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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.

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‘The Color Purple’ returns

Although Taprena Augustine is now a musical theater veteran, she makes it clear that appearing in the national tour of “The Color Purple” is both a professional and personal high point of her career. The musical returns next week to Atlanta, with its lesbian relationship intact.

Georgia author Alice Walker’s best-selling 1982 novel is the inspiration for the musical, which had its world premiere at Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre in 2004. Shortly after that it bowed on Broadway where it became a commercial success and won a Tony for actress LaChanze. A national tour is on its third stop here.

Augustine was hired at the beginning of last year to play Shug Avery on the road. The actress calls the musical a classic.

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‘Ordinary Days’ explores journey to self-acceptance

Four young people in New York try to make connections and overcome their own ambitions in the musical “Ordinary Days,” currently being staged by Serenbe Playhouse.

Two of the four performers in the play are gay–Brian Clowdus, who founded Serenbe Playhouse, and Dustin Lewis, both of whom were featured in last year’s musical “Pageant.”

Clowdus plays Warren, a gay struggling artist who hands out flyers by days. Warren’s fag hag friend is Deb. Their relationship, which Clowdus compares to Jack and Karen from “Will and Grace,” is initially rocky but eventually they click. The other couple is Claire (Christy Baggett), who lost her companion in 9/11, and her new boyfriend, Jason (Lewis).

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Review: Old meets new at Horizon’s ‘Avenue Q’

avenue q review art for story by bo shell

It's not unlikely that you've seen super-popular and super-gay "Avenue Q" in at least one of its incarnations over the past several years, but unless you saw the show in its early days off Broadway, you've never seen it done quite like Horizon Theatre.

Often and correctly dubbed "Sesame Street meets South Park," "Avenue Q" is the hilarious story of 20-something puppets and people searching for purpose on the outskirts of New York City.

Fresh out of college, Princeton moves to the close-knit neighborhood of Avenue Q where he meets Brian and Christmas Eve, a young human couple engaged to be married; Nicky and Rod, who are puppet roommates; Kate Monster, the girl puppet next door; Trekkie, an internet porn addict; and Gary Coleman, the building superintendent.

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Goofy ‘Spamalot,’ moving ‘Rent’ resonate with calls to embrace individuality

Spamalot returns to the Fox Theatre

Atlanta Lyric Theatre is preparing to open Jonathan Larson’s Tony-winning musical “Rent” with a heavily gay cast and crew.

The original “Rent” opened on Broadway in 1996, just after composer/playwright Larson’s untimely death from an aortic dissection, and ran an incredible 12 years. It’s been produced in Atlanta perhaps more than any other Broadway musical save for “Mamma Mia!” the last decade.

Director Alan Kilpatrick, who is gay, feels that “Rent” is that rare show that reaches audiences outside of typical theater patrons.

“I think it appeals to a broader spectrum than people would guess,” Kilpatrick says. “People have latched onto it. It has an infectious score.”

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‘Mr. Universe’ returns to Atlanta

Mr. Universe at 7 Stages playhouse

A half-naked male body builder found on the streets may seem too good to be true for some, but the character changes the lives of a number of people in Jim Grimsley’s “Mr. Universe,” being produced by 7 Stages.

According to playwright Grimsley, who is gay, it’s the third time his play has been staged in Atlanta —first in 1987 and then in the mid ‘90s, both times at 7 Stages. “Mr. Universe” is directed by 7 Stages’ Del Hamilton, who played the character of Vick in the original production, and it stars openly gay actors Don Finney and Doyle Reynolds.

In the French Quarter of New Orleans, circa the late ‘70s, two drag queens —Judy (Finney) and Vick (Reynolds) — find an almost naked young man (Brian Kirchner), who is mute and homeless, and take him in. The city is in the midst of a murder mystery, and the identity of Mr. Universe remains vague.

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Gay playwright Johnny Drago brings ‘Buckhead is Burning’ to East Atlanta

Johnny Drago, 33, is an Atlanta gay playwright who likes to make his audience think, furrow their eyebrows but especially laugh.

He debuted his “Attack of the 6-foot Vagina!” that was, yes, exactly what it sounds like, at a fundraiser for queer burlesque star Vagina Jenkins last April. His “Kiss of the Vampire” that imagines what happens when one partner in the perfect gay couple gets bitten by a vampire bat, and is days away from transforming into the undead, was performed last month at OnStage Atlanta, and he’s even taken on the role of Mary Jo Shively as part of the popular “Designing Women Live” performed in February, also at OnStage Atlanta.

An unapologetic fan of all things soap opera, Drago is now set to debut his “Buckhead is Burning” — a “soap opera style dinner theater experiment” Tuesday and Wednesday, May 10-11, at N'awlins, the Cajun-Italian restaurant located inside lesbian bar My Sisters’ Room in East Atlanta when the bar itself is closed during the day and early evening hours.

We asked Drago to tell us a little bit more of what to expect, including what’s on the menu for the “Buckhead is Burning” performances.

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‘Judas Kiss’ explores love of Oscar Wilde

'The Judas Kiss' at Actor's Express

Playwright Oscar Wilde had the opportunity to escape with his younger male lover and avoid the indecency charges that eventually imprisoned and destroyed him. Why Wilde did not take that chance is explored in David Hare’s drama “The Judas Kiss,” opening May 12 at Actor’s Express.

Author of such classics as “The Picture of Dorian Gray” and “The Importance of Being Earnest,” Wilde was one of London’s most popular writers in the 1890s. But imprisoned for two years for “the love that dare not speak its name,” Wilde never recovered his stature or spirit and died at age 46.

Making its Atlanta debut, this production of “The Judas Kiss” features two gay actors in the lead roles — Freddie Ashley (returning to acting after seven years) and Clifton Guterman — as well as a gay director, David Crowe. Ashley plays Wilde and Guterman stars as his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, nicknamed Bosie.

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Spring Theater: Plenty of gay on local stages

Local playwright Jim GrimsleyTheater fans looking for LGBT-themed shows this spring won’t be disappointed. From Oscar Wilde to naked bodybuilders to puppets, the season is hopping.

Gay playwright Jim Grimsley’s “Mr. Universe,” presented by 7 Stages May 26 to June 12, is one of the don’t-miss shows of the next few months. Grimsley’s 1987 play is about a hooker and two drag queens who find a naked man in the streets of New Orleans, alone and bleeding, and decide to take him home.

The production stars Doyle Reynolds and Don Finney, both openly gay, and is directed by Del Hamilton. According to Grimsley, this is the first local production of the play since its original bow at 7 Stages.

Actor’s Express is staging the gayest play the company has done in a while: David Hare’s “The Judas Kiss” (May 12 – June 11).

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Actor’s Express reaches $50,000 goal — still needs another $150,000 to remain open

Supporters of Actor's Express pitched in and raised $50,000 by the target date of the end of March, meaning the gay-inclusive theater can stay open. However, to be able to remain open permanently the theater still needs to raise another $150,000 by the end of July.

Artistic Director Freddie Ashley, who is openly gay, put out a "life or death" plea for funding at the end February seeking $50,000 in four weeks.

In an email to supporters sent out April 4, Bruce Cohen, board chair for Actor's Express, thanked everyone who made donations to the theater.

New plans to help with the second round of fundraising is a "Why I Love Actor's Express" video campaign, Cohen added, as well as seeking partnerships with foundations as well as donations from individuals.