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Entries in Drag Queens (41)

Thursday
Dec182014

Stage Door: Christmas With the Crawfords

 Feeling the holiday spirit yet?

Jose here. It’s Christmas Eve in the Crawford household, and Joan (Joey Arias), and her children Christina (Chris March of Project Runway) and Christopher (Adam Davidson) are getting ready to receive a very special guest: Miss Hedda Hopper (Sherry Vine) who will broadcast a holiday special live from their home. As the perfectionist actress stresses to her children how important it is that they make a good impression - no wire hangers to be seen anywhere! - it becomes obvious that the holidays here are a truly special occasion, as many famous guests show up throughout the night (most of them mistakenly ringing the Crawford bell on their way to a party at Gary Cooper’s house).

Last seen in New York, twelve years ago, Christmas With the Crawfords is a hilarious parody that will certainly appeal to actressexuals who don’t mind their favorite divas being ridiculed. As with any good parody, the work seen on this show makes it clear that its creators are not in it for the cheap jokes, or the easy targets, but their higher purpose is to highlight what is it that made these people so fantastic, that to exaggerate their unique traits feels like the highest form of tribute.

Among the featured guests and performers are Connie Champagne as Judy Garland (her rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is equally funny and devastatingly sad) and Flotilla Debarge as Hattie McDaniel (don’t ask…), and truly to reveal all the guests that show up would be to rob the show of some of its magic. At its center this is a showcase for the astonishing Arias, who with thighs-to-die-for and shoulder pads for days, epitomizes the harsh/sweet duality that made Joan Crawford so enigmatic.

Arias moves across the stage with grace and poise, and his chemistry with March is unbelievable. One could see these two go at it forever, both being highly talented comedians who know the importance of choosing the right moments to deliver their punchlines. The production design by Andrea Purcigliotti features an anachronistic, but effective reproduction of the “big eyes” portrait Joan received from Walter Keane, and with nods to films Crawford made much later than the 1944-setting of the show, Crawford-ites will be in for a real treat. A Christmas miracle of sorts…

Christmas With the Crawfords plays at the Abrons Arts Center through December 27.

Tuesday
Nov252014

Quick Impressions: "Madame Frou-Frou (Singing Voice)" in The Boxtrolls

New Series! In Quick Impressions we'll be looking at the working actor in key movie scenes. Consider it a celebration of SAG card-holders everywhere and free advice for casting directors for people who aren't famous ...in some cases "yet". So many showbiz dreams wander around on every film set and are embedded in each frame of your favorite movies. 

Today, we're talking to actor Sean Patrick Doyle who sings the title song in The Boxtrolls in that great scene when Madame Frou-Frou takes the stage. Sir Ben Kingsley is the voice of Archibald Snatcher / Madame Frou-Frou so Sean Patrick makes like a modern day Marni Nixon.

NATHANIEL: What is that process of "voice matching" and how did you get the part - it's so different from your other credits. 

SEAN PATRICK DOYLE:  A cockney villain posing as a female Czechoslovakian show hall performer? - different indeed!  Laika had auditioned many actors in LA but Heather Vergo at Atlas Talent put a call out to their commercial office in New York, seeking performers who could interpret the song but still voice match.  My commercial agent Michael had seen me perform a soprano aria in the Broadway revival of La Cage Aux Folles.  He also knew that imitating famous singers is my party trick of choice.

I signed a few confidentiality documents, but was never told that the spoken recordings I was listening to were Sir Ben Kingsley. A week or so later, there was a bite at the line giving me feedback on my audition track and a slew of references to listen to before re-recording: Mae West, Edith Piaf, British Show Hall performers.  They also requested that I roughen up my sound a bit.  Dario Marianelli [The Oscar-winning composer] had done some digging online and turned up a video of me playing Fruma-Sarah in the 2008-09 National Tour of Fiddler on the Roof.  He was tickled that they had cast a male in the role for the first time, and advised “a little more of that wouldn’t hurt.”

Because I was doing a show here in New York, director Anthony Stacci and producer David Ichioka flew in from the West Coast. Co-director Graham Annable listened in from Portland and Dario from a studio in London.  It was collaboration across many time zones!

NATHANIEL: It payed off. The song/scene is amazing. Did you know what it would look like?

