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15 Minutes with Justin Sayre

May 12th, 2017 Comments off
Justin Sayre (Photo: Kevin Yatarola via The Broadway Blog.)

Justin Sayre (Photo: Kevin Yatarola via The Broadway Blog.)

The Meeting* hosted by Justin Sayre — the monthly gathering of the International Order of Sodomites, the centuries-old organization which sets the mythic Gay Agenda — will conclude its acclaimed eight year run this Sunday, May 14 with two performances at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. at Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater. Both shows are sold-out but will be broadcast globally online for the first time with Joe’s Pub Livestream, which is available at www.youtube.com/JoesPubNY.

The acclaimed comedy/variety show is known for its audacious humor, trailblazing political discourse and button-pushing cultural exploration. Special guests will be announced soon. Lance Horne serves as the evening’s music director. The Broadway Blog had a chance to catch up with Sayre before his final soiree — this is what he had to say…

Justin Sayre (Photo: Ricardo Nelson via The Broadway Blog.)

Justin Sayre (Photo: Ricardo Nelson via The Broadway Blog.)

How did The International Oder of Sodomites come to fruition? And are there any charter members besides yourself? 
The original organization was founded in 1205 as part of the medieval guild system and since then we’ve been behind the scenes manipulating and maneuvering the lives and legacies of the LGBTQIA community.

Back then we were just all sodomites, which seemed easier to say but had perhaps harsh consequences. For many years, I worked with the organization in private and then in November of 2009 we had our first public meeting at The Duplex. We celebrated my patron saint, Edie Bouvier Beale. The membership is wide and extensive, celebrities, people who work with cheese, garbage men, real and figurative, we’re not choosey. Once you say the magic words, “I’m ****something besides straight****” you’re in.

Has honoring a celebrity always been part of the line-up?
Always. It’s a way to get people talking. If you were told you’re going to an event about gay culture and politics, snoozeville. But if you’re told you’re going to a night celebrating Diana Ross, and there will be discussions of politics and culture, I’d say sign me up. It was a way to reach out to the membership and celebrate that which has touched us, moved us, given us strength to be ourselves. That brings all sorts of people together, and that is at the heart of what The Meeting* is, a community event.

What is your inspiration for choosing the season of notables?
We have an extensive list, and we rack our collective brains. We try to mix it up a great deal, selecting artists from all over the map. It’s all about inclusion, so we try to vary the lineup from month to month. The final shows was a grouping of people we’ve loved and always wanted to do. The last show will be my favorites. I think it’s only write after 7 years, don’t you.

In one of your recent shows, which paid tribute to Michael Bennett, there were some terrific guest appearances, including his famous “Turkey Lurkey Time” choreography from Promises, Promises. Have you ever attempted this dance in the privacy of your own home? If so, what might you compare it to?
I’m more of a drunken Fosse girl myself. I love a kitchen into bathroom Rich Man’s Frugue.

It’s the last season of The Meeting*. How else are we to get our fix of hilarity draped in a sensible shawl?
I will still be making shows and still making work at Joe’s Pub. It was simply time to end this side of it. Being the Chairman of The Board has been a rare and unbelievable joy in my life for sometime, but I think it’s time to try new things.

You’re very funny. But you also have a sense of gravitas when it comes to our current political climate. Has this recently influenced your work or have you always drawn inspiration from the end of the world as we know it?
I have always been talking about politics and the way we treat each other as a community. It’s the guts of the show for me.

Can we expect to see you at the Equality March in Washington this June? Do you have some tips for creative signage? Because, as you know, any protest is all about the accessories. 
I will certainly be. But I’m very bad with signs. Just look for the bellowing floor length pashmina and you’ll find me.

