OGDEN — As part of Good Company Theatre’s 10 year anniversary season celebration, Queer the Stage is a fun filled celebration of the golden age of Broadway brought to life by some of the best queer talent in the Utah theatre community. With music direction by Heidi Hunt, this evening of collaboration brought together several great classic numbers from the era performed in new and interesting ways.
One of the first stand out elements of the evening was the weaving together of the queer history of American theatre with the cabaret performances of the day. As the players prepared to perform their numbers, the “voice in the sky” would share facts about writers such as Sondheim who went through conversion therapy and did not have relationships for years, or Cole Porter and others who were known to be homosexuals even though married. While acknowledging this history does not feel like it should be radical today, with laws across the country being proposed about drag shows and similar, Good Company is brave and wise to make this a point.
As for the stage, set designer Alicia Washington did not leave anything out when going with the image of Queer the Stage, making it fabulous with color, fringe, and fun. Taking a simple table and cabaret stool for the performers to utilize, but allowing the walls to be the backdrop of color allowed for the visual that the audience needed to provide the ambiance for the evening. The lighting design by Darren Maxfield and Anonymous added more to each number, bringing different color schemes to each song and performance.
The show runs about 80 minutes with an intermission, and while each of the performers had some shining moments, there were some that were stronger than others, and ones that truly brought down the house. The first stand out was Aaron Allred. His vocals were quite golden, especially when he sang “If I Loved You” from Carousel. This represents a theme that was a thread throughout the show where the person and presentation of the song were unexpected and entertaining.
The next stand out was Kassandra Torres and her lovely rendition of “I’ve Grown Accustomed to her Face.” Because of the fame of this song by Rex Harrison, who is known for speaking this song, the richness of the vocals of Torres actually served to be a sharp contrast to the tradition of that song. Then when she pulled out a violin and perfectly played off the song, I was entranced. In the second act she added to her performance by singing “Goodnight my Someone” from The Music Man, and showed an impressive range of not only vocals but characterization as well.
As for bringing down the house, that distinction is saved for Ava Zawhore, aka Wayne Burton-Blair. Burton-Blair as Zawhore had amazing comedic timing, fantastic costumes, the best hair in the whole show, and more flair than I would have thought was humanly possible. From the joy that was “Diamonds are a Girls Best Friend” to the endearing story shared with “That’s For Me” from State Fair, I confess I got a smile on my face every time Zawhore came on stage.
Christian David Clarke and Camden Barrett both represented performances that surprise with their unassuming nature that then shocks with shining talent. Clarke had a starry number with “I’m not at all in Love” in the second act, while Camden brought the show to a close so well with “All I need is the Girl”.
Queer the Stage was a wonderful evening celebrating the Queer theatre community in Utah at a time when we need to come together and support all that makes us wonderful and beautiful in this area. Being open and aware that the history of the stage has always welcomed and embraced this diversity, and that we have always been entertained by it is important to the continued survival of the art form. So forget your troubles for an evening and go see Queer the Stage.