DORIAN'S CLOSET at Rep Stage - World Premiere Musical is Stunning!
There may be nothing as exciting as seeing a brand new musical presentation.
It's even more exciting when you see a world-premiere at the professional regional theatre in residence at Howard Community College, Rep Stage.
Directed by Co-Artistic Director Joseph Ritsch, with book and lyrics by Richard Mailman and music by Ryan Haase, DORIAN'S CLOSET is a fictionalized account of Buffalo native Dorian Corey who headed to New York City for a life as a "female impersonator" and "performer" and became a huge hit. One may think of such Broadway hits like LA CAGE AUX FOLLES or KINKY BOOTS which both deal with the life of male performers dressing as females. And as in those two monster hits, a musical to succeed needs one heck of a star and Director Ritsch has found such an individual in Stephen Scott Wormley who is absolutely astonishing in his role as "Dorian". I recall seeing his former performances in ONCE ON THIS ISLAND (Olney Theatre Center), HAIRSPRAY at Signature Theatre, and in the HAIRSPRAY concert version with the Baltimore Symphony where he excelled as "Seaweed".
Wormley has an incredible voice and could easily step into the leading role on Broadway in KINKY BOOTS. But he also conveys the highs and lows of his profession and the trauma surrounding his personal life. Watching Wormley perform alone is worth the price of admission.
Dorian's life is full of ridicule and prejudice and this topic of transgender and LBGT issues is ripe for this moment in our country's history.
What makes this story so hard to imagine is the fact that upon his death, a mummified body was found in his apartment closet. Thanks to the work of Dramaturg Lisa Wilde, there is an interesting display in the theater lobby of real life photos of Dorian and the other characters in the musical. There is even a copy of the May, 1994 "New Yorker" magazine which featured a front page story on Dorian with the headline "The Drag Queen had a Mummy in her Closet".
The show opens and closes with film clips from the acclaimed 1990 documentary about Dorian "Paris is Burning." Watching these clips makes one realize we are indeed watching the real story of a real character and makes the evening so much more enjoyable.
Director Ritsch does a masterful job with his talented cast. Playing other female impersonators are Jay Adriel, Ian Anthony, Tiziano D'Affuso, James Thomas Frisby, Dwayne Washington, and Rick Westerkamp. Keith Richards plays various roles .
How risky it is for a small theater to present a world premiere musical. But Rep Stage has pulled this off. The music is just plain wonderful. The songs have terrific melodies and hit home. Kudos to Richard Mailman (book and lyrics) and to Ryan Haase (composer).
Stacy Antoine directs the great pit orchestra and is responsible for the fabulous orchestrations. Antoine also plays Keyboards along with William Curtis Scaletta, Joesph Pipkin on Percussion, Chanel Whitehead is on Cello, and Raphael Erfe on Violin.
Daniel Ettinger once again triumphs as Scenic Designer with a clever set which includes a salute to the television show "Laugh In" with the use of colorful doors on each side of the stage which open and close with actors behind them for the song "Pay the Tab". Sarah Cubbage must have had a ball with the Costumes. Rachel Leigh Dolan does the choreography, Mark Smedley the wonderful sound, and Joseph R. Walls is responsible for the clever Lighting.
I truly believe DORIAN'S CLOSET has a future in New York with a little work and hope it does.
DORIAN'S CLOSET runs until May 14 and wish it could be extended. For tickets, call 443-518-1500 or visit www.reptstage.org.
This and That
Next season Joseph Ritsch becomes the sole Artistic Director at Rep Stage and what a line-up he has.
There will such hit shows as THE HEIDI CHRONICLES, LADY DAY AT THE EMERSON BAR AND GRILL, and TRUE WEST. There will also be another "World Premiere" ALL SHE MUST POSSESS" by Susan McCully about Baltimore's own Cone sisters.
I also wanted to give a shout-out to the Spotlighters Theatre 2017-18 season. They will be presenting TWO TRAINS RUNNING (August Wilson), THE HAIRY APE (Eugene O'Neil), the musical WOMEN ON THE VERGE (Pedro Almodovar), I HATE HAMLET (Paul Rudnick), the musical Dessa Rose (Ahrens and Flaherty), the musical PURLIE (Ossie Davis, Peter Udell, Phillip Rose), and a new musical JUDY AND THE GENERAL.
Check out "King Charles III" on Masterpiece Theatre Sunday May 14 starring the late Tim Pigott-Smith as Charles. The 90 minute drama is based on the Tony-nominated play.
Finally, three shows that played Washington, DC have been nominated for Tony Awards. Congratulations to SWEAT and DEAR EVAN HANSEN (Arena Stage) and COME FROM AWAY (Ford's Theatre).