While he doesn't want to give away all of the program's surprises, Racey is willing to share a small preview. "I'm going to be doing a tap version of "I've Got You Under My Skin" with Joyce Chittick and a version of "Cool," where I'm backed up by three wonderful women," he says. "Craig Carnelia did a special orchestration of his song, "What You Call a Dream," which is going to be performed by the male chorus of Curtains. Plus, I'm working on a medley of wildly inappropriate songs you shouldn't dance to."
Racey says that there's a long list of people who have inspired him over the years as a dancer. "Fred Astaire is way up there. I remember watching Gene Nelson in the film of Oklahoma! as a kid and that stuck with me. Gregory Hines had a huge impact on me, and I consider Savion Glover a hero for the way he understands rhythm," he says. "Plus, there are the choreographers I've worked with: Jerry Mitchell, Jeff Calhoun, and Rob Ashford, who've all taught me that it's about how you honor the music, not your ego."
He also considers two of his Curtains co-stars to be inspirations as well. "This is the first time I've worked with a really big star like David Hyde Pierce and just watching him be him is a lesson. He's one of the most decent, down-to-earth people and that has so impressed me," says Racey. "And Karen Ziemba, who I worked with first on Never Gonna Dance, is just awesome. She is such a benevolent presence, and whenever I have a question, she's the person I go to. And as a dancer, she spins me for a loop."
Given her last name, perhaps it's appropriate that Kirsten Childs has a lifelong fondness for fairy tales, which is why she's adapted three of them for her new musical Funked Up Fairy Tales, to be seen at the Barrington Stage Company's Musical Theatre Lab, July 31-August 11. "People are wrong when they say life isn't like a fairy tale," she says. "For the most part, it is -- it's all brutal and unfair. The big difference is that in fairy tales, all the problems get solved."
In the show, which contains hip-hop, funk, and country music, she puts a contemporary spin on three very different fairy tales, "Rumpelstiltskin," "King Pip," and "Tam Lin," which is a Scottish story. "I love that one because someone has to fight the forces of Hell to keep true love," she says. "That's so romantic, especially these days when people get divorced because someone left the toilet seat up."
Childs, best known for writing the Off-Broadway musicals The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin and Miracle Brothers, says the project came about "in a Cyndi Lauper way. I just wanted to have fun and do something that would amuse me. I decided to adapt something, because in my mind that's always easier, even though in practice, it always becomes harder than I suspected."
THE TO-DO LIST
If you're looking for a quick jaunt out of the city, head to Stony Point, where Penguin Rep is presenting a superb revival of Lyle Kessler's crackling drama Orphans, helmed by artistic director Joe Brancato, and featuring a trio of first-rate performances by Michael Cullen, P.J. Sosko, and John Magaro. Looking ahead to next month: Brave New World Repertory will present its new multimedia piece Crossing Brooklyn Ferry in Brooklyn's Prospect Park on August 2; Jason Graae, Lucy Lawless, Joey McIntyre, Marissa Jaret Winokur and B.D. Wong will be among the many performers at Help Is on the Way 13, a benefit for the Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation, on August 5 at San Francisco's Palace of Fine Arts; former American Idol heartthrob Constantine Maroulis will sign copies of his new CD, Constantine, at NYC's FYE store at 6pm on August 7; and Natalie Cole and Branford Marsalis will perform with Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra at the Martha's Vineyard Festival on August 12.
IT'S NO DRAG
It's more than just the third time being the proverbial charm for Paul C. Vogt, who's now playing Edna Turnblad in Hairspray on Broadway -- having previously taken on the role in Las Vegas and the North Shore Music Theater in Beverly, Massachusetts. "In Vegas, I was never sure if the audience was really invested in the characters," he says. "Plus, because it was only 90 minutes, there were songs, scenes, lines, even words omitted. When I first got the full script, before North Shore, I was like, 'wow, there's another word here," he says. "North Shore was the first regional production, so there was a little bit of fear. We felt we really had to be tight on the lines. Plus, it was in the round, and I'd never done that before. On Broadway, there's not just a sense of ownership of the role, but there's also room for creativity if I want to change a word or attack a line differently."
Being on Broadway is a dream come true, and one that was slightly delayed due to a prior commitment. "The producers asked me to come in when Harvey Fierstein was first leaving the show, but I had just started doing MAD TV and felt I couldn't leave. Plus I had a contract," he says. "There aren't many great parts for big guys, and I was really chomping at the bit to do Edna. I take Divine [who played the role in the original John Waters film] as my model. He didn't play a guy; he played a mother."
Even though the role requires him to wear a 40-pound fat suit and a dress, that's no problem for Vogt. "I've played women as far back as I can remember," he notes. "When I was in high school, this community group was doing No, No, Nanette, and they couldn't find any women who had the right sense of humor to play the sassy maid, so they asked me. I just took it as an acting challenge. They billed me as P. Vogt and nobody knew it was a guy." And is that still true? "I left the stage door one day, and I heard this one woman turn to her friend and say 'See, I told you it was a man," says Vogt.
FACE THE MUSIC
Don't let the heat keep you out of NYC's cabaret rooms! If you weren't at Birdland on July 15 and 16, you missed a sensational show spotlighting the songs of composer/arranger Ron Abel, featuring such special guests as Sally Mayes, Jack Noseworthy, Natalie Douglas, Paul Kreppel, and Joey Gian. Best of all was when Abel's best pal, Lucie Arnaz, took the stage and brought down the house with Abel's stunning arrangement of "Hey, Look Me Over," which Arnaz's mom, Lucille Ball, introduced in Wildcat. Mark your calendars: Arnaz will return to the club on November 18 and 19, with daughter Kate Luckinbill sharing the bill. And next up at Birdland is Legally Blonde star Laura Bell Bundy, who will wow the crowds on July 23, 30, and August 20!
Elsewhere around town, head to Joe's Pub on July 20 to hear Passing Strange creator Stew and his band The Negro Problem; Amy Ziff, part of the fabulous girl group Betty, will serve up her new one-woman show Accident at Ars Nova on July 23 and 24; Tom Andersen, Scott Coulter, and Tim Di Pasqua will reprise their award-winning revue Southern Comfort at the Metropolitan Room on July 27 and August 3; Tony winner John Gallagher, Jr. and his popular rock band Old Springs Pike will play the Zipper on August 5; and Diamanda Galas will perform at NYC's Highline Ballroom on August 6, 12, and 19.