The Freaks Come Out

Life on a Dallas stage in 2002 was cruel, freaky and mostly cruel

Smith, 21, was such a knockout he had local directors scouting him for spring shows. WaterTower's Terry Martin has just cast him in that theater's upcoming production of The Laramie Projectopening January 24. Still to come at Quad C are the musical Baby, opening February 27, and Rebecca Gilman's controversial drama about stalking, Boy Gets Girl, opening April 24. If you've never journeyed out to Quad C's two-theater facility on Spring Creek Parkway, do it in '03. And don't forget the new stuffed animal.

One theater that seems to have found the secret to balancing art and commerce is Addison's WaterTower, where subscriptions were up 50 percent in 2002. Last year saw WaterTower stage a haunting version of Neil LaBute's Bash: Latterday Plays, a trio of monologues about gay-bashing and baby-killing, then turn around and put on the rousing family comedy You Can't Take It With You. For Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,WaterTower's artistic director Terry Martin somehow erased the clichés by giving a brave, fresh-feeling emphasis to the relationship between the dying Big Daddy (played by the wonderful R Bruce Elliott) and his alcoholic, homosexual son, Brick.

WaterTower's musicals Always...Patsy Cline and Rockin' Christmas Party, both directed by James Paul Lemons, turned into big-selling audience faves (both also starred the immensely talented singer Jenny Thurman). And if WaterTower's production of Lanford Wilson's new drama Book of Days was a letdown, it did sport worthy acting by Jane Willingham, Robert Prentiss and Lydia Mackay (terrific later in the year in Echo Theatre's Cloud Nine). There's rarely an empty seat at a WaterTower show, and unlike DTC and Theatre Three, which draw noticeably older patrons, the ticket-buyers at WaterTower tend to be younger and more enthusiastic, which makes going to the Addison theater just flat-out more fun.

Theatre Three skews toward the stuffy and geriatric, and having an up-and-down year artistically didn't help expand the demos. This theater did its best work with Side Show, an odd, fancifully staged musical about Violet and Daisy Hilton, Siamese twins who worked in vaudeville. In the leads, Julie Stirman and Jennifer Freeman bonded eerily perfectly, matching physically and vocally. Wish I had a cast recording of this one. Theatre Three did well by Alan Ayckbourn's futuristic sitcom Comic Potential, which introduced Dallas audiences to the comedy chops of dynamic young Fort Worth actress Dana Schultes. But there was also A Class Act, a perfectly awful musical bio about one-hit wonder Ed Kleban, the chronically depressed lyricist of A Chorus Line fame. To play the leading role, Theatre Three chose an actor who couldn't sing, dance or play the piano (so he just mimed it, which I wish he'd also done with his singing). Theatre Three stumbled again with the Rodgers and Hart revue Beguiled Again, just now winding up its run. Off-key singing (except for Sally Soldo), awkward dancing, costumes resembling lowrider upholstery...only a cameo by Tony Curtis could have made it worse.

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