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Kinky Boots ~ Kennedy Center

Jordan Wright
June 21, 2016
Special to The Alexandria Times
 

‘Kinky Boots’ National Touring Company. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

‘Kinky Boots’ National Touring Company. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

A beacon of hope shone down mightily onto the stage at Kennedy Center’s Opera House this week.  It was more than hope, really.  It was a balm for the soul of Orlando’s LGBTQ community and their friends and supporters around the world.  A clearing of the clouds, if you will – if only for a few hours.

In this timely story of tolerance, love and self-acceptance, Lola (J. Harrison Ghee), a black drag queen from the seedier side of London, performs with her chorus line of queens.  When, in a stroke of fate, she meets Charlie (understudy, Adam Kaplan, who appeared to be struggling in the role), the reluctant scion of a fourth generation shoe factory in the hinterlands, she schools him in ‘dragdom’ and what it means to be absolutely fabulous in six-inch high-heeled boots.  When she alludes to the challenge of strutting her stuff in ladies’ boots, ill-designed to support the weight of a man, Charlie becomes sympathetic to her plight.

(l to r) Macho Don (Aaron Walpole) the floor manager and George (Jim J. Bullock). Photo by Matthew Murphy.

(l to r) Macho Don (Aaron Walpole) the floor manager and George (Jim J. Bullock). Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Intrigued by Lola, soubriquet “Kinky”, and the idea of making boots for a niche market, he offers her the job of Head Designer at his factory.  Unfortunately, it’s run by a crew of narrow-minded blue collar workers.  Lola, bullied by the male workers tries to fit in by wearing suits instead of dresses – a transition that falls flat.  Hoping to present Lola’s racy designs at the shoe show in Milan, the workers, especially the females of the crew who are enamored of Lola’s femininity, get on board.  Macho Don (Aaron Walpole) the floor manager and George (Jim J. Bullock) the numbers cruncher remain reluctant.  And therein lies the rub.

Contrary to what you may imagine, the romance in Playwright Harvey Fierstein’s six-time Tony Award winning musical is not between Charlie and Lola, but with Charlie’s fiancée, Nicola (Charissa Hogeland), who has grander ideas for their future in real estate development, and one of his employees Lauren (Tiffany Engen) who believes in his dreams.  Guess who wins out.

Jerry Mitchell, who received the Tony Award for his choreography in the original Broadway production, both directs and choreographs this production, along with famed Costume Designer Gregg Barnes, Scenic Designer David Rockwell and Lighting Designer Kenneth Posner.

Lola (J. Harrison Ghee) and her Angels in ‘Kinky Boots.’ Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Lola (J. Harrison Ghee) and her Angels in ‘Kinky Boots.’ Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Ghee is a force of nature.  Fierce and fabulous with a leggy, Amazonian frame that complements an astonishingly versatile voice, he delivers a show-stopping performance tinged with raw emotion.  The duet with Kaplan in “Not My Father’s Son” is especially spell-binding.  And Engen too, will steal your heart with her solo, “The History of Wrong Guys”.  And should you ever question what drives men wild, Lola (aka Simon) sets us straight in “Sex Is in the Heel”, adding, “Red is for sex, and sex shouldn’t be comfy.”  Got it?

‘Kinky Boots’ National Touring Company. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

‘Kinky Boots’ National Touring Company. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Through it all, pop diva Cyndi Lauper’s show-your-true-colors score is as sustaining as a hummingbird’s heartbeat and her emotionally-stirring ballads and electrifying show tunes add up to a winning night of crazy, funny, wonderful theatre.

Highly recommended for, according to Lola, “Ladies and Gentlemen, and those who have yet to make up their minds.”

Through July 10th at the Kennedy Center, 2700 F St., NW, Washington, DC.  For tickets and information call 202 467-4600 or visit www.Kennedy-Center.org.

Nibbles and Sips ~ June 18, 2016

Jordan Wright
June 18, 2016
Photo credit: Jordan Wright
Special to DC Metro Theater Arts

 

Indique Redux; Asia Nine Bar & Lounge – An Asian Oasis Endures and Thrives; Italy in the Box; Simit + Smith – A New Turkish Bakery and Café; Chickpea Mediterranean Grill; Q Barbecue’s Secret Corn Pudding Recipe 

Indique Introduces New Dishes, New Décor 

Chef K. N. Vinod and Co-Owner Surfy Rahman

Chef K. N. Vinod and Co-Owner Surfy Rahman

Chef and Co-Owner K. N. Vinod along with Co-Owner Surfy Rahman recently re-launched their modern Indian cuisine restaurant with a totally revamped menu that included street food, family style dishes and classics with a modern twist, as well as gorgeous handcrafted Indian art and an updated décor.

