Theater

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‘Odysseo’ brings equestrian, acrobatic extravaganza back to Atlanta big top

Odysseo now playing in Atlanta

One of Atlanta’s most-attended productions of 2009 was “Cavalia,” which combined Cirque du Soleil-like acrobatics with equestrian elements. The follow-up, “Odysseo,” is making its U.S. debut here, with two of the acrobats in the new show openly gay: Samuel Alvarez and Brennan Figari.

Alvarez and Figari are two of the 54 performers — acrobats, aerialists, dancers, musicians and riders — headlining the troupe. Both are acrobats. Alvarez, a gymnast from Texas, has been working professionally for more than 12 years, stating off with Cirque du Soleil’s “Quidam” before moving to “Cavalia.”

Figari, a San Francisco native, had been doing acts such as the flying trapeze at his local resort and performing recreationally until he got serious about doing it for a living nine years ago.

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Local stages offer gay favorites

Upcoming theater shows

As the holiday season gets underway, local theaters bring out their heavy hitters, many sure to appeal to LGBT audiences.

At the perennial top of the Christmas must-see list is Horizon Theatre’s “The Santaland Diaries.” Openly gay actor Harold Leaver returns for a 13th time as the sarcastic main character, who becomes a department store elf to earn some money one holiday season. It’s based on gay writer David Sedaris’ own experience, as told in his “Holidays On Ice.”

According to Leaver, for whom the role has been career-defining, it’s a production that has stayed snarky throughout the years – and kept its gay sensibility intact. A few years ago, “The Santaland Diaries” lost its original director Clint Thornton (with Jeff Adler taking over) but it’s kept on charming audiences, with the cast and crew finding ways to make the comedy fresh.

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Comedy pairs gay theater critic with good ol’ boy kidnappers

Gray Area

Out comedian/director Sherri Denise Sutton has returned to Atlanta and already has a slew of projects lined up. First up is directing the comic “Gray Area” at Aurora Theatre.

It’s a farcical show, written by John Ahlin, about what happens when a New York theater critic makes an on-air crack about Civil War re-enactors as his last public statement — and is promptly kidnapped by three good ol’ boys. It stars openly gay actor Glenn Rainey as the critic, Farragut. The character is gay, says Sutton, which the kidnappers don’t know when they nab him.

“They think he is straight – they have no idea he’s gay,” she says. “The audience is in on the joke.”

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Gay fare prominent in local theater this season

Upcoming theatre shows in AtlantaThe fall theater season includes many productions with significant LGBT interest making their local bows.

A few of the hot button productions will appear at 7 Stages, which produced the gay-themed “Mr. Universe” earlier this spring. First up is Dale Daigle’s “All Blues,” set in the Jim Crow South, which runs Sept. 22 – Oct. 9.

It’s based on the true story of Ray Sprigle, a white journalist who disguises himself as a black man for a month to report on the black experience first-hand. Out actor Patrick McColery is in the cast —ironically, he portrays the role of a racist in the drama. The show is making its world premiere here.

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[Review] ‘Spring Awakening’ at Actor’s Express is devastating, beautiful

spring awakening web story 9-11-11

After a harrowing, but seemingly successful fundraising campaign to save itself from financial collapse, Actor's Express can celebrate bringing the drama back to the stage with it's 24th season opener, "Spring Awakening," directed by Freddie Ashley.

Apparently I've been living under a rock. I'd heard of "Spring Awakening" as this Duncan Sheik rock and roll musical. I knew it was successful. But 11 Tony Award nominations and eight wins? "Glee" star Lea Michelle working half her life to be the the lead in the original Broadway cast? Her "Glee" co-star Jonathan Groff, too?

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‘Cheezecake Boiz and the Diva’ looks for love beyond labels

The cast of Cheezecake Boiz and the DivaWhen Towonda Kilpatrick pitched a TV show to a network and the ensuing deal didn’t quite work out the way she had hoped, she didn’t toss the idea – she simply decided to take it to the stage instead. Her gay-inclusive “Cheezecake Boiz and the Diva” returns to Atlanta this weekend.

The playwright wrote the first draft back in 2008 and envisioned it as a reality show, but when she learned it wouldn’t be headed to television, she made a few changes. The biggest were  adding the “Diva” to the mix and turning it into a musical. The revamped version premiered in June as a showcase and the reaction was positive. An investor saw it and talked to her about doing it again locally and then touring it, beginning in October.

“Cheezecake Boiz and the Diva” is about a Diva (Lauren Jones) who has been through four unsuccessful marriages and gets something of a comeuppance by four men in her life, three of them gay. They are called the Cheezecake Boiz and include a marketing guru (Queshan Hayes), a fashion designer (Anthony Davis), an escort host (David Massey) and a producer (played by R&B singer Tony Terry).

