Chicago

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Review: BETTE Xmas at the Continental Baths

Published December 15, 2019 by biggayhorrorfan

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Bette Midler is many things. Her repertoire of songs alone includes rock and roll, MOR pop ballads, girl group classics and new wave energizers. Her role as the hysterically vengeful Winifred in Hocus Pocus also imbues her with a strong horror pedigree, allowing generations of outsiders to delightfully engage in their inner wicked witches.

In BETTE Xmas at the Continental Baths, Chicago theater goddess Caitlin Jackson invokes many of those Midler personalities while also remaining uniquely herself. Based upon the Divine One’s ‘70s showcase at a NYC men’s club, this production is full of goofy energy and go-for-broke silliness, making it not only a seasonal delight, but one of the year’s best stage offerings as a whole, as well.

Jackson’s desire to make this a sort of performing arts fever dream is perfectly realized. For example, the corny jokes in Jackson and David Cerda’s fun script are often so obvious that they don’t land with the audience…at first. But the performer’s skilled reactions to the theater’s radio silence are truly hysterical, making the presentation as a whole an unmitigated delight from start to finish.

Of course, Jackson’s softly anguished takes on songs such as Superstar, River and I Shall Be Released are the evening’s master points. This go-for-broke yet subtle emotionality is her forte as a performer, making one pity those who will never experience this kind of brilliance in their lifetimes.

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Nicely, Jackson is ably assisted here by Terry McCarthy as Mr. Gerard, Midler’s game hairdresser, and Sydney Genco and Allison Petrillo as Laverne and Trixie, Midler’s backup singers. Genco and Petrillo get a chance to shine on their own during the show’s intermission/costume change. Their pert energy and spot on timing ultimately prove that they deserve a show of their own one of these days. Hmm…maybe next season!!!

But until then… give proper kudos to Jackson and co-director Marc Lewallen, by checking out this year’s festivities before closing night on December 31st.

https://www.facebook.com/events/570448403729627/

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

www.facebook.com/biggayhorrorfan

Review: Who Killed Joan Crawford?

Published November 4, 2019 by biggayhorrorfan

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William Castle fiends take note. If Strait-Jacket era Joan Crawford is your thing then you better rush your cult film worshipping selves to the Athenaeum Theatre for the final performances of Glitterati Production’s beyond fun Who Killed Joan Crawford?

Taking place on Tony Awards night in 1993, this engaging and campy thriller revolves around the backstabbing antics of a group of longtime friends. Of course, the fact that all the players are dressed in various forms of Crawford drag does eventually limit their mobility as various weapons are brought out for purposes of bloody dispatching. There is also the small problem of their mysteriously missing host.

Directing Michael Leeds’ cattily inventive script with flair, director John Nasca highlights the material’s expected, much loved murder-mystery tropes with zeal. He and Lana Whittington, who designed the show’s more physical interactions, also skillfully help denote the fact that this ensemble of characters are not experienced drag performers, but grown men indulging a friend’s grand birthday wish.

Importantly, those various versions of Joan, focusing on everything from her early treks into stardom to her latter day romps in psycho biddy territory (note the Straight-Jacket reference above), are delivered with exquisite, recognizable skill by Nasca. He is grandly assisted by Robert Hilliard, who puts a definite, celluloid stamp on the wide variety of wigs used.

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Bringing this brisk 75 minute romp fully into the pleasure zone, though, is it’s very agreeable cast. Compromised of newer talent and seasoned veterans of Chicago’s professional theater scene, the ensemble joyfully gives their characters a sense of specificity as a whole. It’s truly a nice balance of personalities, with John Cardone and Patrick Rybarczyk, in particular, giving an arch urgency and playful verve to their calculating, frequently divisive interactions. Nicely, Michael Hampton, as the seemingly loving and emotionally convincing Stewart Fry, truly commands attention here, as well. His character is perhaps the most well rounded of the lot, and he makes the most of every occasionally contrary, frequently whimsical moment.

More information on the show, which runs in Chicago until November 10th, is available at https://www.facebook.com/events/2804610532934028/.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Review: Cabaret

Published October 24, 2019 by biggayhorrorfan

Cabaret

Examining the impact of the Nazi party on Berlin in the 1930s, Cabaret is a much loved musical with elements that are distinctly horrific.  Nicely, in Cowardly Scarecrow Theatre Company’s current production, directors Marc Lewallen and Brad Younts highlight this fact by adding a decidedly Mary Shelley slant to If You Could  See Her, one of the show’s most amusing, ultimately gut crushing numbers.

In keeping with that spirit, this show genuinely smashes expectations across the board. The naive protagonist Cliff, usually rendered as a bland collegiate soul, is given life and personality by Scott Sawa’s engaging portrayal here. He even gives this frequently colorless figure a sense of soft humor, allowing the show’s devastating ending to reflect not only the murderous intent of Hitler and his minions, but the loss of personal innocence, as well. Meanwhile, Anthony Whitaker not only sings the role of Herr Schultz with ecstatic sweetness, but gives him a delightfully romantic heart, as well, providing an endearing ingredient that other revivals have overlooked.

