Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Gay Pride of Lions

 Gosh Toto, are you gay too?!
Spoiler alert! The cowardly lion is Gay! And he is sporting the most phallic tail I have ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of…

The current production of the North American premiere of the Andrew Lloyd Weber production of The Wizard of Oz is a spectacular study in camp costume, intoxicatingly colourful sets, and brilliant special effects that wow audiences from start to finish. Standout performances by Lisa Horner as the Wicked Witch of the West, Robin Evan Willis as Glinda, Lee MacDougall as the Lion ‘ess,’ and Cedric Smith as the Wizard provide plenty of magical musical moments. Unfortunately the musical arrangements, especially in the opening number, have a pedestrian air to them that include, at one point, a kind of irritating beat box effect that overwhelms the melodic strains of Dorothy's opening number and flattens the score from the outset. Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg knew what they were doing. Why Andrew Lloyd Weber and his artistic associates felt they had to toy with perfection is somewhat baffling.

Danielle Wade in the lead role has a powerful voice and a charming presence, but she has not been directed to fulfill her full capacity as a promising young newcomer to the musical stage. Somewhere over the Rainbow becomes a sugary sweet ballad with a bold finale but not enough overall power throughout to compete with the multitude of diverse versions of a truly iconic melody and lyric.  Wade does an admirable job, but like other cast members, her performance is frequently bogged down by unnecessary moments of under-directed exposition that eat away at the poignancy of this classic going home story.

At one point an ensemble of darkly dressed dancers sporting near Nazi-like outfits provide a weak anti climactic end for the wicked witch, and come off as a bunch of disgruntled leather men at a tea dance at Woody’s on a dreary Sunday afternoon - and despite the fabulous Lisa Horner’s powerful vocals, her fabled demise is a bit of a letdown. This is a surprising turn of technical non-prowess since every other special effect in the show is superb - from a harrowing cinematic take on the image of the Wizard to a terrifying twister that transports us all to Oz.

There are plenty of subtle ‘gay’ moments throughout and the arrival in Oz is a truly gorgeous study in glorious green, great choreography, and spectacular art deco 'ish sets and costumes. . But like Jodie Foster’s pseudo coming out speech at the Golden Globes, these moments are shrouded in a kind of crowd pleasing disney’fied  apolitical sugar coating that doesn’t give this classic score and narrative the contemporary oomph it needs in order to compete with the perfect film version starring everyone’s favorite gay icon, Judy Garland.  This late in the day one would hope that Jodie, Judy and every furry faggy lion and lioness in town would boldly proclaim their queer allegiances…

And yet, ya gotta love that big erect furry appendage as it flounces across the stage and delights at every turn. It’s a fun show with lots of happy entertaining moments, and worth seeing if you want to subtly introduce the kiddies to political rainbows and classic scores. But if you’re looking for new friends of Dorothy, well, they might not be the most interesting examples on stage. Try any given drag night along Church Street. There are plenty of fabulous ones to be found singing their tails off. 


Friday, January 18, 2013


Currently running at the fabulous Drake Underground until January 27th, the ever popular trans-gone outrageously wrong- madcap rock musical tour de force is a first rate production of an iconic off-Broadway gem. Starring Seth Drabinsky and L.A. Lopes, this incarnation brings all of the essential grittiness and audience interaction to full fruition as performers break the fourth wall with an in your face n' crotch bravado that never fails to titillate. Their impeccable skill as musical performers never flinches as they interact with each other, a band of musical hotties, and an adoring audience - delivering a seamless and penetrating form of nasty/cool that breaks the heart and fractures the funny bone. Titillating glee and seething political innuendo permeates the room as gender identity is aligned with political disarray causing walls to crumble and wigs to fly. 

Drabinsky's powerful, diverse singing voice, and superb acting skills, give all of the characters portrayed in this ninety minute mostly-monologic creation a distinct and memorable role to play. As a frequently standup-comic show, allowing for vivid moments of musical truth and beauty, the entire ensemble, from L.A. Lopes to a cool, calm, and sexy band, have been skilfully directed by Drabinksy and Stephen Low to create a fast-paced, tightly blocked, technically seamless, action packed evening that brings the repercussions of a fallen Berlin Wall, and all that it implies, to the Drake Underground for a memorable Queen West engagement.

