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Review: Tales of the City A New Musical

entertainment, lgbt, media 1 Comment »

Armisted Maupin’s novel Tales of the City finally made its way to the stage earlier this summer in Tales of the City A New Musical, birthed most appropriately in the city where its memorable characters call home, San Francisco.

For the unacquainted, Tales of the City is a classic fish-out-of-water “tale” about a young midwesterner named Mary Ann Singleton who after visiting San Francisco suddenly decides to make the city her home. Growing up in Cleveland though couldn’t prepare her for life in San Francisco in the mid 70s. The culture shock and non-stop debauchery the city is famous for is almost more than she can handle. But thanks to her new friends Mona, Mouse and Bryan, and her eccentric joint-rolling landlady Anna Madrigal, Mary Ann eventually comes out of her shell, adopting the city as her own.

Tales of the City A New Musical is directed by Jason Moore (Avenue Q) with music and lyrics by Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears and John Garden, and Libretto by Jeff Whitty. Back in 2006 Whitty came up with the idea of taking the beloved novel and turning it into a musical after watching the critically-acclaimed 1990s mini-series, and fortunately for us the show survives the transition from book, to mini-series, to stage, its spirit intact.

Betsy Wolf brings a sweet, unassuming innocence to the role of Mary Ann, and its a pleasure to watch her character grow and transform on stage as she finally takes a bite out of the lotus that Tennyson wrote about and that her landlady Ms. Madrigal so fondly quotes.

While Mary Ann may be the heart of the show, Anna Madrigal is its soul. Played by Tony-award-winner Judy Kay, the almost ephemeral landlady steers the denizens of Barbary Lane through the turbulent 70s, offering her tenants pearls of hippy, counter-culture-infused wisdom, and providing them with the sense of family they never had.

There are many standout performances including Mary Birdsong who plays the exuberant and occasionally bare-breasted Mona Ramsey, Kathleen Elizabeth Monteleon as Dede Halcyon-Day, and Richard Poe as Edgar Halcyon, who shares an amazing chemistry with Anna Madigral on stage which is simultaneously full of both joy and sadness.

The show runs nearly 3 hours but moves briskly and hardly feels its length. Early in the first act the transitions between character introductions and musical numbers did seem a tad uneven, and the mild applause by the audience seemed to bear that out. But by the time Mona rips with abandon into the “Crotch” song during a presentation with a sexist client, the show finally finds its footing and the audience responds in kind. It’s clear sailing after that.

Like the books and the miniseries that preceded it, Tales of the City A New Musical is a story about family. And not necessarily the one that brought you into this world. Sometimes its the one you create  yourself.

Tales of the City A New Musical can be seen at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco through July 31.

On a more personal note, Armisted Maupin’s Tales of the City played a small but significant role in drawing me to San Francisco in the mid 90s. It seemed a rather idyllic place where people were accepted for who they were, and could lead the lives they wanted rather than those demanded by society, or even family.  And while San Francisco had changed a great deal by the time I had arrived, and further still today, the heart at 28 Barbary still beats, and its rhythm is what keeps me here, and keeps me hopeful for the future.

Oil spill hits Louisiana shores

environment, media, politics No Comments »

If there was any justice in the world  naysayers like  Rush Limbaugh, the Governor of Mississippi and CEO of BP would be forced to assist in the clean up, wading knee deep in the carcasses that have washed up on shore, the stench of rotting flesh remaining with them the rest of their lives.

More photographs of the environmental carnage at the Big Picture.

Obama gets schooled by 11-year-old demanding equality for all

lgbt, media, video 2 Comments »

William PhillipsEleven-year-old Will Phillips, who last year refused to stand up in class for the Pledge of Allegiance until there was “liberty and justice for all,” received a GLAAD Media Award for his activism on behalf of the gay community. In his acceptance speech he called for President Obama to use the bully pulpit of his office to affect change. Amazing stuff. Watch:

Venerable gay pubs Washington Blade and Southern Voice shut down

lgbt, media No Comments »

Washington Blade ceases publicationWindow/Unite Media, publisher of various gay newspapers including Washington Blade, Southern Voice, Houston Voice and South Florida Blade ceased publication over the weekend.

The news, first reported by Washington City Paper’s sister paper Creative Loafing Atlanta, was confirmed by a Washington Blade employee. The publication has also stated the news on its Twitter feed: “Washington Blade, like all Window Media publications, is closing today. Thank you for your support. (Keep following us for developments.)”

Window/Unite Co-Presidents Michael Kitchens and Steve Myers, both based out of the area, were in town Monday to terminate the Blade’s 21 employees.

Blade Publisher Lynne Brown says it’s been a difficult day, but says to be on the lookout for a new publication to rise from the Blade in the near future; she said Blade employees have already scheduled a meeting on Tuesday to discuss starting their own venture. The area’s gay community is strong, she said, and “In adversity, there’s great opportunity.”

The Washington Blade started as an independent publication in 1969 and recently celebrated its 40th anniversary. The Southern Voice, based out of Atlanta, formed similarly in 1988.

As gay newspapers and magazines continue to fold, people will turn increasingly to blogs for their news. Since said blogs, Inside, Looking Out included, frequently cite traditional media in their posts, here’s hoping we are up to the task.