Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Bill Nelson's All Male Revue This Weekend at BSC Stage 2

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The boys are from shows such as Avenue Q and Naked Boys Singing. The music is by some upcoming composers and a lyricist whose topics run from the traditional to the downright daffy. If David Sedaris were musicalized, he’d sound like Bill Nelson! The lyrics are equal parts jaw-dropping, profound and delightful. Join Bill and the guys for a casual, fun evening of fresh, inventive theatre songs. This is more than just another Ladies Night Out. It is for everyone, gay, straight, married, single, anyone who enjoys great songs delivered with a theatrical flair.

(L to R) Claybourne Elder (Sondheim's Road Show), Frank Galgano (Naked Boys Singing) and Howie Michael Smith (Avenue Q).

Bill Nelson's Revue Features a Distinguished Cast of Broadway Singers:

Matt Castle (Sondheim's Company)
Claybourne Elder (Sondheim's Road Show)
Frank Galgano (Naked Boys Singing)
Orville Mendoza (Sondheim's Road Show)
Howie Michael Smith (Avenue Q)

Matt Castle makes ten fingers sound like an orchestra.

Music Direction by is by Matt Castle, one of the best in the business and a familiar pair of hands at The After Party.
Lyrics are by Bill Nelson with Music by various composers including Will Aronson, Rob Broadhurst, Hailey Chang, Vadim Feichtner, Creighton Irons, Anna Jacobs, Dimitri Landrain, Julia Meinwald, Katya Stanislavskaya, and Niko Tsakalakos.

Orville Mendoza never fails to delight his audiences.

There are two performances only, on Friday, July 31 @ 8pm and Saturday, August 1 @ 8pm

The performances are happening at the BSC's Stage 2 which is at 36 Linden Street (one block from North Street) in Pittsfield. All seat are: $15 (general admission) and can be reserved by calling 413.236.888. Or visit the Barrington Stage website.

Berkshire Stonewall Picnic - Wednesday August 5

During the cooler months, the Berkshire Stonewall Community Coalition (BSCC) normally enjoys monthly indoor suppers in Pittsfield to meet new people and catch up on the latest news. During the summer, this is replaced with a Potluck Picnic, and it is coming up this Wednesday, August 5, at the Pittsfield State Forest. It will take place starting at 5:50 PM and continue to about 8:00 PM.

The BSCC will provide beverages, paperware and cutlery, plus hot dogs and hamburgers, plus veggie burgers for those who prefer them. You can bring a main dish, salad, fruit or dessert to share, so this will likely be more than just a picnic, possibly something close to a feast. You are welcome to bring friends, all are welcome.

The picnic will be held rain or shine, the backup being the nearby ski lodge in case our Summer Monsoon continues. The Pittsfield State Forest is located at 1041 Cascade Street, look for the Rainbow Flag and BSCC Banner. You can also call the BSCC Infoline which is 413.822.7268. or visit the Berkshire Stonewall website.

The regular potlucks will resume on Wednesday, September 2 at 7:00 at the UU Church in Pittsfield. You do not have to be a member to attend these events, though most of us are.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Web Site Story

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In this Parody of the musical West Side Story, Twitter, Facebook, Evite, eHarmony, Pandora and other Web favorites all get dragged into the plot. From College Humor this musical satire about social networking can only be described as "so gay". If only Lenny (Bernstein) was alive to enjoy it. OR dish it.

Web Site Story

Monday, July 20, 2009

Burlington Vermont Invites You to Pride Week

Join Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss & leaders of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community to unfurl the Rainbow Flag, a symbol of gay pride, and kick off Burlington’s 27th Anniversary Pride Week!

WHEN: Wednesday, July 22, 4:30 pm
WHERE: Burlington City Hall, 149 Church Street

Celebrate Prideweek, the 40th anniversary of Stonewall, and this historic year of marriage equality in Vermont! To publicly demonstrate support for the LGBT community, the Mayor is hosting Burlington’s 3rd Annual Pride Flag Ceremony.

Along with Mayor Kiss, you’ll hear from Vermont Freedom to Marry's Beth Robinson, Pride Chair Greg Raney, and RU12? Executive Director Kara DeLeonardis.

Following this ceremony, the Rainbow Flag will hang at City Hall, facing Church Street until after this Saturday’s Pride Parade on Church Street (Noon) and Battery Park Festival (1-4pm).

“The gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community is a vital and vibrant part of the city of Burlington, and as Mayor of Burlington I am proud to express our city’s support for all members of our diverse community,” proclaims Mayor Kiss.

Pride is an annual celebration of the LGBT community and a commemoration of the birth of the LGBT movement for equal rights, known as Stonewall.

This year is the 40th anniversary of Stonewall, named after the gay bar in New York City that police raided, as often occurred. But this time the LGBT community fought back. This event is widely recognized across the country and world as the beginning of the ongoing struggle for LGBT civil rights.