SEAN PATRICK DOYLE:  I was sent an animatic, which is a moving storyboard with rough sketches of the characters and their movement, along with the spoken voice performances in the Cheesebridge Fair scene.  When we recorded, the producers put up renderings of Snatcher and Frou Frou in the booth and also showed me footage of Ben recording his tracks in a lounge chair.  When seeing the movie, the real surprise was that they had turned it into a full production number, using live choreographed dancers to aid the animators.  They also had Mark Orton re-orchestrate the song with Portland band Loch Lomond, and bent some of the higher operatic notes (the ending note was originally a soprano A), so it sounded slightly different, too.  I think the finished product is very clever, and fits Ben’s colorful spoken performance.

NATHANIEL: Proposal: If the song is nominated for an Oscar, You and Ben Kingsley do the number in full drag. He stands at the microphone and you are behind him as a curtain opens up, the Kathy Selden to his Lina Lamont. 

SEAN PATRICK DOYLE:  It might take some convincing to get Sir Kingsley into a frock, but, hey, sign me up!  I know the Academy often favors a pop sound, but I’d be very happy to see Eric Idle’s cheeky lyrics and Weill-esque melody recognized on that level.

NATHANIEL: Speaking of frocks, First La Cage and now you're onstage in Kinky Boots (such a fun show!). So should we expect to see you next season on RuPaul's Drag Race

SEAN PATRICK DOYLE:  Haha!  Well, as much as I love watching those queens battle it out, the fulfillment I get from gender-bending roles comes solely from being able to play a character wildly different from myself. Recently I was playing nebbishy Eugene in Grease at Paper Mill Playhouse, and I just filmed an episode as a heroin addict in the final season of Nurse Jackie.  The further I step away from myself, the more fun the work becomes.  But as a lithe countertenor weighing in at a buck twenty, a few of my bigger jobs have involved elements of gender illusion.  It’s not in every actor’s skill set and I’ve used that to my advantage, but of course the goal is always to do really varied, interesting work!  Still, let me tell ya - it takes a real man to pump across a Broadway stage wearing a bikini and 7 1/2 inch heels.  Come to the Hirschfeld and I’ll show you! 

The Boxtrolls will be released digitally on Dec 23rd with the DVD/BluRay release on January 20th, 2015. You can follow Sean Patrick on twitter here. He is currently on stage as "Angel" in Kinky Boots (in the top hat and red coat, third from right by football star Michael Sam below). You can also listen to Sean Patrick's insane voice reel below if you're interested.

 

Previously: "Nervous Intern" in Gone Girl
Next Tuesday: American Horror Story: Freakshow

Tuesday
Oct212014

Top Ten: Best of The Boxtrolls

Because it was so much fun last week, another all top ten tuesday to celebrate our new season as the awards will soon come rushing at us...

People aren't talking about The Boxtrolls enough. It's a true mark against the world's parents that numerous animated mediocrities, The Peabodys, Nutjobs and Rios regularly and considerably outgross inventive Laika's awesome stop-motion films. While it's true that Laika's features have elements of the grotesque or macabre that are tougher sells to nonadventurous families, one only has to look at the perennial universal love for Nightmare Before Christmas to know that people are okay with that once they acclimate.

Which is very much my personal experience with The Boxtrolls. It's less immediately sympathetic than ParaNorman, less hook-laden than The Corpse Bride, less immediately fantastical than Coraline but once you get past the initial shock of the character designs (which has undoubtedly been an obstacle): blotched, deformed, dirty, jagged teeth and so on, the movie grows on you. It's another technical triumph in the service of a story that works on both juvenile and adult levels. Sure, it's not their best film but it's still a singular one in the current animated marketplace.

Since I never reviewed The Boxtrolls, consider this one of those in top ten form and a plea for those of you who haven't seen to correct that. To any awards voters reading who are just beginning to consider the Animated Feature Film category just know that it could be very rich with variety if you choose well this year.

THE BOXTROLL'S GREATEST HITS
after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Sep132014

TIFF: The New Girlfriend

Nathaniel's adventures at TIFF continued

 François Ozon remains one of France's most prolific directors. Like most prolific auteurs this means an uneven filmography. Even the very good films can feel ever-so-slightly underrealized. Is it the rush or just the nature of the artistry of the prolific, all first draft energies, favorite or borrowed styles structures and themes, and just warming-up ideas with the occasional lightning-strike perfections?

Like many fans I'm still waiting for another of those lightning strike perfections like certain moments in Under the Sand or 8 Women in full but his not-quite-there efforts can still be highly appealing: Potiche anyone?

