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CIRQUE DU SO MUCH FUN: "I want to do a reality show that debunks the myth that clowns are bad," said Amy Roloff, mother of four, and one of the stars of her own hit reality show Little People, Big World (above with her son). "Cirque du Soleil and Kooza provesjust how fun clowns can be."
Roloff was speaking to me in the Tapis Rouge tent Thursday night, underneath the Grand Chapiteau, during intermission of Kooza, the latest show from Cirque to roll into Portland. It was the VIP night and the audience was packed to the ceiling with loads of local celebs including Roloff and her family, Dandy Warhol front-man Courtney Taylor-Taylor, The Shins James Mercer, Columbia Sportswear's grand dame Gert Boyle, Mother's chef Lisa Schroeder, Bluehour owner Bruce Carey, 105.1 radio dude Mitch Elliott, as well as tv talkers including KGW's Drew Carney, Stephanie Stricklen, Russ Lewis, and KATU's Anna Song alongside her bald-headed babe, Oregonian sports columnist John Canzano.
While the show allowed everyone in the audience to be a little kid (truly, there is nothing like a Cirque show to make you feel like you are only 9-years-old again, not matter what your age) inside the Tapis Rouge adult beverages flowed including flutes of champagne and bottles of fine wine. Patrons had the opportunity to graze on lamb shanks and flanks of beef prior to the show, but during intermission...omg...Cirque rolled out a candy bar (yes, a bar with a zany amount of candy on it) that rivaled anything Wonka could have imagined.
Perhaps it was the sugar high, but Kooza was the sweetest, and yet still, the most compelling Cirque show I've ever seen (and I've seen at least eight of them). The clowns, like Amy said, were amazing: gentle, funny, bawdy and kind. And the acts—including high wire work, teeteboard, and the incredible wheel of death—had the feel of an old time circus that had been catapulted into the 22nd Century. I liked the music too. It kind of reminded of the Brand New Heavies meets Bollywood, and I think, was the first time I'd ever heard English lyrics in a Cirque show. If you're looking to suspend reality for a few hours, Kooza is the place to do-za it.
PAGING DR. KILDARE: According to his IMDB profile here it has been a while since Richard Chamberlain has appeared on the small screen. But it looks like that is all about to change now that I've heard word that the star of The Towering Inferno and television classics The Thorn Birds and Dr. Kildare is arriving in town to shoot at least one episode of Leverage. So if you do see Richard hanging around town over the next few days please give him a warm Portland welcome and please, ladies (and gay gents) do control yourself.
BEAUTIFUL DREAM-ERS: Dreamgirls—the stage musical that stars one American Idol (Syesha Mercado as the Diana Ross-like "Deena Jones") not the movie starring another American Idol (Jennifer Hudson as the diva-ish "Effie White")—is not just a good show, it's probably the best touring show I've ever seen in my life.
As I said in a review of the film I did way back when, strip it to its core, and Dreamgirls is the story of one song: "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going." The life-altering number, and perhaps the ultimate of showstoppers, appears at the end of Act I. It established Jennifer Holiday, in the original Broadway production, as a star. It gave Hudson, in the movie version, not only an Academy Award nomination nod, but the Academy Award itself. And in the touring production that opens on Tuesday night at the Keller Auditorium it will introduce Portland audiences to Moya Angela, who seems to understand the weight of both Holiday's and Hudson's performances, but still makes the role entirely her own. To see Angela perform the number is a once-in-life-time-experience and worth the price of admission alone. Let's just say she is more than up to the challenge of this incredibly challenging role.
But that's not the only reason you should see this show...and, truthfully, I am getting a little ahead of myself.
You see, I was whisked off to Seattle via Amtrak (a wonderful ride, indeed) to see the Tuesday opening night of Dreamgirls at the Paramount Theatre in the hopes I might have something to say about the show.
I knew I was in for a unique couple of days when I arrived and the first thing I saw, after leaving the train station, was a cab (below) advertising "Dreamgirls," except this wasn't for the show I was seeing that night. No, this was for a gentlemen's club near Safeco Field. Hmmm....serendipity, I guess.