This year’s Pride is also a celebration of Marriage Equality in Vermont. Vermont made history this spring in passing a Marriage Equality law without any mandate from the courts and did so in spite of the Governor’s veto. The Pride committee would love to make this year’s Pride the most memorable celebration yet, so please join us to celebrate the LGBT community and equal rights for all.

This event and all Pride events are open to the public. Please visit http://www.pridevt.com for more information.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Dan Bernitt and Homophobia
at Berkshire Fringe Festival

You can Buy the Book too. Dan Bernitt performs Phi Alpha Gamma August 12-16

The Berkshire Fringe Festival has never been afraid to tackle gay and lesbian topics whether plays, monologues or performance art. Not nearly as well known as the Berkshire's four major theatre companies, they present a different kind of theatrical experience, one that is more gritty and probing than their more polished (and mainstream) brethren.

The BFF takes up residence at Daniels Arts Center at Simon's Rock in Great Barrington from July 27 to August 17 this year. There will be six major presentations and many one-shot-only workshops, readings and discussions to get those little grey cells in your head firing. Several of these are of great interest to the LGBTQ community.

Dan Bernitt performs Phi Alpha Gamma August 12-16. Dan is a writer and solo performer as well as a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Since 2004, he has performed his work in festivals across the United States, from Minneapolis and Cape Cod to Cincinnati and New York.

Phi Alpha Gamma deals with an all too familiar subject. Two years after a gay-bashing, how will the fraternity react when a brother comes out of the closet? Using the structure of a Greek tragedy, 'Phi Alpha Gamma' weaves together the voices of four fraternity brothers as they grapple with the remnants of a hate crime and their own fears. This haunting portrait of panic focuses a compassionate eye on the complicated threads of brotherhood embedded in Americana.

Wednesday, August 12 @ 8:00 PM (followed by a post-show discussion)
Thursday, August 13 @ 9:00 PM
Friday, August 14 @ 7:00 PM
Saturday, August 15 @ 9:00 PM
Sunday, August 16 @ 7:00 PM

Dan will also teach a free workshop on Saturday, August 15 @ 1:30 PM about uncovering, discovering, and recovering the stories contained inside the only thing we ever really own: our bodies. Explore stretch marks and scars, broken bones and wrinkles, our hearts and minds and our lives.

Dan Bernitt performs Phi Alpha Gamma August 12-16

Dan lives in New York City, where he is a student of Christopher Shinn in the graduate playwriting program at The New School for Drama. An ENFJ Gemini, Bernitt enjoys kalamata olives, artichoke aioli on focaccia, and Samuel Adams Boston Lager. Never one to shy away from difficult subjects, he was last at the Berkshire Fringe with his solo show Thanks for the Scabies, Jerkface!
"MUST-SEE SHOW ... The fast-paced piece examines masculinity, faith, brotherhood, and love in a college fraternity struggling to deal with two brothers, one an imprisoned gay-basher and the other newly emerged from the closet. Bernitt's savvy script offers few easy answers and plenty of twists that toy with the audience's sympathies."
- Ross Raihala, St. Paul Pioneer Press

"Only in his early twenties ... [Dan Bernitt's] solo piece, Phi Alpha Gamma moved, surprised, and even shocked some Fringegoers. Its harsh portrayal on homophobia and its emotional residue in a college fraternity understands the tragic psychology of homophobia. Hence, it's rendered with anguish, not vindictiveness. ... He's an exciting young writer-performer."
- John Townsend, Lavender Magazine

"One of America's next great monologists."
- Emily Otto, nytheatre.com

For more information on the Berkshire Fringe Festival, you can visit their new website: http://berkshirefringe.org/

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Going to See Brüno? Bring a Barf Bag

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No actual gay guy would ever have made this film.

The likelihood of a decent lesbian or gay film ever playing at the multiplexes in the Berkshires is a million to one. But let a bad gay exploitation movie be offered and every screen within a hundred mies will show it. Go figure.

Supposedly those of us who are made uncomfortable by Brüno’s extravagant incarnation of a silly, retrograde stereotype of gayness are supposed to be relieved and amused to see the panic and confusion he causes in others.

But my question is this: does the movie send up stereotypes or perpetuate them?

Seeing this film in the midst of a straight audience - with all its over the top posing, camping and flouncing - might bring back memories or bum you out, possibly both. If you go, please share your take on the film, and the reaction of those around you in the theatre. This could be instructive.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Don't Miss Broadway Bebe
at the Mahaiwe Saturday, July 11

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Bebe Neuwirth

It's easy to love Bebe Neuwirth. We spent some time talking with her recently and posted the complete interview here on Berkshire Fine Arts where I serve as managing editor and critic.

