My Gay Toronto - 416 Scene

Gay Sherlock

by Drew Rowsome

The case of the detective, the doctor and 10 gay plays
"Every play in the festival is rehearsing separately, so all of the other shows are a complete mystery to me. I’m just as curious and excited as the rest of the audience," says Nathaniel Bacon of the Gay Play Day festival. "It’s such a mix of diverse performers and the shows are from very different writers. And with titles like Men In Kilts and The Rice Queen of Cabbagetown how can your interest not be peaked?" 

Bacon himself has peaked a lot of interest from theatregoers since his showstopping appearance in Bent and riveting turn as a Queer Idol finalist. "I’ve become very close with actress Elley Ray Hennessey since we did Sky Gilbert’s St Francis of Millbrook at 4th Line Theatre last summer," says Bacon. "I always go to all of her shows and last month I went to see her play Judy Garland in Darren Stewart-Jones’ latest incarnation of The Judy Monologues. After the show, I had a conversation with Darren. He’d seen me in Bent at Hart House this spring and liked what I did. It also happened he was still looking for the right person to play the lead in Sherlock and Watson: Behind Closed Doors. I had a great time in the audience of the first Gay Play Day last year, so I was really excited to be part of it this time around."

Bacon dug deep in Holmes' psyche and is finding common ground, "I’m very competitive and inquisitive by nature, so that feeds nicely into my take on Holmes. I like to view him as an insanely passionate, driven man. He’s brilliant. And that’s as much a curse as a blessing. He dedicates himself to his work with such total commitment that romance or sexuality is sort of secondary . He’s a tortured soul, made very lonely by virtue of his gifts, using his intellect and humour as a weapon. In this show, we see him getting in touch with his humanity, and dealing with that. We’ve never seen him this close to the end of his rope. The story finds him at a very strange, emotional, desperate time in his life. So I’m sort of required to come at the material from another angle. It’s a fresh take on him, for sure."

So were Holmes and Watson lovers? Or at least fuck buddies? And more importantly will Bacon be divesting himself of Holmes' deerstalker hat and tweed coat to get busy with Nick May as Watson? "We’re being very faithful to the source material," says Bacon. "Much of the text is taken directly from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels so it’s not sensationalistic. At the same time, some artistic license is taken and a lot of subtext is highlighted. We get to see the characters interact more directly and honestly with each other than usual. By the end of the show, there is no question as to the true nature of their relationship."

Gay Play Day 2013 runs Fri, Sept 27 and Sat, Sept 28 at the Alumnae Theatre Studio, 70 Berkeley


Blood, guts and jazz hands

by Drew Rowsome

Horror plots and musical theatre just seem to fit together like a severed hand in a glove. From the high art of Sweeney Todd, Little Shop of Horrors and Bat Boy, to the low camp of Young Frankenstein, Carrie and The Toxic Avenger, the history of Broadway, off-Broadway and Toronto, is full of successful, and not-so-successful, horror musicals. Toronto spawned one of the very best with Evil Dead - The Musical and it is returning, just in time for Halloween, aka gay Christmas, to a larger theatre with more of its ghoulishly gleeful combination of tunes and gore.

I actually saw the musical - in its second incarnation at now-defunct Diesel Playhouse - before seeing the film on which it is based, so I was walking in cold and with trepidation. No need to fear - the music was relentlessly tuneful and the special effects were deliciously horrific - it was quite simply a lot of fun with a few shocks and thrills along the way. Not scary enough to cause seat-wetting but inspiring enough to make me seek out the film (which is equally scary and comedic) and turn me on to the genius of Sam Raimi leading to the enjoyment of Drag Me to Hell - which, note to Stephen Sondheim, actually would also make a dark and delicious musical - and paved the way for such post-modern meta-horrors like The Cabin in the Woods.

We were seated towards the back (the show was immensely popular and tickets for the smallish venue were hard to come by) which was fine by me but a disaster for fanatics - there was a loud and happy contingent, all wearing gleaming white new t-shirts, seated right up front. The joy of sitting in the front - known as "the splatter zone" - is that when the zombies are being chainsawed or the zombies are doing dismembering dance numbers, the resultant spray of vivid red blood (and there is a lot, this is not a musical for those who are hemophobic) splatters the white t-shirts creating a sort of tie-dye effect though mono-coloured and not psychedelic. 
Music and horror mix well - the continued success of Goth, Rob Zombie and "Thriller" flash mobs attests to that - but when comedy and camp are mixed in it's even better. It just can be a bitch on one's laundry bills.

Tickets for Evil Dead - The Musical go on sale, fittingly, this Friday the 13th with performances beginning  Thurs, Oct 24 at the George Randolph Theatre, 736 Bathurst St.