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Archive for May, 2012

Local Theater Spotlight: ‘Memphis’

Original Broadway cast members Montego Glover and Chad Kimball in “Memphis.” Photo credit: Joan Marcus

I’ve never been a comic book junkie but when it comes to theater I’ve always had my own personal Fantastic Four. “Rent.” “Chicago.” “Dreamgirls.” “Wicked.”  I’ve seen a lot of theater over the past several years. A LOT of theater. Most of it pretty good. But it’s never gotten better than those four for me. That is until I saw “Memphis” at the Ohio Theatre last night.

In Columbus on it’s Braodway tour until June 3, Joe DiPietro and David Bryan’s “Memphis,”  the story of radio DJ Huey Calhoun’s rise and fall from fame as the first white DJ to play “race music” in the 1950s,  is hands down the best musical I’ve ever seen.

The show opens with Calhoun (Bryan Fenkart) happening into a blue’s club and falling head over heels with the music and the club’s lead singer, Felicia (Felicia Boswell). Huey and Felicia’s love story takes a bumpy ride through history, all the while Huey uses his DJ career to promote the “Music of [His] Soul,” placing him and local R&B artists on the front lines of fame and racism in 1950s Memphis, Tennessee.

I have to admit I had s0me doubts going in. This 2010 Tony Award winner for Best Musical has a synopsis that reads like an unintentionally racist headline. “White man saves black music.” But much ado is given to the true originators of rock ‘n’ roll, the black southern blues musicians of the time period. And there’s no denying the stellar talent, music and choreography that makes this show breathtaking.

It’s been circulating among critics that the “Memphis” tour is even better than the Broadway original. And after perusing a dozen or so YouTube videos, I’m inclined to agree.

The ensemble is replete with powerhouse vocalists, led by Bryan Fenkart and Felicia Boswell as star-crossed music lovers Huey and Felicia. Fenkart is charming in the bumbling idiocy of Huey, a poor kid who happens upon local fame. It’s his astounding vocal range and wide-eyed wonderment that keeps the show endearing. And Boswell is a ball of fierce tenacity that you can’t keep your eyes off of. Her first-act aria, “Colored Woman,” not only steals the show, but your heart as well.

Supporting players Quentin Earl Darrington (Delray, Felicia’s overprotective club-owner brother), Rhett George (Gator, “Delray’s” breakout bartender) and Will Mann (Bobby, radio station janitor turned Calhoun’s crowning co-host) also showed vocal prowess, especially George, who had much of the audience in tears after his leading moment in act-one closer “Say a Prayer.”

It’s the Tony-winning score, however, that makes “Memphis” a true delight. Blues, jazz, gospel and rock ‘n’ roll are all rolled into a host of feel good inspirational tunes. It definitely feels a lot like the message of “Hairspray” mixed with the soul of “Dreamgirls,” but keeps the energy at a high-octane level throughout.

Paul Tazewell’s Tony Award nominated costumes light up the stage with a distinct period finesse, while David Gallo (scenic design), Howell Binkley (lighting design) and Ken Travis (sound design) create a powerful audio visual experience that is goosebumps-inducing all its own.

If “Memphis” comes through your town, or anywhere near your town, you must indulge. It was this season’s must-see tour and you need to believe the hype.

“Memphis” runs at Ohio Theatre through June 3. Tickets start at $28. For more information visit www.ticketmaster.com.

Queer Minded #10: GAY IN THE WORKPLACE

Queer Minded is a new online talk radio show that I host featuring local and national LGBT news and entertainment. Airing Fridays at 10 p.m. and podcasted at TalktainmentRadio.com! Visit Queer Minded on FacebookTwitter and YouTube

This week Queer Minded took on the topic of being openly gay in the workplace.

We spoke with Diane Millett, lawyer and member of the Diversity Management Program at Cleveland State University, and Thomas Hawn, founding board member and the current board president of the Plexus Education Foundation, an organization established to support LGBT individuals in the workplace. They offer their advice on how to tell if a company is friendly to their LGBT employees and what to do if you encounter anti-gay bullying in the workplace.

We also break down HRC’s Corporate Equality Index, which is enjoying it’s 10th anniversary, and list some of the businesses off their Best Places to Work 2012 list.