Orange Shreekandh made with orange, saffron, cardamom, Grand Marnier, pistachio and mint from Indique

Orange Shreekandh made with orange, saffron, cardamom, Grand Marnier, pistachio and mint from Indique

As a staple of the Cleveland Park community for over 12 years, the upscale Indique has always been at the forefront of Indian cuisine in DC and, Chef Vinod, one DC’s most most celebrated chefs is a well-known frequent guest at the Smithsonian Resident Associate Programs.  His annual contributions to the prestigious Sunday Night Suppers series, hosted by Alice Waters, Joan Nathan and Jose Andres, cannot be understated.

(l-r) Tellisherry Cocktail -- Shrimp Puckka Shots

(l-r) Tellisherry Cocktail — Shrimp Puckka Shots

For Rahman it’s a family affair.  His sister-in-law sourced the new china, furniture and glassware; his daughter accompanied her father to India for fresh inspiration; and his two sons, Rahul Vinod and Sahil Rahman, who intend to follow in their father’s footsteps, are looking forward to a DC opening of their fast casual Indian concept called Rasa Indian Grill.

Indique

Indique

Rahman hired Carlie Steiner of Stir Bartending Co. to create a stylish cocktail menu for Indique which she based on Indian spices and herbs.  Her delicately spice-infused drinks use house made tonics made with garam masala and another that incorporates a blend of Indian herbs and spices such as fresh curry leaf, coriander and fenugreek.  Unique ingredients like toasted mustard seed and tamarind chutney contribute to an exotic and aromatic profile.  Addictive bar snacks included.

In a few weeks Indique will add a Happy Hour menu and Saturday and Sunday brunch.  Check the website for deets.  www.Indique.com

Asia Nine – Penn Quarter Perennial 

Asia Nine

Asia Nine

As one of the longer lasting Asian-owned restaurants in Chinatown’s Penn Quarter, Asia Nine has rightfully basked in its reputation.  It’s proximity to the downtown action – theatres, Verizon Center, museums and more – is yet another draw.  But this cozy, hip spot doesn’t rest on its laurels.  It continues to turn out an amazing variety of Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Korean and Japanese dishes for the adventurous diner.

Softshell Crab Sushi

Softshell Crab Sushi

Start with a refreshing Hibiscus Mojito or Lychee Martini.  No passport required.  Want sushi?  There’s maki sushi, nigiri sushi and vegetarian sushi.  Honey roasted duck?  Coming right up.  Your dinner partner is craving Thai curries?  There are three types – green, panang and lemongrass.  Noodles, your thing?  There’s everything from pho to udon.  All made to order.

Steamed buns

Steamed buns

Chef owners Natalie Tantivejakul and Rod Yomanee both immigrated individually to America from Thailand.  Natalie is from Bangkok and Rod is from a small town in the south named, Na-Korn.  The couple met and later married when Natalie hired Rod to be a chef at her first restaurant, Rice & Spice in Lorton, VA.  With roots from both the North and South of Thailand, Natalie and Rod are able to create menus that reflect both cooking styles as well as their favorite dishes from all over Asia.  In addition to two Asia Nine locations, they now have Rice & Spice Thai Cuisine restaurants in Alexandria and Fort Belvoir.

Fried Shrimp and Pho with Udon Noodles

Fried Shrimp and Pho with Udon Noodles

This week Asia Nine announced a new Saturday brunch service from 11am to 3pm.  The menu includes plenty of egg dishes, like kapow, bipimbap as well as the ubiquitous street food, pa thong ko, a deep-fried donut-style confection served with fresh fruit and sweetened condensed milk for dipping.

N.B. They’re especially welcoming to large groups with advance notice, the restaurant prides itself on getting everyone served and out in time for curtain up.

