Funny man Leslie Jordan is a popular fixture wherever he performs, but his brand of humor hits home particularly in the South. He returns to Atlanta this weekend with his new holiday show, “Deck Them Halls, Y’all!”
The work is a complete departure for the openly gay performer – and the best thing he has ever written, he admits. He was supposed to perform in London over the holiday season but instead will be there in February. With a few free months, his booker asked him to write something about growing up in the South. Jordan agreed, but his one stipulation is that he did not want to write about himself, feeling like he had exhausted all that material.
“In “Deck the Halls, Y’all!” he brings three original characters to life – “three generations of white trash,” Jordan quips.
One is a stripper named Mee-Maw, trying to win a trip to Vegas. Her daughter is a transgendered lesbian who is practicing to enter the Christmas Drag King Competition at a gay bar. She was raped at an early age and fathered a young boy, Ronnie Lee Posey.
Ronnie Lee has “potential,” says Jordan, and refuses to get out of a Christmas choir robe. There is song and dance and complete drag from the actor in the production, along with wigs and Velcro, Jordan warns.
Jordan had been on the scene for years but hit big with Del Shores’ “Sordid Lives” (where he starred as Brother Boy) and with his recurring role in “Will and Grace,” for which he received an Emmy award.
Coming to Atlanta is always a pleasure for Jordan, since he lived here in the ‘70s. His last show here, “My Trip Down the Pink Carpet,” was well received and the actor took it off-Broadway.
Jordan actually considered trying to get on “Dancing With the Stars” earlier this year and encouraged his fans to lobby for him, but is now glad it did not pan out.
“That show is for has-beens who need the publicity to kick start their careers,” he says. “It gives you fame but hurts you in the industry. The director of the movie I just did told me that I was too good of an actor to do that, and that if I had done the show, he would not have hired me.”
That film – titled “The Help” — features an all-star cast including Sissy Spacek, Emma Stone, Viola Davis and Allison Janney and is directed by Tate Taylor, who appeared in the TV version of “Sordid Lives.” Jordan will also be seen next year in “Mangus!” with Jennifer Coolidge and John Waters.
The actor will be particularly busy at the beginning of 2011. His London gig is in a bigger venue than he imagined, the Apollo Theatre, sandwiched between a Michael Jackson/”Thriller” event and a stage version of “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.”
“I’m like Madonna over there,” Jordan quips.
He will then do a show on Broadway called “Lucky Guy” with Varla Jean Merman.
“Not one soul has asked me if I can sing,” he laughs.
Jordan is is glad to be back in Atlanta.
“I can go to Chicago and say I was baptized 14 times and get no reaction, but people down here get it.”
A number of skaters, including openly gay Michael Chack, are featured in “The Holiday Ice Spectacular,” opening in town next week. Chack calls the production a holiday show with a twist, with something for everyone — complete with skating (including a line dance), comedy, elves, and a 12-minute version of “The Nutcracker.”
Chack is the principal male soloist. He originated the role two years ago in Reno. After skipping last year he came back for this road version, the first outside of Reno.
He began skating at the age of five and was a U.S. national bronze medalist. After retiring in 1999, Chack moved into teaching and choreography.
One obvious example was American skater Evan Lysacek, who won gold at the most recent Olympic Games. He’s not a fan of the flamboyant style of skater, a la Johnny Weir, he says.
He recognizes that it’s not easy for a professional skater to be out while competing.
“In the sport, few skaters want to talk about their personal life,” Chack says. “Figure skating is All-American, an apple pie kind of sport, something that kids want to watch and get into. I think there is an underlying idea that people can sense you are gay, but people don’t want to know that you are gay.”
Top photo: A stripper, a transgendered lesbian and a young boy who never wants to take off his choir robe make up the over-the-top cast of Leslie Jordan’s new holiday show. (Courtesy Jordan)