News: I’m directing Granados’s opera “Goyescas” this fall

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This fall I will be directing Enrique Granados’s opera Goyescas with an exciting new opera company Bare Opera. The story of Goyescas is based on a series of six paintings from Francisco Goya’s early career, inspired by the young men and women of the majismo movement. These majos and majas are known for their bohemian attitude and stylish dress.

Bare Opera is an alternative opera company in New York City with a fresh, modern take on the opera experience. They believe that the bare essence of opera is the magical experience created through different art forms coming together. Bare Opera brings this collaborative spirit to the 21st century through innovative cross-arts productions.

Bare Opera cares deeply about the future of opera and believes that there’s an immense need for innovation in the art form to bring in new audiences. They strive to break the stereotypes around opera and create a casual and intimate experience in unusual spaces like art galleries and warehouses. By promoting emerging artists and unique cross-genre collaborations, Bare Opera hopes to be an active agent of change in the cultural landscape of opera and classical music, helping to create a sustainable future for the art form. More about them at their website here.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.

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Review: The New York Story

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Colin Quinn is one of the better comics doing political satire – he communicates highly complicated ideas through the most mundane and absurdly funny examples. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed his previous shows Long Story Short and Unconstitutional, which brought enormous issues wittily down to a comprehensible human scale. So I got excited when I heard about this new show about the the history of New York.

Quinn quite rightly sees the “the New York story” as being about different layers of attitude arising from each new immigrant ethnic group. He goes right for the jugular, humorously eviscerating political correctness, perhaps most deftly by observing that people talk about having a conversation about race instead of actually having that conversation.

As such, there is plenty of ethnic humor in the show, but it’s generally gentle and often actually complimentary. As, in, how do you know the building on the corner is a “Puerto Rican building”? And there are plenty of self-deprecating jabs at his own Irish Catholic background.

Quinn’s manner is engagingly off-hand – this is bigger and smarter than your usual stand-up, but it never totally leaves that sphere. He’s a sharp-eyed satirist, his take decidedly coming from a working class point of view, or at least from the point of view that’s been formed by being around working class people. The New York Story is jaunty and fun with a biting edge, a thought-provoking good time that I can easily recommend.

For tickets, click here.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.

Review: Alaska Thunderfuck 5000

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This girl is big!!! I mean for one thing, Alaska’s just very, very tall!! For another thing, her greatest gift as a performer is a knack for imaginative exaggeration. One would hope so: her full drag name is Alaska Thunderfuck 5000 from the Planet Glamtron, and that’s a lot to fill out. More than anything else, Alaska T5ftPG is a talented caricaturist.

Not to say that’s she’s amateurish or sloppy – not remotely! Caricature has room for precision, wit, intelligence and creativity, and Alaska displays all of this and more. She’s entitled her latest cabaret “The Gayest Show You’ve Ever Seen”, and though she admits that the truth of that title depends on the viewer, it certainly strives valiantly to earn it. (For the record, it’s probably not the gayest show I’ve seen – I’d have to think long and hard about what that would be).

As befits a caricaturist who goes for size, Alaska goes for suitably exaggerated (not to mention way gay) targets: Cher, Bette Davis and Liberace, among others. Alaska has a pretty good voice, but she’s well aware that she’s not what you would call a song stylist. Indeed, her pianist Handsome Jeremy – actually more like girlishly pretty Jeremy – introduces her using the phrase “song-like stylings”, which is pretty spot-on.

Plus, the show was snappy and short! That never happens in drag cabaret! I’m almost tempted to say she should flesh it out a bit and make it longer, but that seems like tempting the fates – and there was at least one song that went on too long. Very gay, a lot of fun, and definitely recommended.

For tickets, click here.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.

Review: Ginger Minj

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The Minj is quite the little singer! Well, maybe not little…Ginger has genuine article musical theatre training and chops, and has made the intelligent move of structuring her cabaret act Crossdresser for Christ: The Musical, A Drag Queen Confessional around a songlist made up exclusively of showtunes. She made the equally smart choice of going for variety within that songbook, using tunes from shows as disparate as Oklahoma and Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

The act is in the very traditional mold of “this is my life” autobiographical cabarets. It tracks Ginger’s life from a childhood in Southern Baptist Lake County, Florida to adventures in New York to his discovery of drag’s power in an unpromising Orlando Fringe Festival show. There is biting humor throughout – the Minj comments that the Orlando Fringe is an unjuried festival “so you know most of the shows are shit!” – and she cleverly builds the singing from the folksy and simple (“I’m Just A Girl Who Cain’t Say No”) to the complex and bravura (Stephen Schwartz’s “Meadowlark”, a favorite of divas from Betty Buckley to Patti LuPone).

It’s not a perfect show, for sure. Parts of it were polished to a high sheen, other parts seemed under- or un-rehearsed. There were precious few backstage stories from Drag Race, which is a big part of what we want to hear, isn’t it? Her dress was not truly ugly, but definitely not “glamour toad” fabulous either. And her wig, though suitably big, was brown for goodness sake! These are quibbles, though – Ginger is a real show biz pro, and had the audience in the palm of her hand for the great majority of the evening. Recommeded.

For tickets, click here.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.