By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
I usually hate feel-good moviesthey're so formulaic and manipulative that they make me feel awfulbut School of Rock is the exception to every slide rule, a brilliant showcase for Jack Black as a zhlubb who marches to the beat of his own drummer (the one from Def Leppard, no doubt). As Black and his students riff their way out of the riffraff, Rock becomes basically The Bad News Bears in Led Zeppelin Training, but it's got smarts, echo effects, and real feeling. I'm surprised it hasn't aroused the moron brigadethe ones who were mad at Thirteento shriek, "This movie will encourage teachers to throw out their curricula and teach heavy metal instead!" Yeah, hopefully.
(By the way, a good thing about Black being more disciplined than past plus-sized manic comics like Belushi and Farley is that he can differentiate his shtick from his life and won't end up dead in a gutter with three hookers fleecing him and a bong up his ass.)
Turn your mullet into a perm and you've got the imminent Tabooa/k/a The Bad News Bears Go to the Church of the Poisoned Mindwhich promises to make Blue Man Group look like Hanson. Yes, Broadway shows about nightclubs are almost invariably weapons of mass destruction (Got Tu Go Disco, Saturday Night Fever, Urban Cowboy), but this one has a better chance than most, thanks to Rosie O'Donnell's muscle, Boy George's makeup, and Charles Busch's rewrite, which supposedly removes the extraneous straight couple that stank things up in London and adds more female presence and heart. (Yep, it's feel-good.) Whether it flies with the matinee ladies or not, I know at least one person who wants a musical about club kidsli'l ol' moi.
At an open rehearsal last week, Rosie told the assembled media, "According to some of the press, I've been too vocal as a producer. But I love the show!" As I squirmed a bitwe have a historyshe then singled me out of the crowd and got vocal again, deadpanning, "You're trying to hide from me, Musto. You're the one who used to complain I wasn't gay enough, and now, guess, what? It's a big, gay musical!" Everyone applauded madly, hatchets buried in the name of pop-culture progress. (And by the way, I've given Rosie some props since she publicly came out and carried on, though a lot of the phobic press strangely feels her emergence automatically equated her with evil.)
Rosie went on to name the cast, including the girl playing Big Sue ("the role I salivated over, but wasn't talented enough to pull off. As a producer, Iwouldn't cast me!") and the guy playing drag star Marilyn ("He was in The Play About the Goat [sic], which was tough for me to sit through"). As for Boy George himself, Rosie said he wouldn't perform that day because, she explained, "I want you to pay $100 to see him!" Besides, the cutie wasn't there yet. And so the preview startedfor freewith an Oliver!-type number complete with suggested gay oral sex and all the club urchins prancing about as the club owner sang, "Give me a freak/Not someone meek." (Freaks don't usually run around announcing themselves as such, but hush, this is a musical.) Other tunes had the George character plaintively crooning, "Someone make me a star/'Cause I sure as hell can't be a man," and two females pledging their love for Leigh Bowery, who could apparently be whatever he wanted. (The giant fruitcake was "omnisexual" and even married, Rosie later informed me.) The show is obviously The Boy George From Oz meets I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change Your Outfit.
After the performance, Georgewho'd been stuck in traffic, probably because he stopped itentered in full get-up, looking just plain omni. While the photogs pounced on him, I asked Rosie if the show's three-tiered ad campaignwhich started with a urinal scenewas going to climax with a toilet bowl. "No toilet bowl!" she said, laughingand over that, we flushed away doubts and were friends again.
From potty mouths to potted plants, Little Shop of Horrors is basically Avenue Q with bigger puppets, Hairspray without the sociopolitical issues, and a detailed recipe for Martha Stewart's worst nightmare (a houseplant that drinks blood). The show is slight but bouncy, the production tentative but likableand overall, you probably can't lose with a girl-group chorus that sings, "Shang-a-lang/Feel the Sturm and Drang . . . "
As for the little shop of 'hos that I call New York nightlife, Striptease Saturdays at Stingy Lulu's have the performers scanning for freaks, not someone meek, as they wantonly disrobe audience members by force. The night I went, drag divas Michelle Xavier and MC Jaquee yanked two guys' shirts off, though Jaquee evened the score by debriefing to a bikini and running into the street mouthing Alanis Morrissette's "You Oughta Know."
Down to just my skivvies, it was off to HX magazine's 12th anniversary party on gay Sunday at Avalon, whose areas turn out to be fun in the following order: the chapel, which is studded with interesting outcasts; the glitzy-walled upstairs barroom, where drunkies lurk; the wood-paneled Love Boat-style room downstairs, which is so dark I have no idea who's there; the main dancefloor, where some people look vaguely confused; and finally, the coat check, which is so fucking expensive I'm always going in my skivvies.