Lynch is not without his detractors, primary among them that glorious piece of Republican morality, John H. Sununu who let loose with the best he could muster: "Once agan the Governor is against something and for it at the same time." The few remaining gay marriage opponents in the state dredged up the same old arguments but without much enthusiasm.

The deal is done.

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Saturday, May 9, 2009

Kate Clinton: Thoughts on Mothers Day

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Kate Clinton is feisty, funny and fabulous

Kate Clinton has a weekly vlog on her website and this week her two and a half minutes of seriousness were particularly touching as she spoke for all mothers and children. You have to go to her website to watch it, and if you have not yet bookmarked it, now is a good time to do it. (You have bookmarked Gay Berkshires, right?)

Kate Clinton's website is always worth a leisurely visit.

Clinton Reunion.

All About Kate:

Kate Clinton is a faith-based, tax-paying, America-loving political humorist and family entertainer. She has worked through economic booms and busts, Disneyfication and Walmartization, gay movements and gay markets, lesbian chic and queer eyes, and ten presidential inaugurals. She still believes that humor gets us through peacetime, wartime and scoundrel time.

She has a new book, I Told You So which is due out soon. More on that later.

Kate and the gang at an Empire State Pride Agenda event, including Carson Kressley, Kate, Alan Cumming, Mario Cantone, Jimmy Fallon and Randy Harrison.

Here are a few of her upcoming appearances around the country. She will be coming to Western Massachusetts (Chicopee) in June and we will follow up with details and further information later. Even so, I sure wish our local GLBTQ community was bigger so we could justify bringing her to the Berkshires to the Colonial or Mass MoCA. She is also popular with the "straight but not narrow" crowd, too as her P-Town appearances regularly draw a diverse audience.

San Antonio Texas
Equality Texas

Crown and Anchor

Cambridge, MA
Brattle Theater
I Told You So reading
hosted by The Center For New Words

New York City, NY
Lambda Literary Awards
(International Book Fair is in New York this weekend)

San Francisco, CA
NCLR's 2008 Anniversary Celebration
Westin St. Francis
Ticket info:

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Willy Wanker and the Hershey Highway - Reviewed

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Three Wankers (l to r) Gene Wilder, Johnny Depp and Ryan Landry.

For the theatre-goer with a gay sensibility, there has never been a better time to make tracks for Boston, especially in the few weeks before the Berkshires become the destination of choice. Right now, there is more on tap than there has been in years. One production in particular tops that list - Ryan Landry's outrageous Willie Wanker & The Hershey Highway. It is playing at Machine which is located in the basement of 1254 Boylston Street, Boston, in the shadow of Fenway Park.

Landry and his Gold Dust Orphans have been at this for a while, spoofing one classic play or movie after another, stretching back for years. Who can forget The Plexiglass Menagerie or Silent Night of the Lambs? Willie Wanker is, of course based on Ronald Dahl's classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory . Willie Wonka has two screen versions, one of which starred Gene Wilder, the other Johnny Depp.

The story remains relatively intact, though much has changed in the transition from the screen to the miniscule stage at Machine. And it is from this tiny playing space that some real miracles take place. The story, the setting and the five children with their five golden tickets are all there. The forbidden chocolate factory is opened to them, but in addition to entering a world of candy treats they also receive a hefty portion of the bawdy naughtiness that are Landry and company's speciality.

Charlie and Willie (Megan Love and Ryan Landry)

The Gold Dust Orphans create a totally different Willie Wanker. It's one that is the stuff of nightmares, provided that your deep sleep horrors include song and dance, giant bubble butts and robots programmed to assume "the position" for each other. Of course the hero of the adventure is the innocent and pure Charlie Bucket, magnificently played in drag by Megan Love and who everyone in the audience immediately fell in love with. Grandpa Joe is still a kindly gentleman, fortunate to rediscover his sex drive half way through Act II.

Augustus and Mrs. Gloop (Miss Kris and Neil Graham) are brilliantly parodied German Nazis, as are the spoiled and bratty Veruca Salt (Penny Champayne) and her doting parents (the delightful William York and Barbara Lee Ford). They are joined in their adventure into the Candy Factory by potty mouthed Violet Beauregard and her father (Liza Lott and Chris Loftus) and the Teevees, video game freak Mike and his mother (Gene Dante and Olive Another.)

