BUYING THE FARM
Wisconsin is a long way from New York, but it's where Gotham-based gay couple John and Kim end up for a fateful weekend in Dean Gray's and Amy Fox's Farm Boys, now at the Blue Heron. The subject matter was just one element that attracted OBIE-winning actor/playwright David Drake to the play, which is based on a compilation of oral histories. "When I read the script, I found it was very beautiful," says Drake, who plays Kim. "It's about finding your own path, your own self, and I really believe in those narratives. But I also wanted to work with Amy, who is a real up-and-coming writer." (She penned the upcoming Merchant/Ivory film Heights.) Adds Drake, "I also really wanted to work with other actors again. I get tired of doing solo shows; I never intended to make that my career."
Drake interacted with other performers this summer when he appeared in the Barrington Stage production of Thief River. "Although it's a gay-themed play, what's amazing is that our audience was almost all straight people," he says -- "and it went over like gangbusters. Maybe mainstream audiences are now coming to see plays about gay people not because they're curiosities but because they're good stories about interesting characters -- sort of the same reasons that white people go to see August Wilson's plays. And that's good because you can't count on the gays to be your audience for a 'gay play' anymore, since they get their fill of queer characters on TV."
In December, Drake will return to Barrington Stage, this time to appear in David Sedaris's The Santaland Diaries. "It's the first time I'll be appearing in a solo show I didn't write," he says. So, is this the beginning of a trend? "If they offered me The Belle of Amherst, I'd probably to do it," Drake allows. "Just think about that dress!"
Kevin Anderson is most familiar to Broadway audiences for his work in such hard-hitting dramas as Orpheus Descending and Death of a Salesman, but theatergoers familiar with his entire career won't be completely surprised that he's back on the Rialto in Brooklyn The Musical. "I did a lot of musicals early in my career," says Anderson -- "and since I looked liked a kid, I played roles like The Boy in The Fantasticks. I even played a singing JFK in something called One Shining Moment. But once I hooked up with Steppenwolf, musicals kind of fell by the wayside." (Indeed, his last big musical was the London production of Sunset Boulevard, opposite Patti LuPone.)
Anderson, who plays the heroine's long-lost father in Brooklyn's show-within-the-show, says that he was raring to go on the project as soon as he heard the musical's score more than two years ago. "I was living in Los Angeles and the producers sent me the CD," he says. "I put it on in my car and every song really affected me; this was music I loved listening to. So I called my manager, and I've been with the show ever since the first workshop. I think even audiences who know that I sing won't be familiar with the kind of voice that I get to use here; the music is a little more soulful than most Broadway shows." Happy as he is to sing this score, Anderson is even more thrilled to be working with his fellow castmates: Cleavant Derricks, Eden Espinosa, Ramona Keller, and Karen Olivo. "Pound for pound," he tells me, "this is the most talented cast I've ever worked with."
Unlike Anderson, Derricks only joined the show in the role of the Street Singer a couple of months ago as a last-minute replacement for the ailing David Jennings. Amazingly, Brooklyn marks his first Broadway outing since his Tony-winning turn in Dreamgirls and his first New York appearance since Romance in Hard Times in 1989. As much as he loves his new hometown, Los Angeles, Derricks is thrilled to be back in the Big Apple. "One of the things I love about New York is that you can come back 15 or 20 years later and people remember you and welcome you back," he says. "I really miss the energy here. But when I left, we had lost so many great people -- like Michael Bennett -- that it was just too hard to stay."
With talk of a revival of Dreamgirls on the horizon, would Derricks consider recreating his signature role? "I am through with James Thunder Early," he says with a chuckle. "I did that part for three years, and it was so physically and vocally demanding. But it's a good show with a lot of substance and heart. So I hope they do it again."
WHEN OCTOBER COMES...
Tuesday, October 5 is the release date for a new album by Jessica Molaskey, one of my favorite singers. Titled Make Believe, the CD is a sensational collection of theater standards given a jazz twist. To mark the occasion, Molaskey will join some of the other "Ladies of PS Classics" -- namely Christine Andreas, Carolee Carmello, Rebecca Luker, Kelli O'Hara, and Deborah Tranelli -- for a special concert and CD signing at Tower Records' Lincoln Center branch that day at 5:30pm.
Indeed, October brings a slew of opportunities to hear some sweet songbirds in unusual settings. Judy Kaye and Daphne Rubin-Vega team up for Taking a Chance: The Broadway Musical on October 2 and 3 at the Museum of the City of New York. The fabulous Natalie Douglas will headline the entertainment for the Manhattan Community Charities benefit at the Copacabana on October 4. That same evening, Karen Mason, Rachel York, and KT Sullivan will participate in the Queer Songbook series at the LGBT Center on West 13th Street. On October 9, the lovely Liz Callaway and Paper Mill favorite Glory Crampton will headline 100 Years of Broadway at the Tarrytown Music Hall. And on October 11, Callaway will join B.J. Crosby, Liz McCartney, Julia Murney, and Barbara Walsh at the Lucille Lortel Theater for Women on Stage, a not-to-be-missed benefit for The Songbook Project.
I'VE GOT A HUNCHBACK
Shakespearean scholars have an unusual opportunity to compare and contrast three different portrayals of Richard III. Peter Dinklage, that undersized star with oversized talent, is currently center stage in William Shakespeare's famous play about the malevolent, misshapen monarch at The Public Theater (click here for details); Jay Whittaker is giving an excellent performance as the dastardly Dick in Edward Hall's riveting Rose Rage at the Duke; and John Kuntz takes on the title role in The Actors' Shakespeare Project production of Richard III at Boston's Old South Meeting House, beginning October 14.
Feinstein's at the Regency has created the perfect antidote for Monday Night Football: a series of three concerts entitled Broadway's Brightest Lights. These special evenings, with admission priced at only $25 plus a two-drink minimum, kick off on October 4 with Bare star Michael Arden (who played the Main Stem as Tom Sawyer in Big River). Next up, on October 18, is the gorgeous Gavin Creel, who's co-starring in the upcoming Broadway revival of La Cage aux Folles. The series will conclude on October 25 with Dana Reeve, who'll appear in MTC's production of Brooklyn Boy this winter.