Justin Sayre

The Lamentable Tale of a Dog; as told by Beppo, formerly of the Castaglioni company of Padua — Sayre’s new solo work — will debut on Thursday, May 18 at 9 p.m. as part of the High Line “Out of Line” event series. The show, which features sets by Sully Ross, costumes by Allan Herrara and artwork by Adam Michael, will take place on the High Line at 14th Street. Melody Berger is featured on violin. The event is free but reservations are suggested. Visit TheHighLine.org for tickets and information.

 

 

The View From Above: ‘The Outer Space’

March 9th, 2017 Comments off
Ethan Lipton in 'The Outer Space.' (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Ethan Lipton in ‘The Outer Space.’ (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

What happens when life on earth just becomes too much? It’s a not-so-existential question asked by Ethan Lipton in his latest quirky musical story adventure, The Outer Space, which opened March 8 at Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater. For more than a decade, Ethan Lipton + His Orchestra (Eben Levy, Ian M. Riggs and Vito Dieterle) have been delivering jazz-inflected story songs to hipster New Yorkers. Lipton has simultaneously established his own career as a playwright. He is an alum of The Public’s Emerging Writers Group, a Clubbed Thumb associate artist, and a Playwrights Realm Page One fellow. His Obie award-winning musical, No Place to Go, was produced by The Public and has toured nationally. So all things considered, life on earth for Lipton isn’t half bad. But that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t be better in outer space.

Constructed as a series of story songs, narrative, one-off jokes and musical interludes, The Outer Space follows the emotional trappings of a couple who vacate earth for new life high in the sky — orbiting Mercury, specifically. They’ve bought “a charming Victorian craft” in the hopes of rediscovering themselves, their relationship, and perhaps, the meaning of happiness. The wife is happy with their decision, while the husband suffers from space sadness, defined as “a combination of despair, mono, and a shitty attitude.” These nuanced, urban riffs ripple throughout Lipton’s work, set against whimsical scenic and costume designs by David Zinn that set a tone of ‘let’s not take ourselves too seriously.’

And while the subtle jabs and life’s inadequacies ripple freely off of Lipton’s tongue, he questions early on just what sort of potential we have for change:

Have you ever known someone
who said they wanted to do something very different with their life, because they thought it would make them a happier person?
 And have you ever said to that someone,
“Yes! You should totally do that thing!”
all while thinking, I’m not sure it’s going to make you a happier person. Well, you were right. 
It doesn’t work that way.
You don’t just transform your circumstance and get happier.
 Except when you do.

Vito Dieterle, Ian M. Riggs, Ethan Lipton, and Eben Levy in 'The Outer Space.' (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Vito Dieterle, Ian M. Riggs, Ethan Lipton, and Eben Levy in ‘The Outer Space.’ (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Lipton is sharp-witted when it comes to painting the picture of spacecraft life, which basically equates to small town living amid a colony of 3,100 people in 450 vessels (“with quite a few others in the outskirts”) and equally adept at lyrics in such ditties as “A to Z,” an alphabetical tongue twister about all of the things the couple enjoys together, or “Yoga/Not Yoga,” which mildly pokes fun at our struggles to find internal peace.

Lipton charismatically carries us along this journey in a soft-spoken, NPR kind of way. His baritone vocals won’t blow the roof off of Joe’s Pub, but it’s a soothing, unique delivery that complements his band’s terrific musicality. It is this sum of the parts that has made Ethan Lipton + His Orchestra so unique.

Lipton is at ease under the direction of Leigh Silverman (Violet, Sweet Charity, Kung Fu), who gently guides this mission to outer space and inner exploration. At the end of The Outer Space’s 90 minutes, I’m not sure I was any closer to discovering “the dream of letting go” or “the other dream being just a human being.” But it was still worth the ride.

The Outer Space
Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater
425 Lafayette Street, NYC
Through April 9

CD Release Party: The Fortress of Solitude

March 25th, 2015 Comments off
The Fortress of Solitude (photo: Doug Hamilton via The Broadway Blog.)

The Fortress of Solitude (photo: Doug Hamilton via The Broadway Blog.)

