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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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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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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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‘Exit, Pursued by a Bear’ breaks mold for gay character

Judith Ivey directs'Carapace' at Alliance Theatre

Playwright and former Atlantan Lauren Gunderson’s comedy “Exit, Pursued by a Bear” is about to have its world premiere locally, courtesy of Synchronicity Performance Group, with gay actor Clifton Guterman part of the cast.

Described as one part “I Love Lucy,” one part revenge tragedy and one part feminist ballad, “Exit, Pursued by a Bear” is the tale of Nan (Veronika Duerr), a woman living in the North Georgia mountains. She loves her husband Kyle but is in an abusive relationship with him.

With the help of her best friend Simon (Guterman), a gay man, and a stripper named Sweetheart, Nan decides to leave and get revenge. Revenge is served by tying Kyle up and re-enacting bad moments from his past, making him realize what a bad husband he has been — and by putting meat and honey beside him to draw attention from bears.

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New musical by gay writer Jeff Whitty brings cheerleading films to stage

Bring It On: The Musical at Alliance Theatre

A key player on the all-star team launching the world premiere “Bring It On: The Musical” in Atlanta is a familiar name to gay theatregoers – Jeff Whitty, who shot to fame when his puppet play “Avenue Q” became a sensation. Whitty, who is gay, is writing the new musical, which plays at the Alliance Theatre through Feb. 20.

The cheerleading musical features a rich array of talent. Besides Whitty, there is Tony winner Andy Blankenbuehler (In the Heights).Blankenbuehler, who directed “In the Heights” and is directing and choreographing this production. The music and lyrics are by Tony winner Lin-Manuel Miranda, also of “In the Heights.” Also in the collaborative team are Tony winner Tom Kitt (“Next to Normal”) and Amanda Green (“High Fidelity”).

Unlike the creative team for “Avenue Q,” which was mostly gay, this is a largely heterosexual crew, yet Whitty is positive that they will be able to make a show that pleases everyone.  He feels that the world of cheerleading – with all its drama, intrigue and politics – will resonate LGBT theater fans.

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Diana DeGarmo does Dolly in ‘9 to 5’

American Idol alum Diana DeGarmo

“American Idol” veteran and local girl Diana DeGarmo grew up idolizing Dolly Parton, so it’s somewhat fitting that she’s now taking on the role the singer played in the film “9 to 5” in the touring version of the new musical.

With music and lyrics written by Parton, “9 to 5: The Musical” debuted on Broadway last year. DeGarmo saw that version, liked it and was naturally receptive to doing the tour. She’d seen the movie with Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin several times, even though it was released before she was even born.

According to DeGarmo, there are subtle differences in the musical but for the most part the plot is the same — a trio of secretaries bond and decide to get even with their boss. In doing so, they practically take over their company. Parton has written new songs for the musical, but not surprisingly the show opens with her popular, titular song.

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Fall Preview: ‘Pageant’ and much more…

Upcoming theater shows

From marquee-level touring shows to Atlanta premieres, the fall promises to be a busy time in local theaters for gay and lesbian patrons.

Currently running is the musical comedy “Pageant: The Musical,” which opened in August and runs until October. The show, a satire of beauty pageants, stars openly gay Brian Clowdus as Miss Texas, one of a half dozen contestants trying to be named Miss Glamouresse.  The actor envisions the crowd-pleasing Miss Texas as a pageant regular, one who does not take kindly to losing.

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Iconic musical ‘Hairspray’ still holds

Hairspray comes to town

Gay performers Alan Kilpatrick and Glenn Rainey aren’t technically joined at the hip, but they’ve acted a lot like it lately. Their collaboration in the musical “Hairspray” (opening at The Strand Theatre this week courtesy of Atlanta Lyric Theatre) is their third in the past nine months.

In “Hairspray,” they play husband and wife. Kilpatrick plays Wilbur Turnblad and Rainey plays the immortal Edna Turnblad. Rainey joins a list of heavyweights who have played that role onstage including Tony winner Harvey Fierstein, Bruce Vilanch and “Cheers” star George Wendt.

Rainey actually auditioned to understudy for Edna when he was living in New York. Although he has played women before, this is unique.

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‘Little House’ may have special meaning to LGBT fans

The cast of ‘Little House on the Prairie’

For out performer Tony Vierling, the news that “Little House on the Prairie” was being adapted into a stage musical came as something of a surprise — at first.

“I was surprised but after thinking about it, it made total sense,” he says. “As literature and as a TV show it has such a legacy. The stories were written so well and were so successful. I’m very excited to be part of it.”

Like millions, Vierling read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” books, first published in 1932, as a child. He was not a regular watcher of the television series, although he did see certain episodes.