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Review: Ryan Frostig Makes Merry A Green Room 42 Crowd With HIGHER LOVE! A POP FANTASIA ON QUEER THEMES

Just in time for Pride weekend, Ryan Frostig ruminates and celebrates.

Review: Ryan Frostig Makes Merry A Green Room 42 Crowd With HIGHER LOVE!  A POP FANTASIA ON QUEER THEMES I would like to write today's review from a personal point of view. It is something I have done in the past, though I usually prefer to log on, report on what I've seen, maybe offer a note or two, and log off. However, when an artist creates something that demonstrates how art can have a profound effect on a person, and when the person affected happens to be me, I tend to believe that their artistry will, best, be served by telling of my own personal experience with their show.

Today, that artist is Ryan Frostig.

Review: Ryan Frostig Makes Merry A Green Room 42 Crowd With HIGHER LOVE!  A POP FANTASIA ON QUEER THEMES Mr. Frostig emailed me some sixteen days ago to ask if I might review his Pride Week cabaret HIGHER LOVE! A POP FANTASIA ON QUEER THEMES. By some stroke of luck, I was free to attend his opening night on June 22nd (a miracle, since my review calendar is filled, three weeks in advance), so I replied that it would be my pleasure to attend. After all, it was a Queer show happening in New York City mere days before Pride Sunday: I'm a gay man with gay pride and a mission to support queer artists in my life and in my work. Of course it would be a pleasure to attend Higher Love! Only one thing concerned me, though: the word "Fantasia." In my experience, plays, cabarets, and concerts employing the word fantasia have been a bit of a gamble for me. I am a more practical, pragmatic person who leans into that which is crystal clear and presented without embellishment. Given the choice between Harry Potter and Howard's End, I'm always going to go with what is clear, as opposed what is ethereal. Fantasias can drop me in a foggy place, where I might not be quite so apt to follow along, a fact that can frustrate my family and friends, who often find themselves explaining characters and storylines. I have an open mind and I am willing to be led, but I worried that Higher Love! A Pop Fantasia on Queer Themes might lead me into a nebulous place difficult to understand and review.

And it did.

Review: Ryan Frostig Makes Merry A Green Room 42 Crowd With HIGHER LOVE!  A POP FANTASIA ON QUEER THEMES When Ryan Frostig's musical cabaret began last night, the first thing I noticed was how good the band was. If this was going to be an hour of these musicians playing the way they were at the start of the show, then we were ahead of the curve. Then Frostig himself came out and started singing and we were all still on solid ground, and when I say all, I mean The Green Room 42 had a nice size house last night, filled with people who (one suspects) were probably (mostly) queer people enjoying Pride Week. Ryan had a pleasant singing voice, an affable attitude, some cute choreography, and a glittery Keith Haring tank top, what's not to like? And he was singing music by a queer pop icon - it was a great start to his show on Queer Themes. There was a script, and it was well-written, it was memorized, it was rehearsed: Ryan Frostig had been professional enough to learn his lines and rehearse! (You'd be surprised how many people don't do this - the mind reels.) What Ryan Frostig was presenting was perfectly viable cabaret that leaned into the creative, and that wasn't going to pander to the audience; either keep up or fall behind. There were some fantasy characters, by way of Musical Director Kyle Branzel and onstage backup singer Nattalyee Randall, and their presence in the play appeared, at first, whimsical, but (truth be told) their fantastical nature began to confuse me, and Ryan Frostig's play began to feel like equal parts rabbit hole, gay Wizard of Oz (is that redundant?), and night at The Roxy, circa 2006. But it was ok because, even if I couldn't quite understand what Ryan's story track was, I could enjoy the music. I had had experience watching a program I didn't understand while still enjoying the music; after all, I had been to the opera, I saw American Idiot. I could lean into the enjoyment of what I was able to enjoy, which was Ryan and the band.

And then something happened.

