BWW Review: Alexandra Billings Musically Shares Intimate Details of her Gender Transformation in S/HE & ME
The Los Angeles LGBT Center's Lily Tomlin/Jane Wagner Cultural Arts Center is presenting an incredible moving and limited engagement of "S/HE & ME: A Theatrical Cabaret," written and performed by Alexandra Billings, star of Amazon Prime's hit show Transparent. Directed by JoAnne Gordon, the show runs for two weekends from Thursday, May 25 through June 11, 2017 only.
S/HE & ME chronicles the unvarnished, complex, desperate, and often hilariously wacky story of Billings' life, centering on the transition from the young Scott to the show-stopping Alexandra. She carries the story forward through story and plenty of songs, all of which represent the various life lessons she has learned along with way about herself, from learning to deal with feeling like a girl in a boy's body, falling in love at 16 with the woman who becomes her wife, to now living her life as an openly transgender woman. I learned more in this one evening's entertainment than I ever have leading any articles on the subject, especially when the fiercely flamboyant star stripped down to reveal her body as well as her soul to the audience.
The show ensemble features (in alphabetical order) Kayla Kearney (as Billings' loving and supportive wife), Maddie Larson, Jeff Paul, Joey Ruggiero (who beautifully portrays Scott Billings, often singing alongside Alexandra as her current self), Christian B. Schmidt, and Valerie Stanford, all of whom play friends and family members who helped shape Billings' story. Musical direction is by Jarod Sheahan and choreography is by Brian Moe.
Alexandra Billings has been acting since 1968 and has performed in hundreds of plays and musicals across the U.S. She's played everyone from Mama Rose in Gypsy to Mrs. Lynde in A Doll's House, with nearly every role being a first for a transgender actress. And let me tell you, this girl can BELT with the best of them! She has also appeared in numerous television series and will star in the upcoming feature film Valley of Bones. And oh please - will someone cast her as Frank-N-Furter in a "Rocky Horror" remake!!!!!
Much to her own surprise, she received her MFA from Cal State Long Beach where she is now an associate professor of theatre. In fact, she jokingly shared, "Me a college professor? How could that happen?"
Billings' activism stretches across the continent and has been honored with awards by many organizations. Her life story, From Schoolboy to Showgirl: The Alexandra Billings Story, was shown on PBS and nominated for an Emmy Award for Best Documentary. For a complete biography, visit http://www.alexandrabillings.com/.
S/HE & ME runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 7pm through June 11 with an added matinee performance on Sunday, June 11 at 3pm.
General admission tickets are $30 and may be purchased online at www.lalgbtcenter.org/theatre or by phone at (323) 860-7300. Net proceeds from all ticket sales will support the full range of free and low-cost programs and services offered by the Los Angeles LGBT Center.
The Los Angeles LGBT Center's Renberg Theatre is located at 1125 N. McCadden Place (one block east of Highland, just north of Santa Monica Boulevard), in Hollywood, 90038. During construction of the Center's new facility, free parking is limited in a lot directly across the street from the Center. Please allow extra time to find parking, or choose public transportation or a ride service such as Lyft.
About the Los Angeles LGBT Center
Since 1969 the Los Angeles LGBT Center has cared for, championed and celebrated LGBT individuals and families in Los Angeles and beyond. Today the Center's more than 500 employees and 3,000 volunteers provide services for more LGBT people than any other organization in the world, offering programs, services and global advocacy that span four broad categories: Health, Social Services and Housing, Culture and Education, Leadership and Advocacy. We are an unstoppable force in the fight against bigotry and the struggle to build a better world; a world in which LGBT people can be healthy, equal and complete members of society. Learn more at http://lalgbtcenter.org/
Production photos by ALEX ISERI