915 E St. NW, Washington, DC 20004 or their newest location at 254 Crown Park Ave.,  Gaithersburg, MD 20878 www.AsiaNine.com

Simit + Smith

Turkish Bakery and Café Opens in the Heart of Georgetown 

Cary Pollak with Jordan Wright

Simit + Smith is a two-story Turkish-inspired eatery housed in a charming historic townhouse.  Arriving on the ever-burgeoning bread and baked goods scene, the Istanbul-based company surprises the adventurous eater with authentic Turkish savory breads and rolls.  The star of the show is simit, a baked, not boiled, ring-shaped bread eaten throughout the day in both Balkan and Mediterranean countries.  Its texture is moist and light on the inside.  The dough is briefly dipped in a grape molasses and water mixture which helps the two types of coatings, sesame seeds or multigrain, stick to the bread, giving it a delectably crunchy crust.  Simit is the Turkish name, but it is also known by different names and comes in many varieties in Greece, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Lebanon and Israel.

Turkish breads from Simit + Smith

Turkish breads from Simit + Smith

You’ll find three varieties of simits here – original, whole wheat and multigrain.  To prepare these delightful puffs of bread for the oven, the first two varieties are the ones that are coated with sesame seeds.  The third is dipped in a multigrain mix that includes sesame, rolled oats, flax, poppy and sunflower seeds, and millet.  On a recent visit to the new Georgetown branch, both company President Zulfikar Bekar and Business Development official Dina Careccio pointed out that the simit is lighter on the inside and crunchier on the outside than its cousin, the bagel.  All are handmade and preservative-free.

The company’s name is the result of an effort by the Turkish-based parent company to portray “a synthesis of Turkish/Mediterranean food culture and American food culture.”  They felt that the simit is something very familiar in Turkey, as is the name Smith in the U.S., so they chose a name that is blends East meets West.

Street cart in Turkey

Street cart in Turkey

While the simit gets top billing, there are other Turkish breads to explore.  Acma (pronounced ACH-mah) also is in the form of a bagel, but is more akin to the light, eggy dough of brioche.  The un-holey pogaca is baked with different fillings, the most interesting of which is black olives and tangy,Turkish kasseri cheese.  Lamahcan is their version of pizza that’s topped with marinated minced meat with spices, sumac, onion, parsley with a wedge of lemon on the side.

A light fare salad from Simit + Smith

A light fare salad from Simit + Smith

The DC menu differs from the one in the New York area largely in that more “simitwiches” are available in the Big Apple, though the DC outlet has a variety of homemade sourdough bread sandwiches including a roasted chicken sandwich with cheddar cheese, sundried tomatoes, mixed greens and honey mustard sauce, and a Doner (sirloin) Kebap sandwich with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and Café de Paris sauce, a butter-based sauce commonly paired with beef.  A vegan sandwich also is on the menu.  Choose from an array of salads – Aegean Feta, Chicken Orange, Quinoa Salmon or Caesar served with the doner kabap.  (Hopefully the menu will widen to include some of the spreads like baba ganoush, Nutella and hummus which they serve in their three New York and two New Jersey restaurants.)  Be sure to try their real Turkish coffee and Turkish chai tea, too.

Last year the simit was listed in Zagat’s “9 Snack Foods You Need to Try in 2015” (albeit with an inaccurate claim that boiling is part of the preparation process).  The article predicted that this tasty treat will soon be seen around country and lucky for us, they chose Washington, D.C. as their first outpost beyond their U.S. home area!

Simit + Smith, 1077 Wisconsin Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20007 www.SimitandSmith.com

Italy in the Box 

What says amore more than a surprise box filled to the brim with Italian gourmet delicacies and landing on your doorstep?  Arriving without a card or return address, I had no one to thank, or share it with, before racing to the kitchen to prepare what it had in store for me.  All I had to do was boil water, toss the jar of Ligurian pesto from Niasca Portofino onto the artisanal basil tagliatelle from Pastificio Camp’Oro, then shave bits of aged pecorino from Famiglia Busti on the whole divine mess of pasta al dente.

The resulting homemade supper from Italy N The Box

The resulting homemade supper from Italy N The Box

The nifty brown box also included truffled potato chips from Tartuflanghe, which will wind up crumbled over roasted lemony green beans, and a delightfully fragrant Prunotto Mariangela Moscato wine jelly, which will find itself married to vanilla yogurt.  I wasn’t going to mention the three different flavors of chocolate Camardo truffles – rum, coffee and hazelnut – since I left no evidence of their existence.  But now that you know, I recommend you get your own, because I have no intention of sharing something that should not be made public anyway.  Check out www.Italynthebox.com for all their other products.