Of course, all of this would mean nothing without the perfect Sally Bowles and Caitlin Jackson is damn near that. Giving the character the expected oomph and sass, she also provides her with a lived in aura that makes her distinctly believable. Merging her natural sexiness with a sorrowful sense of humanity, she gifts audiences by revealing a character who is truly a victim of her own reckless desires, providing another contrast to Schultz, The Emcee (a fine Kevin Webb), Bobby (a joyful Josh Kemper) and the other members of the Kit Kat Club who are all finally victims of a sadistic regime. Jackson’s take on the title number, as well, is not only in earthy contrast to the assorted ingénues who usually brightly perform it, but a great indicator of the complicated emotional underpinnings of Bowles, as well.

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The decision to stage this version in the upstairs bar at Chief O’Neill’s in Chicago is also a wise move, allowing audiences to revel in the atmosphere that is being skillfully created here. One can truly feel the punk energy in band member Aaron Smith’s rhythmic drumming and deliciously partake in the motivations behind every wicked arch in Sydney Genco’s seductive eyebrows as she happily manipulates as the determined, vengeful Kost.

Cabaret, which obviously comes highly recommended, runs through Friday October 25th at Chief O’Neill’s in Chicago. Tickets are available at https://cstccabaret.bpt.me/.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Japanese CARCRASH

Published September 1, 2019 by biggayhorrorfan

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In the late ‘80s there wasn’t a more significant way to spend a weekend night in Chicago than dancing at Medusa’s nightclub. Spiraling into the witching hour as techno and new wave tunes throbbed seemed as close to an alternative heaven as any wayward, creative youth could get. Interestingly enough, Japanese CARCRASH, a band based in Southeast Texas, makes music that radiates with the black lashed urban mythology of those times.

Rise of the MACRO-VIXEN, inspired by the beautiful and strong heroines of the Russ Meyer films, seems particularly fit for gothic thrashing in some long lost, three storied warehouse building.

More information on JCC’s retro fused style is available at https://www.facebook.com/Japanese-Carcrash-179246925425149/ and https://japanesecarcrash.bandcamp.com (where you can purchase 1978, the excellent release that contains MACRO-VIXEN.)

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Cowardly Scarecrow Announces Cabaret

Published August 27, 2019 by biggayhorrorfan

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The Chicago theater community has, as a friend likes to say, “Huge News!!!” Cowardly Scarecrow Productions has recently announced its fall production of Cabaret, beginning on October 5th, 2019. Renowned for their long running production of Musical of the Living Dead, this version of the Kander & Ebb classic is sure to be filled with this production house’s finely tuned sense of the gothic. No macabre essence of this piece is sure to go unexplored here.

This version is also armed with the undeniable talents of Caitlin Jackson (above), this site’s choice as the Midwest’s premium diva of the silver tongued boards! Jackson, who was recently nominated for a Jeff Award for her skillful performance of Cheryl in (last year’s hysterically fun, progressive version of) Evil Dead: The Musical, is sure to create a Sally Bowles for the memory books!

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Local enthusiasts can help CSP achieve their ultimate creative intentions by attending a benefit for them on August 31st: https://www.facebook.com/events/2426383007409353/.

Others, meanwhile, can hum charmingly off key versions of Tomorrow Belongs to Me while checking out the show’s growth at https://www.cowardlyscarecrow.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/CSTCINC/.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Windy City Horrorama

Published April 12, 2019 by biggayhorrorfan

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Chicago is home to many amazing film events. From the multiple festivals originating from the Terror in the Aisles crew to the Music Box Massacre, there are a wide variety of genre happenings for cinema enthusiasts to embrace. One of the newest and most exciting homegrown productions is The Windy City Horrorama, now entering its second year.

Last year’s activities included an anniversary screening of Jason Goes to Hell, with director Adam Marcus in attendance, along with a multitude of premiere screenings. The upcoming edition will also feature special guests including indie legend J.R. Bookwalter, appearing with a celebratory screening of Robot Ninja, and Rodman Fletcher, the director of the much beloved terror comedy Idle Hands.

But WCH is truly making its mark as being a special place for outrageous indie and foreign splatterfests. If titles like Straight Edge Kegger, The VelociPaster and Mutant Blast catch your gore seeking eyeballs, then you won’t want to miss this enthusiastic celebration, which begins a three day residency at the historic Davis Theater in Lincoln Square on Friday, April 26th.

More information is available at https://www.facebook.com/pg/windycityhorrorama/ and www.windycityhorrorama.com.

I hope to see you there and until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Dagger Cast

Published March 8, 2019 by biggayhorrorfan

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Stevie Nicks may have celebrated the Edge of Seventeen, but as I stand on the verge of 51, I have to laud Dagger Cast! Initiated by Jared Olsen, one half of edgy production company nite smoke, this podcast looks at horror from the sense of the other. By the celebrating the LGBTQ, Black, Latinx and female (etc. etc…) viewpoint of horror, this podcast aims to reach into the hidden depths of the horror community, gazing far past the straight white gaze that has dominated it for so many years. DC Logo

As my co-host, the dynamic Lindsey Charles (lead singer of The Cell Phones), has often asked of our guests, we want to find out what you, that special and unique force in society, needs from this genre – a genre that can so beautiful express the hopes and fears of outsiders everywhere. Of course, we aim to do this with a sense of fun and irreverent punk rock spirit, as well!

To determine if we’ve succeeded, you can check out our first few episodes at https://soundcloud.com/daggercast.

Meanwhile, more information is available at https://www.facebook.com/daggercast/, as well.

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Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

www.facebook.com/biggayhorrorfan