It was one of our favorite new musicals of the fall, and now The Fortress of Solitude will celebrate the release of the original cast album at Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater on Monday, April 13. The evening will feature original cast members Ken Barnett, Kyle Beltran, Adam Chanler-Berat, Andre De Shields, Kevin Mambo, Britton Smith, Akron Watson and Juson Williams.

The show, which was produced by The Public Theater (Artistic Director, Oskar Eustis; Executive Director, Patrick Willingham), is based on the national best-selling novel of the same name by Jonathan Lethem, with a book by Itamar Moses, music and lyrics by Michael Friedman, and conceived and directed by Daniel Aukin. Time Out New York raved, “Michael Friedman’s score draws excitingly on period sounds” and according to The New York Times, “the score flows in undulating rivers of soul, funk, punk and rap.”

Ghostlight has also premiered a full advance preview track from the album. “The One I Remember” – featuring the full cast – is currently available to stream on YouTube here.

The Fortress of Solitude
CD Release Concert
Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater
425 Lafayette Street
April 13, 9:30 p.m.

For tickets ($12) call (212) 967-7555 or visit joespub.com, or visit in person at The Public Theater Box Office.

Review: Sandra Bernhard is #blessed at Joe’s Pub

December 28th, 2014 Comments off
Sandra Bernhard (photo provided by James Sliman.)

Sandra Bernhard (photo provided by James Sliman.)

Sandra Bernhard entered the stage last night at Joe’s Pub, where she’ll be performing her latest theatrical incarnation, Sandra Bernhard is #blessed through December 31, and released an exasperated sigh as if to say, “This world is so f*cked. What are we going to do about it?” The actress/comedian/author/singer has been on the scene (make that many scenes) since the early ‘80s and her latest rant is both a culmination of her professional experiences as well as the earnest and humorous embrace of her life as a mother.

A three-piece band, led by longtime musical director Mitch Kaplan and featuring the adorable Kevin Andreas on guitar and synthesizer, backs Bernhard. Vocally, she is in good form with a soaring belt that hovers but rarely hones in on pitch, but it doesn’t really matter because it’s Sandy B. and she owns every moment.

JOES PUB POSTER JPEG 12-1-14Performing with a music stand and a stack of material that she flips through on a whim, today’s Bernhard may polarize some LGBT’ers as she pokes fun of the term “partner” when referring to her longtime girlfriend, saying that it sounds like a phrase better used for “litigation and light lovemaking.” She also shook up the crowd when recounting her recent visit to the Barclays Center for a Nets game. A sly comment about the rioters outside in reference to the Eric Garner case caused one audience member to scream out “black lives matter!” Bernhard promptly addressed the heckler, saying, “I earned my stripes,” citing her three decades of activism and beginnings in Los Angeles’s black clubs.

On a more sentimental note, Bernhard speaks of her teenage daughter, her mother’s recent death, and remembrances of a failed childhood road trip through the southwest with her now semi-estranged father. “I have always liked who I am but I’ve gone through periods where I haven’t felt secure,” said Bernhard in an interview with The Independent, “that’s part of growing up, to have experience to force you through the meat grinder and come out fully formed.”

She is in full form at Joe’s Pub, unafraid to stumble over new material and push the audience’s comfort zone as well as her own as she reads a self-deprecating message from Jane Fonda, who mistakenly responded to an email thinking she was Sandra Bullock. Another fun, imaginary riff places Bernhard at a rural diner where she encounters Fleetwood Mac member Christine McVie as the band member takes some time off from show business to work as a hostess. And for a final flourish, Bernhard delivers her signature reading of excerpts from The New York Times as well as ridiculous advertisements that poke fun at our culture’s obsession with youth and beauty.

For dedicated fans, Bernhard makes herself available after each performance to sign T-shirts, posters, and DVDs/CDs, unabashedly capitalizing on her #blessed life.