Review: Ryan Frostig Makes Merry A Green Room 42 Crowd With HIGHER LOVE!  A POP FANTASIA ON QUEER THEMES Right in the middle of "Rain On Me" (Ryan's best number of the night), I got it. The curtain in my head went up, the light went on, and I saw the whole thing, clearly, in my mind. And I started to cry. I started to cry because Ryan and I are brothers, even though we have never met. I started to cry because I understood the story he had been telling, of which there was more to come, more for me to understand, more for me enjoy. I started to cry because the people in the audience (who had been with Ryan from the start) were so beautiful and full of life, and youth, and pride, as they sang along during "Paper Bag" and chair danced during "Little Bird" and waved their hands in the air during "I Drove All Night." I started to cry because Ryan's play reminded me of my youth, and it reminded me of the youth that I had missed. I started to cry because it is Pride, and this world has reached a sensational, wonderful, gorgeous place where a flamboyant man can stand on a stage and perform a musical show and say, "I'm Queer!" because, in that lost youth of mine, Liberace and Peter Allen and Elton John could be flamboyant, but they couldn't say they were queer.

So, by the time Ryan and Nattalyee were talking chocolate chip pancakes and she was singing the Heather Small queer anthem "Proud" (my very favorite), I was right there, with all the other amazing people in the audience, chair dancing, hand in the air, mouthing the words, and lost in the music and Ryan's story. And I was happy. And I was proud.

Review: Ryan Frostig Makes Merry A Green Room 42 Crowd With HIGHER LOVE!  A POP FANTASIA ON QUEER THEMES

Higher Love! A Fantasia On Queer Themes is a universal story in which Ryan Frostig is trying to find his way: find his way home (See? It IS a Queer Wizard of Oz!), find his way in life, find his way back to himself. Everyone knows that journey, whether they are a Queer person or not. It just so happens that Ryan Frostig is, and that is why he has chosen the music of Annie Lennox, Cher, Dionne Warwick and Carly Rae Jepsen to tell his story. The gay icons of music are one of the characters in the play of our lives, it's a music that represents queer society and that communicates Review: Ryan Frostig Makes Merry A Green Room 42 Crowd With HIGHER LOVE!  A POP FANTASIA ON QUEER THEMES our stories, both individual and universal. With Ryan's written words, their music, his great band, and Sheridan Glover's lights, this Fantasia is completely apropos to this week of Pride; indeed, it sort of all plays out like an Eighties music video by Madonna, which kind of makes Higher Love! the gayest show in town right now. Ryan Frostig has gone to great lengths to capture the queer experience, the New York experience (this part of the show is wildly impressive), the experience of being lost, and the experience of finding oneself, once more. And this aging gay man who was on all those journeys a few years ago (and, sometimes, a few days ago) is so grateful to have drunk the potion, eaten the mushroom, rode the twister, and put on the Ruby Slippers.

The Fantasia was fantastic.

Thank you, Ryan, for your artistry and for your Pride, and for inviting us all along for the ride.

HIGHER LOVE! A FANTASIA ON QUEER THEMES will play The Green Room 42 again on June 25th. For information and reservations visit the Green Room 42 website HERE.

The cast list for HIGHER LOVE! Is:

Director, Musical Director and piano, actor and singer: Kyle Branzel

Bass: Marco Panascia

Sax: Nicole DeMaio

Drums: Dane Scozzari

Actor, singer, and Diva: Nattalyee Randall

Higher Love Choir: RB Embleton, Jade Litaker, Denise Manning, Santiago Murillo

Follow Ryan Frostig on Instagram HERE.