Beautiful illustrations and line drawings by Christopher Rouleau, and evocative photographic projections by Seth Drabinsky surround the audience and remind one of the specific time and place this metaphoric journey refers to. Through nods to Plato and Aristotle in the program the audience is reminded of the origins of love, sex, and the whole damn thing - illustrating just how complex and theatrically savvy the John Cameron Mitchell/Stephen Trask original concept was in a world of burgeoning trans-identificatory praxis, innovation, and acute cultural mayhem.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the fabulous Drake Underground - replete with couch crotchular landings, explosive back exits, and fraught frontal cavities

But all academic innuendo aside, this is a truly exciting and professional production to behold, and should transfer, (or be re-'mounted' - as Hedwig might like to put it) to the Panasonic as soon as the Mirvish Empire gets hold of trans-entertainment value and adds it to the ongoing narrative of their blossoming subscription seasonal star-fare.

And if that wasn't enough, Bianca Boom Boom opened last Wednesdays show and set the tone with her fabulous burlesque stylings, and will be back for more of the same on January 23rd.

Don't miss Hedwig. It will change your life, or at the very least, your hairstyle - and possibly your undies...


Tuesday, January 8, 2013


available for purchase online at:

Introduction: The Elemental Prance of Life            
It's a summer day, and I want to be wanted more than 
anything else in the world.  
                                          Frank O’Hara   

Measure, measure your life in love.  

‘Rent’ lyric (cited in Román’s Acts of 
Intervention, 283)  
death comes in it doesn’t say hello it stops and will not go   
death comes in I taste it on your lips your  ass your cock your 
                                          Joe Lewis  

death . . . I taste it; At the outset the stage is set for a collection of 
poetry that simultaneously laments and celebrates both life and 
death as elemental to each other’s existence. Any rudimentary 
online thesaurus reveals the presence of prance -  “the elemental 
prance of life” - as something akin to strutting, flouncing, cavorting, 
frolicking, swanning. Thus death is introduced within a complex 
lexicon of living life to its fullest without forgetting – by re- 
membering – the love that has left us but continues to live – to 
prance - through our hearts.  

to prance: The list of verbs describing fey physical gestures is 
endless. In David Román’s formative text ACTS of Intervention; 
Performance, Gay Culture, and AIDS we are reminded of the 
“anxiety and sense of inevitability already experienced by gay men 
in daily life.” (Román 237). In the poetry of Joe Lewis this prance – 
this anxiety - becomes a kind of self-elegy, an almost musical 
refrain for the poet himself to begin with and to go back to over 
and over again over the course of twelve elegant meditations that 
move in and out of mirth and tragedy, testifying poetically to the 
life of someone living with HIV for a prolonged period. Within a 
larger personal scheme this self-elegaic quality radiates outward 
toward a single object of desire (dedication to Michael Kelly). But 
within that singularity lies the central paradox about sharply 
personal poetry that attempts to speak of historic tragedy around 
mistaken perceptions of illness. When we speak of a kind of death 
still so fraught with scapegoating and homophobia we speak to a 
multitude of  suffering and surviving as we speak privately and 
intimately of and to ourselves. 

death sentences/syntax; The AIDS pandemic, having claimed so 
many lives, finds a quiet knowing solitude in this collection of 
poems, and garners strength for those of us coming into the 
awareness of HIV within our own lives and bodies during a very 
different period than the one when Joe was first diagnosed. When 
I was diagnosed, almost twenty years later, Joe was among the 
first people I spoke to about it. I had remembered telling him, when 
I first heard his news, that this was not a death sentence, and 
soon after, when I first heard Joe read some of the work included 
in this collection, I was struck by Joe’s repetition of the idea of an 
approaching death. It became – and continues to be – an affirming 
and cathartic moment for me, where I can simultaneously embrace 
and expel the intense fear of the kind of death that has taken the 
lives of my closest friends. Joe is among the few who survived that 
early period and his poems speak of a survival that sustains itself 
through what he calls a “re-membering” throughout the collection. 
His sentences and stanzas are crafted with the syntax for 

die laughing; In Die Laughing we are confronted with a journey 
through a party-like loop of sorrow laced with fun-loving, lightly 
erotic and popular images that bring us this sense of mirth and 
sadness through a wondrous run-on lyricism. 

dreams ending forgotten re-membering lush undergrowth 
mould, oxidized copper broken glass sometimes I feel like 
laughing in your face kissing your eyelids your spine making you 
mine I hold you we cry yesterday a friend of a friend reported your 
death last night I saw you and,,, .stillness in my heart dreams 
ending forgotten like Roy and Dale we ride off into the sunset 
make history bake pies swim in the Nile and die laughing  