Landry single handedly proves that big things can squeeze into small spaces, and his company of almost two dozen utilized not only the stage and its wings, but created playing spaces to the sides for Charlie's home and the Candy Factory facade. The chorus consisted of Libbie McHugh Pilsch, Naughty Ned, Bananas Foster, JP Licks and Rosalie Norris.

The Cocoa Cuties - sort of a Supremes-style Greek Chorus (we won't go there) - were three of the following four singers: Afrodite, Robin Smith, Claire Philippe and Samantha Brior Jones. They were nothing short of amazing. While no acting resumes were given, the Gold Dust Orphans consist of a core group of regulars, plus fresh new faces who volunteer for each show. Certainly, those of us on Facebook saw many of Ryan's posts for casting help which was surprisingly effective.

Ryan Landry is the major reason to see this show, and as Willie Wanker, he does what some people thought impossible - remains out of sight until the second act, building up the audience's anticipation of his arrival, and of course, saving the best for last. In this show his casting is so good, his technical support so excellent that instead of just him shining, the whole production glows like a jewel. Considering the fact that a company of itinerant actors and artists like this have a tough time trying to raise funds through traditional Cutural Councils, Foundations and Corporations, his company is remarkable for its survival skills.

The Golden Ticket Winners with Willie Wanker

The costumes and sets would be the envy of any Mickey and Judy show, the writing is far more intricate than a Beckett play, and the music easily surpasses that heard on any Clear Channel radio station. Splashy, trashy and possibly even nasty at times, the show never failed to hold the audiences attention. The high kicking, dancing, flag twirling Nazis give the dancing Ku Klux Klan of Jerry Springer: The Opera at SpeakEasy Theatre a run for their money.

There is probably no other show that will give you the laughter, the merriment, the good natured fun of Willie Wanker and leave you feeling totally refreshed and cleansed of all worries. For even the naughty parts are good for you. Walk, skip, jump, fly, swim or hip hop to this magnificent little treat while there are tickets left. Do not dither, debate or delay.

For tickets visit their website:

It plays for just three more weekends, through May 24, on Friday and Saturday at 8 and Sunday afternoons at 4. It will move on to the Crown and Anchor in Provincetown - with adjustments no doubt - to take up residence on the Cape for the summer. It is the sort of show that can be seen more than once.

Rating: 4 Stars. (Worth A Special Trip)

Cabaret Singer Brandon Cutrell Up Close and Personal

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It was like taking a bite out of the Big Apple. This past Friday there was a smart, totally sophisticated and entertaining open mic cabaret hosted by Brandon Cutrell at Tayor's Restaurant in North Adams. This rare event, with arguably the best known host of cabaret in Manhattan brought out the Berkshire's equally smart and sophisticated college and twenty-something set who dined, dished and participated with elan and bountiful talent.

Brian and I spoke before the event, and he was very excited about some of the local singers who were going to perform. "I'm really looking forward to this," he said. "Jonathan Secor (who runs the MCLA Presents! program) has some of the MCLA alum returning for this event, and I can't wait to see Katie Johnson again."

Colleen Taylor (owner of Taylor's), Jonathan Secor (Director of MCLA Special Programs), Jess Conzo (Program coordinator of BCRC) and Brandon Cutrell at MCLA Presents! "A Night at the Cabaret" on May 1, 2009. Photo courtesy of MCLA Berkshire Resource Center.

More photos of the event are in this Flikr photo album.

Brandon generously shared the mic, singing only three songs himself, and letting the talented Berkshires crowd all have a turn. Kate sang several songs to increasingly enthusiastic applause, bringing the evening to its high point with a fabulous rendition of "When You're Good to Mama" from the musical Chicago. Queen Latifah has competition.

Sharon McKnight as Sophie Tucker

Katie's rendition reminded me of the brilliant Sharon McKnight when she discovered the Sophie Tucker songbook. Like Kate, Sharon is a voluptuous singer with a bullhorn of a voice, polished to perfecton. It's worth a visit to Sharon's website to discover the unusual repertoire this actress and singer has developed. She used to appear every summer at the Crown and Anchor in Provincetown, but seems to have moved on to other venues, the entertainment there now more skewed towards lesbian comedians and Ryan Landry's gay satires on famous movies. (Willie Wanker and the Hershey Highway will be there this summer. It is currently on stage until May 24 in Boston at Machine in the basement of the Ramrod.)

