Robert Rodi Salutes Noel Coward in MAD ABOUT THE BOY

By: May. 21, 2019
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Robert Rodi Salutes Noel Coward in MAD ABOUT THE BOY

In celebration of both Gay Pride Month and the 50th anniversary of Noël Coward's knighthood, Robert Rodi looks back on the British icon's legendary career, trailblazing style, enduring influence-and above all his songs. Coward's songs have been covered by artists from Judy Garland to Rufus Wainwright, and rival Cole Porter's for emotional range and irresistible melody. Featuring "Mad Dogs and Englishmen," "A Room with a View," "If Love Were All," and many others, from the swooningly romantic to the shamelessly ribald.

"He's not quite forgotten in this country," Rodi says, "but nearly; and given how much of what we now call gay style and manners comes directly from Coward, it's time not merely to acknowledge him, but celebrate him."

Rodi has brought his three-octave range and five-alarm wit to nearly a dozen cabaret shows over the past decade; he is also the host of the ongoing Robert Rodi & Friends jazz vocalist jam. He's joined by Julian Chin on piano and Matt Gold on bass.

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Robert Rodi was born in Chicago in the conformist 1950s, grew up in the insurrectionist 1960s, came of age in the hedonist 1970s, and went to work in the careerist 1980s. This roller-coaster ride left him with a distinct aversion to isms of any kind; it also gave him an ear for hypocrisy, cant, and platitudes that allowed him, in the 1990s, to become a much-lauded social satirist.

After seven acclaimed novels set in the gay milieu, Robert grew restless for new challenges-which he found in activities as wide-ranging as publishing nonfiction, writing comic books, and taking to the stage (as a spoken-word performer, jazz singer, and rock-and-roll front man).

In 2011, excited by the rise of digital e-books, he returned to his first love, publishing new fiction-this time inspired by the work of Alfred Hitchcock. He also organized the republishing of his seminal gay novels under the banner Robert Rodi Essentials.

Robert still resides in Chicago, in a century-old Queen Anne house with his husband Jeffrey Smith and a constantly shifting number of dogs.

Sir Noël Coward, in full Sir Noël Peirce Coward, (born Dec. 16, 1899, Teddington, near London, England.-died March 26, 1973, St. Mary, Jamaica.), English playwright, actor, and composer best known for highly polished comedies of manners.

In 1925 the first of his durable comedies, HAY FEVER, opened in London. Coward ended the decade with his most popular musical play, BITTER SWEET (1929).

Another of his classic comedies, PRIVATE LIVES (1930), is often revived. It shares with DESIGN FOR LIVING (1933) a worldly milieu and characters unable to live with or without one another. His patriotic pageant of British history, CAVALCADE (1931), traced an English family from the time of the South African (Boer) War through the end of World War I. Other successes included TONIGHT AT EIGHT-THIRTY (1936), a group of one-act plays performed by Coward and Gertrude Lawrence, with whom he often played. He rewrote one of the short plays, STILL LIFE, as the film BRIEF ENCOUNTER(1946). PRESENT LAUGHTER (1939) and BLITHE SPIRIT (1941; filmed 1945; musical version, HIGH SPIRITS, 1964) are usually listed among his better comedies.

Pride Films and Plays produces a year-round festival of work centered on LGBTQ characters or themes that are essential viewing for all. Since opening Pride Arts Center in 2016, with our two intimate spaces, Pride Films and Plays is in many ways the center of queer programming in the Midwest thanks to our award-winning full productions, cabarets, film fests, new play development and special events. Founded in 2010, Pride Films and Plays has earned 36 Jeff Recommendations and Awards.