Neuwirth is, of course, the consummate performer and a friend of the LGBTQ Community as well. It takes guts to stand up and demand marriage equality, and she did just that at the Defying Inequality Fund Raiser in New York this past February. Bebe knows what's right and what's not, whether it is politics or show business.

Her upcoming show will be a real treat for people who love the kinds of songs that express our feelings, our emotions and our lives. She and her music director Scott Cady promise an eclectic blend of music, not just the songs she has sung in her Broadway hits. Of course she has included songs by Kander and Ebb from the musical Chicago. Neuwirth received a Tony Award for her performance of Velma Kelly in that show. But there is music by Tom Waits as well, and old film classics like "As Time Goes By". She has also become fond of the songs made famous by Édith Piaf and is a premiere interpreter of the works of Kurt Weill. Neuwirth also plans to sing the music of such landmark composers as Cole Porter and Stephen Sondheim. Overall, the evening promises to be both sophisticated and playful, the kind in which you place yourself in the hands of a master.

Many remember her as the character Dr. Lilith Sternin , the emotionally repressed psychiatrist who married Dr. Frasier Crane on the hit television series Cheers. Of course there is also the "Broadway Bebe" Neuwirth, an accomplished dancer and vocalist who has won both critical and popular acclaim for her work on stage. Her Broadway credits include A Chorus Line, Sweet Charity, Damn Yankees and the aforementioned 1996 revival of Chicago, for which she won both a Tony and Drama Desk Award as Best Lead Actress in a Musical for her role as showgirl and killer Velma Kelly.

Broadway Bebe returns to the Berkshries

Her Most Outrageous Role - As the Evil Anne Coulter

When we spoke recently, I asked her to tell me how she came to play Anne Coulter on the radio.

So she set the scene. "When Al Franken was on Air America he would do these sort of radio plays, and he decided at one point to have Anne Coulter invited to be on his show. But she would get locked in her dressing room with the heat on," Neuwirth recalled.

Good heavens, Anne Coulter having a meltdown, isn't that special.

"I didn't know if I could do an Anne Coulter impersonation, but he asked me to come in anyway and read her part. So I decided to practice this role, and had to actually listen to her, to get the voice right. They had given me a CD of hers and I would listen and practice."

"But then I would have to turn it off, because at first you start laughing, but then you get furious, and then you get really sad, because you think she's really mentally disturbed. She needs help, because no sane person could say and believe the things she says.

"You wind up thinking this is a very, very toxic person, someone get a doctor!" Oh, my, I responded. "Well don't you think she's cuckoo,?" Bebe asked. I fumbled my response saying she's either cuckoo or she just does it to get everyone buzzing, and doesn't care what people think of her.

"Well, I think that's kind of sick, because what she is buzzing is hate. That's when it becomes a kind of perverted narcissism."

We were both happy that she seems to have lost her grasp on the public's attention now that her kind of politics has been largely discredited.

A book of Addams Family cartoons from The New Yorker Magazine by Charles Addams.

The Addams Family Connection

Turning back to happier subjects. we spoke about her upcoming role as Morticia in a new musical called The Addams Family, based on the New Yorker cartoons by Charles Addams, not the television series. "I'm really excited about this project, it's coming along beautifully. She will share the stage with Nathan Lane as Gomez and a cast of remarkable actors. The new show is slated to debut at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago in the Fall and then go on to Broadway in the Spring of 2010.

So this Saturday is shaping up to be a rare chance to see this great performer do her cabaret show in the intimate setting of the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, MA. Fort icket information call the box office at 413.528.0100 or visit their website, www.mahaiwe.org. Tickets are $55 or $80 for the Golden Circle seats. It's going to be an unforgettable evening.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Rob Ruggiero Talks About Camelot

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Relive the enduring legend of King Arthur (Bradley Dean), Guenevere (Erin Davie), Lancelot (Maxime de Toledo) and the Knights of the Round Table. All Photos by Diane Sobolewski

The director Rob Ruggiero, long active in the Berkshires at Barrington Stage, has been traveling around the country directing plays and musicals. His most recent, um, "straight play" was Looped, which details a day in the life of the outrageous Tallulah Bankhead with Valerie Harper. (See our earlier story with videos here.

Now his new production of Camelot, the Lerner and Loewe classic musical about King Arthur, Sir Lancelot and Guenivere is about to open at the little Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Connecticut. Rob and I have been trying to get together for a face to face conversation about it (he lives in Hartford) but our schedules have not meshed. But I Rob is no slouch, and has answered all of my questions by asking them himself, so here they are.

CAMELOT, an enchanting fable of chivalry, honor and brotherhood with King Arthur (Bradley Dean, center) and the Knights of the Round table (l to r Maxime de Toledo, Allan Snyder, Brandon Andrus)

What is your vision for Camelot?