Anyway, there was some worry as to whether even Cutrell and an open mike program could fill the main dining room at Taylors, but there was not a seat left to be had, and chairs were brought out from the back to accommodate the crowd. John Barrettt, North Adams' Mayor also helped arrange for a slightly later closing for the restaurant to enable the show to continue after normal dining hours.

This was Brandon's inaugural trip to the Berkshires, and when we first spoke, he was a bit unsure what to expect. At the end of the cabaret Brandon was bemoaning the fact that he had to leave - both the crowd and the environment were very amenable to him. During the show he asked if there were any drag queens present, and when none announced themselves, he promised to bring some to the Berkshires so we could all see one.

The Nancy LaMott Connection

Nancy LaMott (above) changed the course of Brandon Cutrell's career.

I had a little "shop talk" with Brandon just before the performance, and discovered some interesting things about him. I asked him if he was familiar with Nancy LaMott, probably the greatest singer of American Popular Standards of her generation. She was on the verge of stardom when she was struck down, at the age of 43, by Uterine Cancer. "I am in cabaret because of Nancy," he gushed, "I was studying opera at Indiana University, in my second year, and it was a lightbulb moment. For the first time I heard someone connect me to a lyric in a way I had never heard before."

"I wanted to learn how to do that, so I immediately transitioned from opera at Indiana University to theatre studies at the University of Cincinnati's College Conservatory of Music (CCM). I finally saw her at Tavern on the Green in March of '95. She died in December of that year." We gossiped a bit about the battle over LaMott's recordings and rights with her estate and publisher and are happy that despite the unfortunate squabbles, her work is still available.

I wondered about how his own self-titled album was doing, and it turns out it is in its second printing, which is excellent in the rarified cabaret world. "I've been told that whenever I want to do a second CD that the studio time is available. All I have to do is decide what I want to sing next."

So, you may ask, just what is cabaret exactly? To me it is a very personal style of singing, one to one, and I broached the question to Brandon. "To me it is a theatrical art form where anything is possible. The joy of cabaret is that it can be anything you want it to be. It can be about music, or about lyrics, or simply the spoken word. The important thing is that it speaks very directly from the performer to the person listening."

The Randy Harrison Connection

Randy Harrison (above) and Brandon Cutrell attended school (CCM) together

I confessed to Brandon that I heard very little gossip about him, and encouraged him to share. Relationship? "Very involved," he said, "I have a wonderful boyfriend, Robert, who is an actor. He's shooting a film in New York on Friday, so I don't know if he will make it." Turns out he did, and Bob is also a magnificent singer!

I asked him if there was any theatre in his future, that "out" actors like Randy Harrison, Richard Chamberlain (both regulars at the Berkshire Theatre Festival) and Chad Allen (TheatreWorks in Hartford) are quite special to many of us in the Berkshires. "Not me, I'm pretty booked, but I hear Randy is performing again in the Berkshires this summer, In Ibsen's Ghosts. Randy and I went to school together. We were both on a musical theatre track, he's quite a wonderful singer."

"True enough," I said, "but he seems to have focused on straight acting, if you will pardon the expression, rather than musicals, or more body-beautiful TV roles. He has become a very serious actor. I interviewed him last summer and he was so immersed in Waiting for Godot that we didn't talk about the gay aspect at all. He is fully dedicated to honing his craft. To me Harrison is one brilliant and unbelievably intense actor."

"Too intense," said Brandon, "and you can tell him I said so, though he has certainly proven that hard work pays off."

MCLA Presents! stage manager Brinn Kingsley with Brandon Cutrell. Photo Courtesy MCLA Berkshire Cultural Resource Center.

Brandon and a pal at The After Party.

This was the first Friday that Brandon wasn't at The After Party, Manhattan's delightful showtune-jazz-cabaret happening hosted by him. If you are in New York it should not be missed. He also hosts a show every Wednesday evening at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Villiage. (Yes, that Stonewall.) And June 22 Brandon returns to Fire Island for his Monday evening Cherry Grove fun-fests, Broadway at the Beach. We contrasted Provincetown and Fire Island, and both agreed that arriving there each season is a lot like going home. You can get the details on Brandon's website. He even has a song on his CD about Fire Island which celebrates this unique gay destination.

His visit to the Berkshires was a wonderful addition to our cultural events. Let's hope that someone invites him back again to let us hear him really show off his voice with an evening of Brandon Cutrell classics.