By Jeff Walsh
So, I requested to be sent screeners of the "youth" movies being shown at Frameline, San Francisco's LGBT film festival, which is currently happening in San Francisco. I'm not certain if this is indicative of the larger programming this year, but the films I received nearly all focused on trans and gender identity issues, which will certainly appeal to a lot of people on the site here.
Keep in mind, these movies are just playing the festival circuit now, so you may have to hunt down when they are playing a festival near you, and the wait may be a bit longer for a DVD release.
Here's a breakdown of the films I received:
By Jeff Walsh
When we last caught up with Robin De Jesus, he was nominated for a Tony for the role of Sonny in In The Heights. He didn't win, but the show did win Best New Musical. De Jesus ended up performing that role on Broadway for two full years. Then, with just a two week break, he went to the new revival of the La Cage Aux Folles musical.
(If you want to read our earlier interviews first, we first chatted with him the day In The Heights was first opening Off-Broadway, and then nearly a year and a half later, when the show was on Broadway, and De Jesus was nominated for a Tony Award)
You may know La Cage Aux Folles better as The Birdcage, the movie with Robin Williams and Nathan Lane as a long-time gay couple who run a nightclub with a nightly drag show. There's a lot of twists and turns in the plot that I won't go into (but, if you're so inclined, they're detailed on Wikipedia). The main differences are that this is the musical version with a book by one of my heroes, Harvey Fierstein, and music by Jerry Herman. And, in this revival, the Robin Williams role is played by Kelsey Grammer, aka Frasier.
De Jesus plays Jacob, the supposed maid to the couple who desperately wants to prove to Zaza (the Nathan Lane role), that he's ready to be in the drag show. As you can see from the photo, De Jesus does a good amount of drag in the show. Not that he's a stranger to drag, as he performed as Angel in Rent on Broadway before.
And, to stick with tradition, De Jesus is once again Tony-nominated for his role in La Cage, and I'll certainly be rooting for him on June 13. He is always such a generous, positive spirit, it's always great to catch up with him.
Here's what we said:
By Jeff Walsh
"In The Heights" seems like a Broadway show that shouldn't exist. A show about relationships, family, and community without an ounce of cynicism that tells heartfelt stories of Latino immigrants living in Manhattan? How is this even onstage, let alone winning Best Musical for 2008?
After nearly two years of anticipation, I finally got to see "In The Heights" on Broadway in December. Months of "Abuela" and "Piragua casting reality show parody" YouTube videos, and watching heartwhelming videos the cast made with a 10-year-old fan, and listening to the cast recording on my iPod was a lot more information than I usually have before seeing a show. I usually wait to get the cast recording after a show.
So, it was a bit strange to finally enter the theater on 46th street, and see the songs come to life, the dialogue that never existed on my iPod, the dancing, and… I just can't recommend it highly enough. To see show creator Lin-Manuel Miranda onstage as Usnavi surrounded by the amazing vision he has given to the world was a true gift.
By Jeff Walsh
When I last interviewed Robin De Jesus in February 2007, it was the afternoon before the opening night of the Off-Broadway run of In The Heights. The show has since shut its doors Off-Broadway, retooled for a proper Broadway run, and has since swept the Tony nominations in the musical category, with 13 nominations including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score, Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical (for show creator Lin-Manuel Miranda), Best Direction and Best Choreography.
But the nomination that brings us together here is Best Featured Performer in a Musical, for which Robin is one of the five nominees. I've been a fan of Robin's since first seeing him in the sweet movie Camp, where he played a gay teen with a straight crush. I'll be seeing In The Heights the next time I'm on the east coast (the show was dark between its Off-Broadway and Broadway runs when I was there last time).
So, between feeling so happy for Robin and figuring I should jump on any chance to feature a 23-year-old openly gay actor nominated for creating a role in a hot show on Broadway, we jumped on the phone recently to capture his life in this unique window before the awards air on CBS on June 15.
First of all, I love the idea of a Broadway show making cool viral video to promote themselves, like this:
By Jeff Walsh
Like many people, I first saw Robin De Jesus when he played the lead role in the movie Camp, which continues to be one of my favorite gay movies. The movie features teens dealing with their emotions, crushes, and sexualities at a summer camp that puts on different plays and musicals the whole time. I felt that he was the heart of the movie, and beautifully captured the awkwardness of that age.
Since that time, I've kept tabs on Robin, seeing if he's in any shows whenever I'm planning to go to New York City and such. This past trip, when I saw the Rent theater, for a moment, I wondered if he was still in the company, but I already had tickets for other shows.
The day before I flew back west to San Francisco, Robin posted a bulletin on MySpace that previews for the new show he's in were starting the following day, so while I was landing in Oakland, he was performing in "In The Heights" at the first preview. The show opens tonight Off-Broadway (Break a leg tonight, Robin!) and sounds like a fun night out at the theater. I'll let you know in a few months.