Review: Ryan Frostig Makes Merry A Green Room 42 Crowd With HIGHER LOVE!  A POP FANTASIA ON QUEER THEMES

Review: Ryan Frostig Makes Merry A Green Room 42 Crowd With HIGHER LOVE!  A POP FANTASIA ON QUEER THEMES Review: Ryan Frostig Makes Merry A Green Room 42 Crowd With HIGHER LOVE!  A POP FANTASIA ON QUEER THEMES

Review: Ryan Frostig Makes Merry A Green Room 42 Crowd With HIGHER LOVE!  A POP FANTASIA ON QUEER THEMES

Review: Ryan Frostig Makes Merry A Green Room 42 Crowd With HIGHER LOVE!  A POP FANTASIA ON QUEER THEMES Review: Ryan Frostig Makes Merry A Green Room 42 Crowd With HIGHER LOVE!  A POP FANTASIA ON QUEER THEMES

Review: Ryan Frostig Makes Merry A Green Room 42 Crowd With HIGHER LOVE!  A POP FANTASIA ON QUEER THEMES Review: Ryan Frostig Makes Merry A Green Room 42 Crowd With HIGHER LOVE!  A POP FANTASIA ON QUEER THEMES Review: Ryan Frostig Makes Merry A Green Room 42 Crowd With HIGHER LOVE!  A POP FANTASIA ON QUEER THEMES

Review: Ryan Frostig Makes Merry A Green Room 42 Crowd With HIGHER LOVE!  A POP FANTASIA ON QUEER THEMES Review: Ryan Frostig Makes Merry A Green Room 42 Crowd With HIGHER LOVE!  A POP FANTASIA ON QUEER THEMES Review: Ryan Frostig Makes Merry A Green Room 42 Crowd With HIGHER LOVE!  A POP FANTASIA ON QUEER THEMES Review: Ryan Frostig Makes Merry A Green Room 42 Crowd With HIGHER LOVE!  A POP FANTASIA ON QUEER THEMES

Review: Ryan Frostig Makes Merry A Green Room 42 Crowd With HIGHER LOVE!  A POP FANTASIA ON QUEER THEMES

Review: Ryan Frostig Makes Merry A Green Room 42 Crowd With HIGHER LOVE!  A POP FANTASIA ON QUEER THEMES

Review: Ryan Frostig Makes Merry A Green Room 42 Crowd With HIGHER LOVE!  A POP FANTASIA ON QUEER THEMES

Review: Ryan Frostig Makes Merry A Green Room 42 Crowd With HIGHER LOVE!  A POP FANTASIA ON QUEER THEMES

Review: Ryan Frostig Makes Merry A Green Room 42 Crowd With HIGHER LOVE!  A POP FANTASIA ON QUEER THEMES

Review: Ryan Frostig Makes Merry A Green Room 42 Crowd With HIGHER LOVE!  A POP FANTASIA ON QUEER THEMES

Review: Ryan Frostig Makes Merry A Green Room 42 Crowd With HIGHER LOVE!  A POP FANTASIA ON QUEER THEMES

Review: Ryan Frostig Makes Merry A Green Room 42 Crowd With HIGHER LOVE!  A POP FANTASIA ON QUEER THEMES

Review: Ryan Frostig Makes Merry A Green Room 42 Crowd With HIGHER LOVE!  A POP FANTASIA ON QUEER THEMES

Review: Ryan Frostig Makes Merry A Green Room 42 Crowd With HIGHER LOVE!  A POP FANTASIA ON QUEER THEMES

Review: Ryan Frostig Makes Merry A Green Room 42 Crowd With HIGHER LOVE!  A POP FANTASIA ON QUEER THEMES

Review: Ryan Frostig Makes Merry A Green Room 42 Crowd With HIGHER LOVE!  A POP FANTASIA ON QUEER THEMES Review: Ryan Frostig Makes Merry A Green Room 42 Crowd With HIGHER LOVE!  A POP FANTASIA ON QUEER THEMES

Review: Ryan Frostig Makes Merry A Green Room 42 Crowd With HIGHER LOVE!  A POP FANTASIA ON QUEER THEMES Review: Ryan Frostig Makes Merry A Green Room 42 Crowd With HIGHER LOVE!  A POP FANTASIA ON QUEER THEMES

Review: Ryan Frostig Makes Merry A Green Room 42 Crowd With HIGHER LOVE!  A POP FANTASIA ON QUEER THEMES

Photos by Stephen Mosher


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From This Author - Stephen Mosher