Listen to the full show at the link below:  

http://www.talktainmentradio.com/podcasts/052112%20Queer%20Minded.mp3

Local Theater Spotlight: ‘The 39 Steps’ by CATCO

Paul Riopelle, Jeff Horst and Ben Gorman in “The 39 Steps” by CATCO

For their season closer CATCO is in the midst of running fan favorite “The 39 Steps,” a stage spoof of the famous Alfred Hitchcock film by Patrick Barlow.

A 2008 Tony Award winner, the production is one of the longest running plays on Broadway and has been known to be a universal crowd-pleaser.

The story follows Richard Hanney (Ben Gorman) an ordinary fellow who only wishes for a night of “mindless pleasure” at the theater, but finds himself on the lam after being framed of murder. Hijinks and hilarity ensue.

Four actors (Gorman, Ginna Hoben, Paul Riopelle, Jeff Horst) play all 150 of the show’s characters, making the quick-change it’s own art form. Parts of the script oftne force the actors the change characters throughout the same scene.

CATCO’s production is pretty solid. Gorman skews slightly older than most “Hanneys” I’ve seen, but does well wearing the character’s absent-minded charm. Hoben (last seen in the AMAZING production of “Next Fall“) is a delight as ALL the female roles, especially as the thick-accented Annabella Schmidt. Riopelle and Horst are also a riot as Clown #1 and Clown #2 taking on the bulk of the show’s characters.

CATCO’s typically phenomenal set designs didn’t disappoint this time either. Designers Brad Steinmetz and Jacque Nelson add 1930s period Britain nuance and the stage hands often become part of the production changing sets intricately about the players as the show in play. Director Steven C. Anderson does well to keep the action moving at a swift pace, while still keeping impeccable comedic timing.

Definitely add “The 39 Steps” to your early summer lineup, you won’t be disapointed.

CATCO presents “The 39 Steps” through June 3 in Studio One of the Vern Riffe Center, 77 S. High Street. Tickets are $11 to $40. For more information visit www.catco.org.

Queer Minded #9: COMING OUT

Queer Minded is a new online talk radio show that I host featuring local and national LGBT news and entertainment. Airing Fridays at 10 p.m. and podcasted atTalktainmentRadio.com! Visit Queer Minded on FacebookTwitter and YouTube

On this week’s episode of Queer Minded we talked with Ph.D. psychoogist Bruce Menapace,  from the Cleveland State University Counseling Center and Ph.D. candidate Stephen Gresham, who’s currently studying inthe Department of Counseling Psychology at University of Wisconsin – Madison about the psychology behind the coming out process. We also had several LGBT listeners call in to discuss their personal coming out stories. This was our most powerful show yet. A definite must listen.

Listen to the full show at the link below:

http://www.talktainmentradio.com/podcasts/051412%20Queer%20Minded.mp3

Equality Ohio statement on NAACP’s endorsement of marriage equality

Equality Ohio applauds the decision of the NAACP this past weekend to support marriage equality for same-sex couples. Previously, only individual members of the organization spoke in support of the issue. Most remarkable is the fact that Board members voted to support the resolution 62 to 2.

The text of the resolution reads:

“The NAACP Constitution affirmatively states our objective to ensure the “political, educational, social and economic equality” of all people. Therefore, the NAACP has opposed and will continue to oppose any national, state, local policy or legislative initiative that seeks to codify discrimination or hatred into the law or to remove the Constitutional rights of LGBT citizens. We support marriage equality consistent with equal protection under the law provided under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Further, we strongly affirm the religious freedoms of all people as protected by the First Amendment.”

“Civil marriage is a civil right and a matter of civil law. The NAACP’s support for marriage equality is deeply rooted in the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and equal protection of all people,” says Benjamin Todd Jealous, President and CEO of the NAACP.

President Obama’s recent statement in support of full marriage equality was cited as the primary reason for the vote.

“As people around the country see loving and committed same-sex couples participate fully in their communities, it becomes harder to deny that these couples are entitled to full marriage equality,” says Ed Mullen, Executive Director of Equality Ohio. “It is great to have such a venerable civil rights organization as the NAACP stand with us as we seek full equality in Ohio and throughout the country.”

Equality Ohio also recognizes that this decision was made as a result of years of outreach to the NAACP and the work of many out LGBT members of the NAACP. We thank those leaders and activists who have been conducting outreach and education for many years on their success this weekend.