After checking into the hotel I checked out the sights.
Seattle is one of my favorite cities—and also one of my least favorite cities. I guess that's why I don't live there anymore, or even try to "escape" there for a couple of days, like I used to. The city itself feels like its still stuck in the same year I moved away from there: 1982. People still obey walk signals, there are still way too many punk rockers, and well, the traffic, is, you know, a bitch.
But 1982 also gave us Michael Bennett's Dreamgirls. While I was running away from Seattle, this Broadway show was running away with awards, accolades as well controversy as it was the thinly veiled life story of Diana Ross and the Supremes.
And now, here I was back in Seattle, to see that show. Hmmm...serendipity, I guess.
This tour started last November, in Harlem, at the Apollo Theatre. A friend of mine, who saw that show, said it was "magic."
And, on the road, it's magic too. Everyone in this production kick's ass. And this show looks like it kicks their ass too. The cast never, ever stops moving. There are very few props, except a row of large, rotating, digital screens and a bank of klieg-ish disco lights. This show focuses on the performers, their voices, and some, truly fabulous costumes (and "how did they do that?" costume changes).
Particular standouts, alongside Angela, include Adrienne Warren as Lorrell Robinson, Chester Gregory as James "Thunder" Early, and Syesha Mercado as Deena Jones. Syesha kicks Beyonce's version to the curb, and shows so much more depth as a performer than she was ever able to do on Idol. These are stars in the making. This show is pure gold.
Although its been almost three decades since it arrived on the scene, and this particular show itself has been on the road for several months now, it doesn't feel outdated. In fact, the feeling inside the theater that night, especially during the end of Act I during "that song," is unlike anything I've ever felt. The movie may've not lived up to the hype, but this show does, and "I Am Telling You I Am Going" to see it again. And again. And again. That is my dream.
Click here for tickets and more information about Dreamgirls.
NO BULL: I was told not to talk about "it." That "it" already has a big enough following. "Dude," said one guy, "it's a really good thing. Don't mess it up for us, okay?" So what exactly is "it"?
Well, "it" is just about the best queer night in town.
Three out of every four Saturday nights The Matador on West Burnside is host to "Maricones." Billed as a night for "Homos and their Homeys" it's a super-cool boys night out in a super-cool, old-school dive. Well, it's not really that divey, not like it used to be. There aren't any barflies hanging around and Starship Troopers played on the big screen. The main attraction is the amazing number of beautiful men and women that look like they've just got off the bus from Brooklyn, New York and Boise, Idaho. Like clockwork they show up en masse, every Saturday night, around 11 pm and stay until the barkeeps turn on the lights. I think the draw for this sort-of-secret dance night also has something to do with the really cheap drinks and really hot DJs including Moisti, Trans Fat and Ill Camino. So, if you go there—and I know you will—don't tell anybody you heard about it from me. I want to keep going there too.
I posted this last Friday over at Eater PDX and wanted to add the photo slideshow to the mix. Enjoy.
Hand-crafted sammies piled high to the sky, a selection of wine and Storm Large (above with my partner, Juan Martinez, and my friend, Jill Spitznass) were the main attractions—alongside a boatload of art—at Hands On for Haiti held last night inside a deserted, Pearl District Eddie Bauer store. For only a buck each (and a $15 entry fee) patrons could load up on bite-sized sandwiches from Bunk, Meat Cheese Bread and Kenny and Zuke’s, among others. There was also a wall-o-restaurants where you could bid on gift certificates for such hot spots as Olympic Provisions, Clyde Common and Gruner. Oddly enough the value of the certificate was also the minimum bid. Translated: bidders were paying more for their meals than they were valued at. But, hey, it was all for Mercy Corp. Spotted working the crowded room was Ned Ludd chef/owner Jason French(right) and Andrea Slonecker who was recently named the Executive Director of the Portland Culinary Alliance.