The challenges of Camelot are simultaneously thrilling and (I must admit) a bit intimidating. Some might argue that Lerner and Lowe have taken on one of the most powerful and ambitious themes in the history of musical theater: the Legend of King Arthur and his vision for a “new order,” a political ideal called Camelot. It is my hope that this production of Camelot will distinguish itself from other productions by staying focused on the complex and layered relationships of King Arthur, Guenevere, and Lancelot rather than trying to articulate some epic idea that might swallow up those relationships in spectacle and theatricality.

It is in the articulation of the humanity of these characters that can bring about a real connection to the larger story, and affect us on a more personal level. The dramatic impact of intense love, friendship, betrayal, honor, commitment, and sacrifice are very provocative and potent themes to manage, especially in a musical. But Camelot is full of really wonderful writing, sophisticated conflicts, beautiful music, and universal themes which audiences find very appealing. There is nothing better than a musical that both entertains and challenges us emotionally and intellectually. Needless to say, I am very excited about how our cast and creative team will be approaching this timeless musical.

In her book Home: A Memoir of My Early Years, Julie Andrews wrote some very inspiring and insightful
thoughts on the creation of Camelot:

“Like an exquisite tapestry that captures the heart of anyone who gazes upon it, Camelot cast its mantle over us all, binding and enfolding craftsmen, actors, musicians, technicians. There is an indefinable, indelible, aura about the show that sprang from the book and its important themes of chivalry, honor, love, idealism, and hope.”

This memory and these thoughts live in me as a reminder and a constant inspiration while working on this production here at Goodspeed.

Dazzling and spellbinding, Goodspeed's CAMELOT will enchant with Erin Davie as Guenevere, Maxime de Toledo as Lancelot (left) and Knights of the Round Table Allan Snyder and Brandon Andrus (kneeling).

Why do you think audiences will enjoy the show?

At the end of Act One, Arthur contemplates a very critical and burning question:

“Can passion be selected?”

I think Goodspeed audiences will connect with this Camelot for many reasons, starting with the power of the love story itself. The intense passion of this unique love triangle is both incredibly moving and inspiring. It is the integrity of these three characters that will allow audiences to empathize with their story. The larger message of Camelot also especially rings true in the current political climate. The power of hope for our future, and the idea that real vision can survive in the wake of fear and doubt is one that has inspired audiences for decades. Many of us remember the Kennedy “Camelot,” and how it came to symbolize his work and his presidency. This has now re-emerged with the current administration. The unforgettable words of Camelot continue to live in our hearts forever:

“Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment, that was known as Camelot.”

It’s a story that is truly timeless - a story for all ages, and one that has endured the true test of time. It is this unique love story as well as its incredibly captivating book and musical numbers, which will hopefully make this production a very compelling and unforgettable evening in the theater.

Experience one brief and shining moment that was Camelot with Bradley Dean as King Arthur and Erin Davie as Guenevere.

Tell us about the cast – how you chose them and what the audience can expect to see.

Classically, the role of Arthur always ends up being portrayed by an older actor. However, I really wanted to cast the production more in the spirit of the original production (and the original story itself) in which Arthur, Lancelot and Guenevere are presented as contemporaries. I feel this will not only strengthen the power of the story and our production, but also honor the spirit of the legend more accurately. These are very challenging roles to cast, and I am delighted we have secured the talents of some really wonderful actors.

Bradley Dean brings a passionate edge to Arthur - a depth and many unique colors that I feel will make his interpretation of this classic role very special indeed. Broadway veteran Erin Davie’s Guenevere will be refined, well-bred, intelligent, fun and distinct – both reflective of the signature essence Julie Andrews brought to the role, but also uniquely her own. Maxime de Toledo was born and raised in France, so he brings an authenticity and sensuality to Lancelot that I think cannot help but charm and impress our audiences. In addition, Ronn Carroll (who was delightful as Ben Franklin in our production of 1776) will bring his impressive comic abilities and great heart to the role of Pellinore. These fine performers along with an incredibly strong ensemble make up our production of Camelot. I continue to feel very fortunate to be able to collaborate with the level of talent offered by each cast, our designers, theater artisans, and technical staff here at Goodspeed Musicals. Truly some of the best in the country.

Goodspeed Musicals
6 Main Street
East Haddam, CT
Box Office: 860.873.8668
Online www.goodspeed.org

Friday, July 3, 2009

Shirley Jones July 6 Concert Cancelled

Late Saturday afternoon word came that the historic Shirley Jones concert slated for Monday evening, July 6 at the Barrington Stage Company was cancelled due to the singer having vertigo and being unable to fly at this time. Ticket buyers will have their purchases refunded, and there is no word as to whether the concert will be rescheduled.

This news came as a great disappointment to many of her Berkshire fans who had looked forward to seeing her on stage, on the set of Carousel.