Chickpea – A New Mediterranean-Style Fast Food Spot

Bright red umbrellas punctuate the patio seating at Chickpea

Bright red umbrellas punctuate the patio seating

From the team who brought you DRP Pizza (in Del Ray and Belle Haven) and Stomping Ground the bakery/coffee shop/Southern menu eatery along Mount Vernon Avenue beside the farmers’ market, we now have Chickpea.  This new spot, as cute as its name, is beside the playing fields along Route 1 near Crystal City.  You can’t miss it for the bright red umbrellas on the large patio.  Open only a few months, its already catching on with those on the go.  Because sometimes you just WANT IT NOW!  No waiting, no table service, no tipping.  Okay, a contribution to the small glass jar by the register would be the kind thing to do.  Grab a tray and get in line.

The hardest part is choosing from the tons of options at Chickpea

The hardest part is choosing from the tons of options at Chickpea

It took me awhile to figure out the system and make my choices, but the dish I concocted was very tasty.  You begin by selecting a base from among brown or parsley rice, toasted quinoa, a giant oven-baked pita, spinach, arugula, mixed greens or romaine.  I was feeling healthy just reading the menu.  I mixed arugula with romaine.  Next is protein – lemony chicken cooked with wine, fresh herbs and garlic; spicy chicken with yogurt, peppers and herbs; chargrilled beef kofta; pulled lamb shank, which they slow roast; or falafel, crunchy little chickpea balls flavored with garlic and cilantro.  I had the lamb shank and it reflected the long, slow-cooked flavors you’d expect.

Slow roasted lamb shank with toppings served on vintage enamel trays at Chickpea - baba ganoush and hummus sit to the side at Chickpea

Slow roasted lamb shank with toppings served on vintage enamel trays at Chickpea – baba ganoush and hummus sit to the side at Chickpea

Toppings are next and there are tons to choose from.  You can add whatever you like from among lettuce, tomatoes, feta, olives, sumac onions, cukes, fresh mint, tabbouleh, grilled veggies and more.  Stay focused because your fourth decision will be spreads and here come the classics – tzatziki, baba ganoush, harissa, green chili chutney, two kinds of hummus or a creamy roasted garlic sauce.  All made in-house.  Not wanting to overwhelm the dish with too many flavors, I asked for mine served on the side so I could enjoy it separately with a side order of pita chips.

Freshly made lemonade , pomegranate ice tea and a refreshing infusion of mint, lemon and cucumber water are some of the delicious drink selections at Chickpea

Freshly made lemonade , pomegranate ice tea and a refreshing infusion of mint, lemon and cucumber water are some of the delicious drink selections at Chickpea

Lastly you’ll opt for one of three vinaigrette dressings for your very large bowl of deliciousness – lemon-oregano, Greek or red wine.

I have tried one other Mediterranean fast food spot that couldn’t hold a candle to Chickpea.  Try it.  You’ll love it.  It’s just outside Old Town, a few blocks from downtown Del Ray and thankfully there’s plenty of parking.

529 East Howell Ave., Alexandria, VA 22301 www.MyChickpeaGrill.com

Tuffy Stone’s Q Barbeque Secret Corn Pudding Recipe 

If you can’t get to one of Q Barbecue’s four locations in the Richmond area, here’s some inspiration just in time for summer grilling.  We asked pitmaster Tuffy Stone for this fan favorite side dish and he willingly obliged.  It’s the perfect accompaniment to your chargrilled protein, or just on its own with a salad of summer tomatoes, cukes and garden greens. Tip of the Day: Be sure to use the same, or similar, high quality ingredients in this classic Southern tribute to the king of summer vegetables – corn.

Head shot of Tuffy Stone aka "The Professor"

Head shot of Tuffy Stone aka “The Professor”

Tuffy, aka ‘The Professor’, is a barbecue ninja.  Oh, and I should mention he’s also a classically trained French chef.  Working with his team “Cool Smoke”, the Lynchburg native and über pitmeister has won countless awards for his smoked meats.

Q Barbeque's Ribs

Q Barbeque’s Ribs

He has appeared on the TV show BBQ Pitmasters and was a judge on Season Three.  Last October he dazzled the barbecue world with a win at the 2015 Jack Daniel’s Invitational BBQ competition in Lynchburg, TN.

