Review: Leslie Jordan

Well, queens, it doesn’t get much better — or much gayer — than Leslie Jordan’s one-man show. Leslie, who describes himself as “the gayest man I know,” also claims that he was put on this Earth to be a comic scene-stealer (who met his only match playing opposite Megan Mullally on Will & Grace). This innate gift gives the fey, diminutive Jordan more than enough power to thoroughly command a stage all by himself.

He looks at the profound self-doubt that comes with growing up queer and hyper-effeminate in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and the booze and drugs he used to overcome that doubt. As emotional as things might get, though, a laugh is never far off in this show. Like in the outlandish report of “how I got that role,” namely Beverly Leslie in Will & Grace: he describes his Emmy win for that role in great and hilariously self-deprecating detail. There’s plenty of dish about Hollywood: No outing – he describes John Ritter as “a great friend to the queers but a reeeaal pussyhound” – but we definitely get the lowdown on who has a legendary dick that Leslie repeatedly begs to see…and who will sue you for looking at them wrong.

This isn’t just a laugh-so-hard-you-cry look at the world through ultra-queer eyes (though it is that in spades), it’s also an often moving look at the very best and worst of what queer culture has to offer. Most moving of all, he describes how he threw all of his emotion about both his father and the lives lost in the Pulse nightclub massacre into throwing the first pitch at a baseball game. He threw with such passion that one of the pros said he could have had a career as a pitcher.

I can’t think of another autobiographical show that is more pure, unadulterated fun than Exposed! — it makes a convincing case for Jordan being one of the very greatest queer comic talents of our time.

For tickets, click here.

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

Review: Damn Yankees

Paper Mill Playhouse’s Damn Yankees is a quality revival of this energetic and charming old-fashioned musical. Yankeesfollows passionate baseball fan Joe Boyd (Joseph Kolinski), who sells his soul to a devil named Applegate (Howard McGillan) in order to help his home team, the Washington Senators, beat out the Yankees for the pennant.

Middle-aged Joe Boyd is transformed into young Joe Hardy (the appropriately athletic newcomer Christopher Charles Wood), who can knock the ball out of the park every time. When Joe starts missing his old life (and wife), Applegate brings in sexy Lola (Chryssie Whitehead), who tries to seduce Joe, singing the show’s biggest hit “Whatever Lola Wants”.

The original 1955 production was only the second time Bob Fosse had choreographed for the Broadway stage. Choreographer Denis Jones provides the merest whiff of Fosse’s style, which turns out to be a very smart move; the mambo-inflected “Who’s Got the Pain?”, for example, makes much more sense in this lightweight show without that oddly compelling Fosse menace. Whitehead delivers Jones’s choreography with playful aplomb both in “Pain” and above all in “Whatever Lola Wants”. Susan Mosher is a scream in the small but delightful comic role of Senators fan Sister. And who doesn’t love hunky chorus boys dressed as baseball players?

Christopher Charles Wood, however, is the real reason to see this production; he’s handsome, well-built, sexy and has acting and singing ability that more than matches his looks. Director Mark S. Hoebee has clearly done the work with Wood to make sure that his Hardy and Kolinski’s Boyd have the same personality. All in all, this Damn Yankees is solidly entertaining, with plenty of heart.

For tickets, click here.