And then Sing Me A Song, with its beautifully hedonistic litany of 
remembered screams, games, and unsung possibilities;  
 . . . We danced drank beer in discos too old and too young to care 
about yesterday and too unaware to make plans for the day after 
      Too much was left unsaid I’m too mad to be sad and so sorry 
for you to care about myself   
I can not believe we still play these games, but the game isn’t over 
till the last man is gone but we can still sing       songs . . .  
      I don’t need to know “what’s going on”   
      Just sing me a song  

But finally, with the closing poem Really I Forgot, the sum of the 
poet’s collected parts - whether they exist in twelve poems or over 
a prolonged period of a profoundly unwelcome awareness of 
mortality – they rise up out of this extended elegiac refrain, as it 
soothes us, frightens us, and teaches us to survive through the 
presence of memory. 
You tell me a well constructed poem is like a house,   

      I laugh and call you a louse, love like art like life is a bad 
dream, sometimes, sometimes its just good plain fun, a deep dark 
green woods overgrown and dank, decaying, feeding on itself, a 
video image courtesy of the rock and roll industry, my mother, old 
and broken down on hands and knees planting tulips in suburbia, 
you stand screaming alone and forgotten loved   

      I said I’d call, say I didn’t have time, but really I just forgot 
      It is now September the cool night air, that smell one 
remembers so well the colour of the sky, moon light, memory.   
This is not a dream, not a sad song, but life, sweet life. You reach 
back a day a year a minute and you forget grammar. You lose 
language you scream you laugh and in-ability you pull stones from 
the earth.  

      You look forward to yesterday and you love yourself.  

The mocking playfulness of the opening rhyme, followed by the 
notion of looking forward to the presence of yesterday as it filters 
in and out of daily – hourly - consciousness - identifies those of us 
who have used performance - whether it be poetry on the page or 
aloud onstage or in a cherished conversation with a close friend 
and/or lover we do not want to lose too soon - a suitable 
conclusion and introduction to the beauty and the value of these 
twelve poems.  

postscript - rent; An especial love of Broadway and the many 
conflicted attempts to bring our lives to the musical stage finds 
subtle expression in these poems as they majestically move from 
one death refrain to the next, soaring across years of life and loss, 
ultimately ending and beginning in a thirst for what Joe has called 
“look[ing] forward to yesterday and loving yourself.” Past and 
present commingle strategically and beautifully as Joe Lewis 
allows himself and his reader to measure our lives in love. 

David Bateman

Sunday, January 6, 2013


In the current Tarragon production of This Is War, director Richard Rose has taken the delicate narrative strains of an explosive drama and rendered them with a heavy hand that intermittently discovers the strained admixture of tenderness and violence women and men at war frequently take part in. Unfortunately, the movement from past to present, so carefully sculpted into a script that interrogates the battle of the sexes within a contemporary model - international combat in Afghanistan - becomes a somewhat confused bombastic interplay of broad acting styles and a blurry sense of present and past.

Ari Cohen, Lisa Berry, Sergio Di Zio, and Ian Lake do their level best to interpret the playwright's complex vision, but they often come off as loud and intrusive in a drama - in a small space - that requires more vocal nuance than the ensemble seems to have been directed to deliver. The significance of a script that creates a highly sexualized domestic space for soldiers to inter-relate within is revealed as Moscovitch plays subtly with unspoken notions around the idea of 'don't ask/don't tell' and the oxymoronic concept of Canada's peacekeeping role in a war that claims 'innocent' lives on both sides of the ravaged coin.
Although proficient, powerful, and tantalizingly robust in their army fatigues, the entire cast lacks the smouldering passion of horny soldiers playing and fighting within the intense heat of an Afghan landscape. Yelling becomes a substitute for the kind of complex emotion expressed by individuals separated from home and any form of domestic security they might have known before becoming peacekeepers. And the slight homo-erotic narrative rises and falls within a single unfulfilled gasp that belies a history of material on the homo (and hetero) social erotics of military activity that could have infused the script with far more passion.

As it stands, This Is War is a powerful drama worth seeing for its seering examination of the ways in which we battle each other at home and at war. In its present incarnation, the production errs on the side of explosive combat when the tenderness of passion must surely rear its head when soldiers embrace temptation and lie down - or stand up - together in a blistering fit of sexual tension.