Q Barbeque's Famous Corn Pudding

Q Barbeque’s Famous Corn Pudding

 

To give his corn pudding authenticity, Tuffy uses freshly shucked corn and Patrick Henry Yellow Cornmeal, milled by Ashland Milling Company of Virginia.  If you’re serving a crowd, just double or triple the recipe.  www.QBarbeque.com

Q Barbeque’ s Corn Pudding

Yield: 5 servings
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Bake Time: 40 minutes

  • ½ teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 4 ½ tablespoons diced onions
  • 4 ½ tablespoons corn, cut off the cob
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 rounded tablespoon of yellow cornmeal
  • 1 extra-large egg, beaten
  • ½ egg yolk, beaten
  • ¾ creamed corn or ½ (14.5 ounce) can creamed corn
  • 1 rounded tablespoon sour cream
  • 2/3 cup plus 1 ½ tablespoons whole milk
  • ¼ cup plus 1 ½ tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 pinch ground black pepper
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and 8-x-8-x-2-inch glass baking dish with butter and set aside.
  • In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and corn. Cook until soft, approximately 10 minutes. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine sugar, flour, cornmeal, and eggs. Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until combined.
  • Add creamed corn and sour cream, beating for 1 minute on lowest speed.
  • Add milk and cream, beating for 1 minute.
  • Add melted butter, salt, pepper, and corn mixture, beating for 30 seconds. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish.
  • Place a shallow pan on the lower oven rack and place baking dish inside. Fill larger pan with enough water to come up halfway on sides of baking dish.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, then turn pan ¼ and back for 20 minutes. Serve hot.

Nibbles And Sips Around Town – June 9, 2016

Samantha Lee, Guest Contributor
June 9, 2016

Suma Restaurant + Bar

Suma Restaurant + Bar

Suma Restaurant + Bar is an New American style restaurant located near Bethesda Row.  Suma translates to “born in the summer”. Boasting an outdoor 20-seat patio with sectional sofa and basket-woven chairs, the indoor dining room comfortably seats up to 57 people.  The large windows give off an airy feel to restaurant, while French doors bring in more natural light.

Suma Patio

Suma Patio

Chef Gene Sohn has been in the DC hospitality industry all his life. Eschewing a path to business school, he chose to become a chef. Moving up in rank and responsibility from dishwasher to Chef de Cuisine, he worked for the Robert Wiedmaier Restaurant Group including the prestigious Marcel’s and the ever-popular Mussel Bar in Bethesda for almost 8 years.  Eventually he teamed up with Jay Evans, the former General Manager of Mussel Bar – Bethesda, and Jennifer Day to open Suma.  Sohn aims at mastering simple, classical dishes with a modern twist.

Suma Interior

Suma Restaurant Interior

 

Suma Art Decor

Suma Art Decor

The restaurant is modern with an art deco vintage theme. Some of the quirky artifacts include a Japanese Pagoda, green pear-shaped candles in a lantern, decorative lamps with spiral-patterned shades, metal sculptures, and a golden glass bowl. In one of the corners of the restaurant a Vermouth Bianco poster oversees the room. Booths sport a honey brown pattern and lighting comes via vintage lightbulbs.  Six bar stools create an intimate feel to the small spot.

Vermouth Bianco

Vermouth Bianco

Suma Bar

Suma Bar

The menu reflects the chef’s seasonal approach. In lieu of bread service, expect a plate of homemade pickled vegetables – spicy cucumbers, onion and cauliflower.

Pickled Platter

Pickled Platter

For my appetizer I chose Maryland Crab Dip – a slightly creamy, mix of fresh lump crabmeat with butter and Old Bay and topped with panko bread crumbles.  It arrived in a cast iron skillet on a wooden plank with slices of warm baguette.  I found it to be light and savory with no discernible filler.

Maryland Crab Dip

Maryland Crab Dip

Of particular pleasure are the Deviled Eggs garnished with goat cheese, bacon bits, and chives and served over chipotle aioli.

Deviled Eggs Close Up / Deviled Eggs

Deviled Eggs Close Up

On the day I visited the specials featured Lobster Bisque, Salmon Burger, and Seared Tuna, all of which sounded delicious but I had my eye set on the Pan Seared Halibut, an entree of line-caught halibut fillet lightly seasoned with salt and pepper and dressed with a buttery tomato and caper sauce.  Light in texture, it was accompanied by lemon-accented whipped Yukon potatoes and asparagus.  The dish was perfectly prepared and delicately seasoned.

