Mighty Real: In brief
Singer-actor-director-writer Anthony Wayne (Pippin) aims to take you higher in a biographical tribute to the 1970s disco icon Sylvester, who became a pop star despite and through his unusually open gayness. Kendrell Bowman codirects, and Jacqueline B. Arnold and choreographer Anastacia McCleskey provide backup as the Weather Girls.
Mighty Real: Theater review by Adam Feldman
It’s a wonder that Anthony Wayne has any face left after singing it off so fiercely in his concert-style tribute to Sylvester. A queer disco icon in the ’70s and early ’80s, Sylvester’s gender-blending persona—he did radical drag early on with San Francisco’s subversive Cockettes—was matched by comparably androgynous vocals: a blasting, soulful scream stream in a high-flying falsetto. To pull this off for 90 minutes, as Wayne does (with a few breaks for numbers by four wonderful backup singers), is a Herculean labor of love, and Wayne’s cords stretch to meet the task. Strutting around the stage in glittering outfits, pulling high Gs out of the ether, he gives a thrilling diva performance, gutsy and joyous. Mighty Real might be more effective as a straight-up music show; between songs, it sometimes falls into sketched-in biography and borderline-maudlin sentiment. But the songs, including the exultant title tune and the saucy 1981 hit “Do Ya Wanna Funk,” comprise the vast majority of the night. Don’t bother resisting the urge to shake your seated booty as Wayne revives Sylvester’s gospel of mighty self-belief.—Theater review by Adam Feldman
THE BOTTOM LINE Do ya wanna funk? Let Wayne show you how.
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