Sandra Bernhard is #blessed
Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater
425 Lafayette Street
Through December 31

Matthew Wexler is The Broadway Blog’s editor and a regular contributor to Passport Magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @roodeloo

Review: Bridget Everett Hits “Rock Bottom”

September 18th, 2014 Comments off

Broadway Blog editor Matthew Wexler gets “exposed” to one of New York’s hottest cabaret performers, Bridget Everett. This article contains adult themes and language.

Bridget Everett in "Rock Bottom" (photo: Kevin Yatarola ) via The Broadway Blog.

Bridget Everett in “Rock Bottom” (photo: Kevin Yatarola ) via The Broadway Blog.

I was first exposed (quite literally, in fact) to Bridget Everett at a benefit cabaret performance about a decade ago. She had been added to the roster by one of the event chairs who had a penchant for downtown performers. Even at that time, Everett’s alter ego stage persona was swilling chardonnay and waxing poetic about her white trash upbringing in Manhattan, Kansas, and her affection for black dick. Oh, how things change yet stay the same. At the end of the performance, one of the board members scrambled backstage to see if Everett was available for an encore—to the tune of a $10,000 donation to the charity beneficiary. If memory serves me, I believe the response was a resounding, “Fuck, yeah” and a star—at least in my eyes—was born.

Bridget Everett (photo: Kevin Yatarola) via The Broadway Blog.

Bridget Everett (photo: Kevin Yatarola) via The Broadway Blog.

Cut to Everett’s latest incarnation, Rock Bottom, which opened last night at Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater. Developed from New York Voices, an artist-commissioning program that matches master artists with developing talent, Everett has taken her bawdy, shock-value act to stratospheric levels with the mentorship of co-creators Marc Shaiman (Hairspray, NBC’s Smash), Scott Wittman (Catch Me If You Can), Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz (original member of the Beastie Boys) and pianist songwriter Matt Ray. Cumulatively, the team’s musical compositions are framed by a shock value premise that leaves nary a rock unturned. She goes for the jugular with sex toys, a can of whipped cream and several revealing onstage costume changes (designed by Larry Krone for House of Larreón).

Everett’s Rock Bottom rants don’t necessarily follow a linear plot, but her recurring themes of body empowerment, the class system (she mentions her “slave job” several times throughout the evening) and dysfunctional relationships simmer like a batch of crystal meth in a trailer park kitchen. “Bridget’s ferocious femininity and unapologetic embrace of her sexuality are at the forefront of her work,” says Joe’s Pub director Shanta Thake in the program notes. “The feeling of female empowerment is palpable in the room every time she takes the stage.”

In order to hit those marks, Everett is well equipped with a brand new songbook that showcases her smoky alto range. Shaiman and Wittman are masters of the hook and don’t disappoint with arrangements that draw from Motown, R&B, gospel and beyond. On a rare occasion, the hooks venture into hokey, but for the most part Everett benefits greatly from the more sophisticated musicality than her previous shows, including a number of well-placed key changes that allow the performer to soar into her higher register—proving that there’s more to Bridget Everett than “them low rider titties.”

One of the greatest testaments to Bridget Everett’s endurance and endearment is her dedicated audience, who return time and again to see what she may pull out of an orifice next. They come from all walks of life (Patti LuPone is a notable fan—so much so that the Tony Award winner asked her to perform a number at her recent Carnegie Hall concert). They come to laugh and surprisingly, sometimes cry. Most have them have probably hit rock bottom at some point or another. And rising like a phoenix, Bridget Everett is there for them—inevitably with a glass of chardonnay.

Rock Bottom
Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater
425 Lafayette Street
Through October 11

"Rock Bottom" at Joe's Pub (photo: Kevin Yatarola) via The Broadway Blog.

“Rock Bottom” at Joe’s Pub (photo: Kevin Yatarola) via The Broadway Blog.