Pan Seared Halibut

Pan Seared Halibut

Desserts were luscious sounding – Vanilla Creme Brulee, Banana Nut Bread Pudding, Chocolate Chip Brownie, Mango Sorbet and Pistachio Parfait – and it was difficult to decide. I opted for warm Vanilla Creme Brûlée made with freshly scraped vanilla bean pods and topped with a scoop of creme fraiche – a shareable portion that was light and not too sweet.

Creme Brulee

Creme Brulee

Suma Restaurant + Bar,  4921 Bethesda Ave, Bethesda, MD 20814.  301 718-6378.  For information and reservations visit sumabethesda.com. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner daily (except Monday’s).  Happy hour is from 4-7 pm and brunch on the weekends is from 11 am-4 pm. Happy Hour specials include $2 off drafts, wine by the glass, all products from Maryland, and $1 oysters. The restaurant is three blocks south from the Bethesda Metro station. There is not a private lot but there are multiple public parking garages within a 0.5 mile radius.

Photo credit ~ Samantha Lee


Southern Living Magazine Celebrates Its 50th Anniversary

June 13, 2016
Jordan Wright 

The grounds of Wentworth Mansion

The grounds of Wentworth Mansion

Last Friday the magnificent Wentworth Mansion served as backdrop for Southern Living magazine’s 50th anniversary celebration in Charleston, South Carolina.  The iconic shelter magazine, rated as the largest regional lifestyle publication in the nation, paid tribute to its past by acknowledging its history of recipes and tradition with “A Taste of the Decades”.  Southern Living Editor-in-Chief Sid Evans presided over the festivities greeting guests who strolled the grounds during the cocktail reception before sitting down to a lavish five-course dinner.  Wine pairings were provided by Moet Hennessy.

Executive Chef Marc Collins, of the adjacent fine dining restaurant, Circa 1886, designed the five-course Lowcountry menu to reflect each decade of the magazine’s classic recipes.  Collins a major player in the founding of Charleston Wine + Food, clearly was inspired by the culinary challenge. 

Southern Living’s 50th Anniversary Dinner “A Taste of the Decades”

"Spam" disguised as Quiche Lorraine

“Spam” disguised as Quiche Lorraine

Hors d’Oeuvres

Charleston Press Club Meat Balls ‘93

Shrimp-In-A-Pickle ‘86

Fried Green Tomatillos, Jalapeno Jelly ‘97

Paired with Domaine Chandon Étoile Brut

Napa Valley, California (Founded in 1973)

Heirloom Tomato Aspic with Blue Crab

Heirloom Tomato Aspic with Blue Crab

The 60’s

Heirloom Tomato Aspic

Blue Crab, Lemon Mayonnaise, Roasted Garlic Purée, Baby Basil,

Smoked Cheddar Croutons

Cape Mentelle Sauvignon Blanc/Sémillon 2015

Cape Mentelle, Margaret River, Australia (Founded in 1970)

Chicken with Cashews Salad

Chicken with Cashews Salad

The 70’s

Chicken with Cashews Salad

Bibb Lettuce, Pepper Relish, Chicken Confit, Carolina Gold Rice Polpette, Cashew Butter, Sherry n’ Soy Vinaigrette

Newton Unfiltered Chardonnay 2013

Spring Mountain, California (Founded in 1977)

Seared Foie Gras with a side of Green Bean Casserole and Beech Mushroom and Parsley Salad

Seared Foie Gras with a side of Green Bean Casserole and Beech Mushroom and Parsley Salad

The 80’s

Green Bean “Casserole”

Seared Foie Gras, Crispy Onion Rings, Lemon Gelée,

Beech Mushroom & Parsley Salad

Cloudy Bay Marlborough Pinot Noir 2013

Marlborough, New Zealand (Founded in 1985)

A surprise dish served in a TV dinner tray of Edna Lewis' Collard Greens, Blackened Catfish and Corn Pudding

A surprise dish served in a TV dinner tray of Edna Lewis’ Collard Greens, Blackened Catfish and Corn Pudding

The 90’s

Elegant Beef Blue

Rosewood Farms Wagyu Shoulder Tender, Blue Cheese Crust, Asparagus, Chardonnay Pan Sauce

Bodega Numanthia, Numanthia 2009 served from a magnum

Toro, Spain (Founded in 1998)

A Trio of Cakes ready to go out

A Trio of Cakes ready to go out

The Y2k’s

A Trio of Southern Cakes – Hummingbird, Red Velvet and Coconut

What a night! What a heavenly fête!  Don’t you just wish you were there.

