Friday, December 19, 2008

Ogre The Rainbow

Shrek opens on Broadway and has us asking the question: "Is Green the new Gay?"

(As seen in HX Magazine 12/19/08)

A few bed-hopping bears, three little pigs looking for a place to crash, a wicked old witch and the Sugar Plum Fairy—I know, sounds like a typical Tuesday night at Vlada. It also happens to describe the motley ensemble of storybook misfits now appearing nightly at The Broadway Theatre in the latest movie-gone-musical, Shrek. Based on the DreamWorks animated film series, this one seems an obvious hit with both kids and adult audiences. But don’t let its seemingly-adolescent subject matter fool you. There’s no denying the vast homo-appeal of this show—due in part, to the themes of equality and individuality, encouraging us to “let the freak flags fly.” Sprinkled with a bit of fairy dust by out director Jason Moore and choreographer Josh Prince, Shrek is heavily peppered with pop and queer cultural references, courtesy of Pulitzer Prize-winning writer David Lindsay-Abaire. There’s the cross-dressing Big Bad Wolf (a self-proclaimed “hot tranny mess”), and spoofs on Dreamgirls, Wicked and A Chorus Line. And, of course, let’s not forget that sassy little Gingerbread Man and his damn gumdrop buttons. That cookie’s so queer!

Liza may have The Palace, but she's not the only queen holding court on Broadway these days. A Tony nominee for his work in Spamalot, Broadway's openly-gay and positively hunky Christopher Sieber is a scream as Lord Farquaad: that three-foot-nothing bundle of dynamite with daddy issues, trying desperately to compensate for his shortcomings and win the affections of a princess twice his size. You might be most impressed to learn that Sieber remains on his knees through the entire performance, which as many of you know, is no easy way to earn a living. Brava!

SUTTON FOSTER as Princess Fiona
In these uncertain times during the Musical Theatre diva recession this current generation of gays is facing, it's comforting to know that there is Sutton Foster. In Shrek, she plays the lovely (if not slightly unorthodox) Princess Fiona: hot-tempered, ravishing beauty by day and portly ogress by night. (So if anyone appreciates the importance of good lighting, it's this girl.) With the comedic timing of a young Ms. Carol Burnett and the vocal prowess of a young Ms. Patti LuPone, Foster couldn't disappoint if she tried. And really, where else can you catch a Tony Award-winning Broadway diva doing fart jokes? Even LuPone won't give you that.

Best-known for his Tony-nominated work in Avenue Q, out actor John Tartaglia plays Pinocchio: the bratty little falsetto who gets wood every time he talks shit. Tartaglia also lends his voice to the Magic Mirror, and his masterful puppeteering skills to the lovesick Dragon. His hilarious portrayal of the little puppet with a dream puts the "mary" in "marionette", and might leave you wondering which side of the toy shop Pinocchio hangs out on. The character probably sums it up best himself at the end of a particularly rousing anthem during the second act: "I'm wood... I'm good... Get used to it!"

Direct from his Tony-nominated stint in Broadway's Passing Strange, Daniel Breaker steals many of his scenes as the adorably codependent and limp-hoofed Donkey who befriends our green protagonist. While occasionally borrowing some of the shtick which made Eddie Murphy's original creation of this character so memorable in the film, Breaker gays it up but good! His saucy and buffoonish sidekickery seem suited for a one-donkey cabaret engagement at The Duplex: "JUST JACKASS!" [Insert jazz hooves here.]

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