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Cirque show features openly gay lead singer

Theatre

Those accustomed to the usual look and feel of a Cirque du Soleil production might be surprised by the company’s “Dralion.” It returns next week to Atlanta,with an openly gay lead vocalist in Cristian Zabala.

According to Zabala, “Dralion” differs greatly from other Cirque productions, in more ways than simply not being under a traditional tent. It is Cirque’s 12th traveling show and perhaps its most divisive. The show focuses on a Chinese circus/acrobatics element. Zabala promises lots of colors – which are used to represent the elements of the earth – and notes, “this is what Cirque does best – combine styles.”

Zabala has been with the company for nine years and has performed in a variety of Cirque’s signature shows. His first was “Alegria.” However, he much prefers singing than the gymnastics and acrobatics he has done in the past, since it is easier on his body and requires less rehearsal.

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‘Guys and Dolls’ is the latest in out actor Glenn Rainey’s hot streak

Guys and Dolls

Glenn Rainey doesn’t want to take it for granted, but the openly gay performer has been on a hot streak of late. On the heels of several high-profile local projects, he is starring in a touring version of “Guys and Dolls,” opening shortly in Atlanta by virtue of Theater of the Stars.

Considered one of the classic musicals, “Guys and Dolls” takes place in a Damon Runyon-esque New York City, full of criminals and gamblers, where infamous Nathan Detroit is running an illegal crap game but is being coaxed to leave the business by long-time girlfriend (and nightclub singer) Miss Adelaide. Rainey stars as Nicely-Nicely Johnson, who, with friend Benny Southstreet, works for Detroit. The actor compares Nicely-Nicely and Benny to Heckle and Jeckle and Laurel and Hardy.

When Rainey heard that there was going to be an upcoming national tour of the musical, he quickly went about looking into it. He was asked to come to New York to audition but couldn’t, so he sent in two audition tapes to the casting director. He was hired by virtue of those two tapes.

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‘Chorus Line, ‘Ugly Duckling’ offer local takes on well-known stories

The Ugly Duckling

While it has played in Atlanta a few times over the last two years as a touring show, a local version of “A Chorus Line” is a rare thing indeed. That changes soon as the gay-themed musical opens at Aurora Theatre to begin the company’s 16th season.

The celebrated musical is known for its iconic images of a group of dancers auditioning and baring their souls all for the chance to be in the chorus line of a musical, as well as its standout musical numbers. Yet its inclusion of three-dimensional gay characters is still relevant, given that “A Chorus Line” debuted in an era — 1975 — where few gay characters were onstage.

Many of the actors in this cast are gay. Two of them are Anthony Owen, who plays Bobby Mills, and David Rossetti, who plays Paul San Marco. Both of the characters they portray are gay, too, although Bobby’s sexual orientation is never mentioned directly in the show.

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‘Peachtree Battle,’ ‘Six Dance Lessons’ bring engaging gay characters back to ATL stages

Peachtree Battle returns to the Atlanta stage

Two popular shows with gay actors portraying gay characters return to the ATL next week – “Peachtree Battle” at Ansley Park Playhouse and “Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks” at Stage Door Players.

“Peachtree Battle,” the long running comedy from the hands of gay playwrights (and couple) John Gibson and Anthony Morris, is back for a summer run, as well as its 10th anniversary. The play opens July 16 and runs through the end of September. In the mix is openly gay actor Stan Gentry, who plays Holcomb Habersham.

“Peachtree Battle” spins around the chaos that happens when the son of a prominent family announces that he is going to marry a Hooter’s waitress. Holcomb is the oldest son of the Habersham clan with drama of his own — he is gay and his family’s reaction isn’t as accepting as he would like.

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Theater: Fun shows feature tunes from 1980s, ‘70s

‘American Idol’ finalist Constantine Maroulis

The plot of “Rock of Ages” may be light, but the show makes up for that with an abundance of beloved ‘80s tunes. The musical, debuting shortly in Atlanta with gay-friendly “American Idol” contestant Constantine Maroulis, also has a notable gay moment in its second act.

In a legendary rock club in Los Angeles, circa 1987, small-town girl Sherrie falls for Drew (Maroulis), a young busboy with dreams of being a rocker. As local developers convince the mayor to make the area a wholesome environment and get rid of sex, drugs and rock and roll, the club owner coaxes a legendary band to play their final gig there. Along the way, there is plenty of music from the likes of Def Leppard, Styx, Pat Benatar, Bon Jovi, REO Speedwagon and more to move its story along.

Maroulis thinks “Rock of Ages” is similar in tone to American musicals of the ‘30s.