Photo credit: Marc Collins

La Cage Aux Folles ~ Signature Theatre

Jordan Wright
June 14, 2016
Special to The Alexandria Times

Brent Barrett (Georges) with Sam Brackley, Jay Westin, Isaiah Young, Ethan Kasnett, Darius Delk, Phil Young. Photo by Christopher Mueller.

Brent Barrett (Georges) with Sam Brackley, Jay Westin, Isaiah Young, Ethan Kasnett, Darius Delk, Phil Young. Photo by Christopher Mueller.

 A marabou boa-filled extravaganza blew into town with Matthew Gardiner’s La Cage Aux Folles.  As glitzy as Vegas, as chi-chi as its French Riviera setting, and as campy and flamboyant as Jerry Herman and Harvey Fierstein intended, this six-time Tony Award-winning musical comedy hits all the right notes.  Director Gardiner doing double duty as choreographer, takes on the story of two gay men with a nightclub in Saint-Tropez, where, as we all know, anything goes.  At least that’s what Cole Porter taught us.

Georges, the straight-looking one (Is there an app for that?) and the club’s emcee, is played by Brent Barrett, who looks and sings like a young Robert Goulet.  His paramour and right-hand man/gal is Albin, stage name Zaza, whom actor Bobby Smith portrays like the metamorphic stages of a caterpillar to a butterfly and the killer instincts of a shark.

DJ Petrosino (Jacob) and Paul Scanlan (Jean-Michel). Photo by Christopher Mueller.

DJ Petrosino (Jacob) and Paul Scanlan (Jean-Michel). Photo by Christopher Mueller.

Georges has a son, Jean-Michel (Paul Scanlan), the result of a quickie with a showgirl in a one-night-only heterosexual fling.  The problem is the dear boy wants to introduce his dewy-eyed fiancée, Anne (Jessica Lauren Ball) and her ultra-conservative parents to his father and jet-setting mother.  What ensues is a sort of gay version of Meet the Parents, with Georges, Albin and their snippy maid Jacob (DJ Petrosino).  “I thought I hired a butler!” quips Georges.  Keep your eyes on the hilarious Petrosino who is a first class scene stealer.

Bobby Smith (Albin). Photo by Christopher Mueller.

Bobby Smith (Albin). Photo by Christopher Mueller.

It takes place within the confines of their first floor nightclub and second floor home, with an occasional stroll along the shore to reminisce.  Scenic Designer Lee Savage has upped the wow factor by giving us an insider’s view of the drag club’s green room.  Two dressing rooms bracket the stage and we become voyeurs to the cross-dressing performers, primping and preening in various stages of undress.

Ethan Kasnett (Chantal). Photo by Christopher Mueller.

Ethan Kasnett (Chantal). Photo by Christopher Mueller.

But this show is not all show.  There are no lip-synching Diana Ross lookalikes in this line up of gender-bending chorines.  This is the real deal.  Hey, even Jesus makes an appearance, but I’ll keep the surprise.  No one here is, to borrow a phrase, ‘resting on pretty’.  Gardiner has cast some extraordinary performers with pipes that can go from alto to soprano in a New York minute, fantastic dance skills (Did he really? OMG to the full splits and high kicks) and GQ-worthy bodies too.  Big applause to the supporting cast of Les Cagelles: Sam Brackley, Darius R. Delk, Ethan Kasnett, Jay Westin, Isaiah W. Young and Phil Young.  How they transform themselves into glam divas is alone worth the price of admission!  Extra ‘chicken cutlets’ (gel inserts) all around.  And an additional hats off to Frank Labovitz’s over-the-top, ab fab, feathered and sequined costumes, and Anne Nesmith’s endless assortment of towering wigs.

But there’s a plot here too and notwithstanding the lights (kudos to Jason Lyons) and sound (hats off to Lane Elms) we are treated to one of the year-to-date’s best performances by Bobby Smith, in a tour de force portrayal of Albin, the headlining drag performer whose boundless love and sacrifice teaches us the ultimate truth of what “family” really means.

Highly recommended for its tender love story and comic relief in the midst of our turbulent times.

Through July 10th at Signature Theatre (Shirlington Village), 4200 Campbell Avenue, Arlington, VA 22206.  For tickets and information call 703 820-9771 or visit www.sigtheatre.org.