Theater: Singing ‘dirty’ after dark

The cast of Desert Rose Productions' "Dirty Little Showtunes!" consists of : top, left to right, Terry Huber, Ben Reece, Andrew Knifer; and bottom, left to right, Tom Warrick, Ryan Dominguez and Raul Valenzuela.

If you haven’t seen “Dirty Little Showtunes,” the send-up of Broadway’s classic show tunes that’s had Coachella Valley audiences giggling and humming along all summer, there’s still time.

The show, written by parodist Tom Orr of San Francisco, will continue during weekends through early November and possibly longer. The latter depends on audience support, artistic director Jim Strait said Friday before the show.

Strait is co-founder, with Paul D. Taylor, of Desert Rose Productions, which has staged the show since July at The Commissary in Rancho Mirage. The presentation is a part of their capital campaign; they’re raising funds to open a playhouse. So far they’ve pinpointed a location – Pickfair Promenade in downtown Cathedral City – and raised $50,000 toward their goal of moving in by the end of this year.

Desert Rose’s primary mission is to present theatrical programs that appeal to and are reflective of LGBT audiences and straight allies, and that’s what it has done with “Dirty Little Showtunes!”

Accompanied by musical director Doug Wilson on piano, the six-member cast dances, does a bit of slapstick and sings parodies of songs from every major musical (minus Andrew Lloyd Webber’s megahits), ranging from “Oklahoma” to “Hair” to “Wicked.” Orr’s lyrics give the songs a clever, humorous, and at times racy LGBT spin, excellently presented by Strait’s direction. For instance, how the cast manages to perform the “West Side Story” style dance-off between drag queens and leather daddies in such a small space without a fumble is a wonder.

It would be nearly impossible to have an entire show with LGBT references without an occasional commentary on the culture. One example was the lines referring to the hyper-masculine leather subculture as just another form of drag performance.

Performer and lyracist Tom Orr will bring his new cabaret and stand-up act, "The Devil Wears Nada," to Rancho Mirage this month.

But what came through above all else was a love of musical theater. If parody is a sincere form of flattery, Stephen Sondheim and other legendary composers and producers must be blushing from the adoration of Orr and the Desert Rose players. (Orr is expected to perform his cabaret act, “The Devil Wears Nada,” at 8 p.m. Oct. 20 and 2 p.m. Oct. 21 at The Commissary, 69-620 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage.)

Despite their reverence, the cast had a lot of fun with the suggestive choreography and didn’t take itself too seriously. Their comedic timing was spot-on, with Andrew Knifer and Raul Valenzuela delivering a few panic-screams that would make even Nathan Lane Elphaba-green with envy.

While each cast member is talented in his own right, he was strongest as a part of the rousing, harmonious ensemble. My favorite parts of the show were the group numbers, such as the singing nuns, “Too Damned Hot” performance, and closing number. What was your favorite?

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