Equality Ohio advocates and educates to achieve fair treatment and equal opportunity for all Ohioans regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. For more information, visit http://www.equalityohio.org or call us at (614) 224-0400 .

Lil Kim headlines Columbus LGBT event Memorial Day Weekend

Kigo Entertainment (the company of local promoter extraordinaire Kim Godfreed) is bringing the Queen herself to Columbus!

 Lil Kim is set to headline Saturday’s Memorial Day Weekend festivities at Alrosa Villa, 5055 Sinclair Road.

The woman behind hit songs “Players Anthem,” “Lady Marmalade,” “Lighters Up” “Now Matter What You Say,” “The Magic Stick” and “How Many Licks” will hit the stage Saturday, May 26 for an exclusive LGBT event.

Lil Kim, real name Kimberly Denise Jones, has been off the grid for some time, making a huge splash on the Billboard Charts in the late ’90s early 2000s, she later suffered some legal troubles and a stint in jail, but now is in the midst of making a comeback. She launched the “Return of the Queen Tour” May 17 that will span much of the summer.

“This is the biggest artist I’ve done as a promoter and I made sure that the event was strictly for our LGBT community here in Columbus,” said Godfreed, who is also the General Manager of Traxx Columbus, 95 Liberty Street, Columbus.

Just two weeks ago when Godfreed met with Alrosa Villa owners to finalize the details for Kigo Entertainment’s annual Sex Sells event the Saturday of Pride, it was suggested that she take over the promotions for the Lil Kim event. Godfreed agreed with only one caveat, the event had to be LGBT-exclusive, and Lil Kim’s team agreed.

Even though she’s only been given a short time to push out promotion for the show, Godfreed is counting on her 2o-plus years experience in event marketing and club management to make this show a success.

“With this event, I really want to show people in this city two things, 1.) Kim is able to pull off a citywide promotion without radio spots and 2.) there is money in the LGBT community and you can bring in mainstream people and make money, we are a hot commodity,” Godfreed said. “And Lil Kim is iconic. You’re talking about the Tupac and Biggie era. It’s a real privilege for me.”

Tickets are $10 at the door and $20 for skip-the-line VIP access. You can also purchase tickets online at Ticketmaster.com. Doors open at 10 p.m. For information call 614-226-2275.

Why LGBT people of color in Ohio need to care about Lobby Day 2012

Equality Ohio is hosting their 7th annual Lobby Day this Wednesday and this year they’re making history when it comes to LGBT people of color.

EO’s regular day of community lobbying will go as planned, where they pull the Ohio LGBT community and their allies together to meet with various legislators at the Ohio Statehouse to discuss the legislative issues that effect the LGBT community. This year Lobby Day’s main focus is the Equality Housing and Employment Act and the Safe Schools Act.

After the regular 9-4 day of lobbying, EO has arranged a meeting with various LGBT of color community leaders and the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus at 4:45 p.m. This is the first time such a meeting has ever taken place.

Various speakers from the LGBT people of color community have been assembled (of which I am one) that will present our issues to the caucus in hopes that some common ground is reached in order to promote more visible allies among the OLBC.

LGBT people of color continue to be the most underrepresented and marginalized community in American society. Our HIV infection rates are the highest, we have the most LGBT homeless youth and our suicide rates are continuing to skyrocket because of the intense rejection we face from our churches and our families. It’s time to break this cycle.

A movement has started in this city with the creation of organizations like the Columbus Black Gay Men’s Coalition, the Greater Columbus Mpowerment Center, Traxx Columbus and Columbus Urban Pride. We have a mayor and a president who are publicly on our side. LGBT people of color are more visible in this city than ever before. It’s time to continue this mobilization into the Statehouse and demand our issues are heard and supported in this states legislature.

The only way this meeting is going to be a success is if we can show the caucus that we mean business and that our issues deserve their attention. We can do this by showing up. The more we have standing with us to represent us, the larger the impact we’ll have. Please consider joining us for this historic occasion.

We’re already making moves to end the stigma and invisibility. Now let’s start making it legal.

Lobby Day is this Wednesday, May 16. If you’re interested in attending the 4:45 p.m. meeting with the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus email Aaron Riley at rileyaaron@sbcglobal.net so that he can add you to the guest list. If you’d like to participate in all that Lobby Day has to offer visit www.EqualityOhio.org to register.