The New Girlfriend turns out to be all of the above with grand moments, messy ones, energetic diversions, familiar tropes and half formed ideas... which as it turns out is just fine for a movie about embryonic searches for new identities. It begins with a funereal yet beautiful opening sequence that recalls an Almodóvarian trance, and quickly moves into an Up-like backstory prelude detailing the very intimate friendship of Laura and Claire (Anaïs Demoustier) from childhood to Laura's early death. When we begin our actual story Claire and her husband Gilles (Raphael Personnaez, who also starred in The Gate at this festival) along with Laura's widowed husband David (Romain Duris) and his infant daughter Lucie are all still reeling from Laura's demise. One day on a guilty whim, Laura jogs to David's house to check in on Lucie only to make a startling discovery when no one answers the door and she lets herself in: there's David, in full drag, tenderly feeding Lucie with a bottle like a good mother. Claire can't believe what she's seeing and to cover her tracks for where she was that day with her husband she says she was with "Virginia... a girlfriend, someone you don't know." And thus begins our subject matter with the title taking on multiple meanings. Is David more Virginia than David? Which of them is Claire befriending? How desperate are both of them to recreate Laura in her vacuum? And what kind of a girlfriend can Virginia even be since she has a visible penis? 

The rest of the film is largely devoted to both farcical and dramatic consequences of this new secret in Claire's life with delightfully surprising beats amply peppered across the character arcs. Demoustier proves rather masterful in delineating Claire's internal confusions and hypocrisies, especially and most amusingly her illicit hypocritial thrills in having a new girlfriend at all (the prelude makes amply obvious that Laura and Claire were so devoted and happy together that they didn't cultivate other friendships). But full warning: the film is way too comically provocative and politically incorrect to please the easily offended which many in the LGBT community seem to be of late. Claire for example thinks 'gays are fine, trannys are not!' in one joke that goes over well in context but will surely offend out of it and calls David "sick" while still encouraging him to do it. David isn't as certain of what his gender fluidity means to be a role model for any political agenda. And Gilles ignores ambiguities and is convinced that David is just gay, always has been.

Though Romain Duris has long since proved his worth as a leading man, his screen attraction is entirely masculine, so I'll admit that it was easy to wonder what the film would have been like had the more beautiful Personnaez considered his inner woman instead. Would it have dulled the surprise or the comedy or made Claire's confusing situation between the two men in her life and this new girlfriend more believable?  Who can say? The time jumped epilogue leaves things both tied neatly up and slightly ambiguous as to what went down between the climax and the credits roll but by that time we know the characters well enough to draw our own conclusions. B

previously at TIFF


Tuesday
Aug262014

Stage Door: "Sweeney Todd" & "My Old Lady"

In Stage Door, our semi-weekly live performance column, we cover theater news that's directly or merely ever-so-slightly connected to film and television... mostly because theater is heaven. If you can manage to see it.

Photos from Sweeney Todd the movie ought not to be read as an endorsement of actors who can't sing starring in musicals.

It is this blog's policy never to endorse Kickstarter projects because if you start, where do you stop? But since this one is about to be fully funded, I have to share my excitement. The Tooting Arts Club, a site specific theater company in London had a brilliant idea. They're staging a full production (with Stephen Sondheim's blessing) of Sweeney Todd in an actual old pie shop with help from the barber shop across the street in October. There are only 32 seats in the shop so tickets will be hard to come by. I'm tempted to buy a plane ticket just to see how they pull this off.  

Drag queens and old ladies after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Monday
Jun232014

Alan Cumming & James Franco @ Broadway Bares

I'm getting a late start this morning after the midnight show of Broadway Bares. For those who aren't aware it's a one night only charity event each year in Manhattan where Broadway dancers striptease en masse in huge often silly choreographed themed spectacle numbers. This year's theme was "Rock Hard" so there was rock heavy versions of pop songs as well as classic rock numbers. Throughout the night there are little interlude skits with celebrity guest stars. In this case they were all trying to get past a doorwoman when their names weren't on the list. Alan Cumming, adorable with his hair in zulu knots, sailed right in with two boytoys in his hands whose names he kept getting comically mixed up. So he had to take matters (literally) into his hand to figure out who was who. But Broadway's Rocky (Andy Karl) didn't have it as easy.

-But you let Alan Cumming in!"
-Win a Tony and we'll talk"

The final interlude skit was James Franco. He bragged to the doorwoman 'But I take shirtless selfies. I have 2 million followers.' Enter Bianca Del Rio (to thunderous non-stop applause) who proceeded to insult him. The mini-skit ended with Bianca rubber-gloving her hand...

You can guess what happened next [NSFW]

Click to read more ...