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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Billy Masters
by Billy Masters
2017-05-24

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"If he took a dump on his desk, you would defend it."—Anderson Cooper chastises Jeffrey Lord after the political commentator once again defended Donald Trump—this time, in light of the Russian inquiry. Coop later apologized for the statement: "I regret the crude sentence I spoke earlier tonight and followed it up by apologizing on air. It was unprofessional. I am genuinely sorry." Still, it was great TV—and, of course, we'll run it on our website.

Let's call this a tale of two shows: The Bodyguard and Jersey Boys. Last week, I saw touring companies of both shows during their stay in Los Angeles. The Bodyguard is, of course, based on the Whitney Houston film of 1992. Alas, the stage adaptation is short on dialogue—or plot. The script seems structured to link together the 20 songs almost solely sung by the phenomenal Deborah Cox. ( Two of the songs are sung by others. )

Given the fact that she is virtually carrying the entire musical and doing six shows a week ( no matinee for Cox ), it's almost understandable that she holds back somewhat. However, I wouldn't be overstating things to say that her performance had all the energy of a latter-day Sunny von Bulow. Even with her abilities in check, one cannot deny that voice. And certainly she dances better than Whitney. But her comatose performance in a show with major structural deficiencies made for a wholly unsatisfying evening. While the major culprits are the writer and director, I was taken aback watching the musical director, Matthew Smedal, who looked bored stiff. As they say, the fish stinks from the head. But I should add two important points. First, Cox and company let loose for the post-show mini-concert, which was almost worth the price of admission. Second, practically every performance on the tour has been sold out, and audiences respond enthusiastically.

Then we have Jersey Boys, led by Mark Ballas from Dancing with the Stars. Unlike The Bodyguard, Jersey Boys is a well-structured, well-written and well-directed show. Like The Bodyguard, the brunt of the vocal burden falls on the star—although he has able assistance by the rest of the Four Seasons. To say Ballas is not much of a singer or actor would be an understatement. His strain in trying to approximate Frankie Valli's unique sound is evident from the first note. One wondered how he would get through the second act—let alone five shows a week. ( Like Cox, Ballas doesn't do matinees. He also has something else to do Saturday nights. ) Predictably, Ballas ran into trouble as the show went on—the second act was particularly grating. Unlike Miss Cox, Ballas works hard—very hard. He pushes what limited resources he has to extraordinary lengths. While he is often painful to listen to, one can't deny that he wants this—and wants it badly. And, like The Bodyguard, the show is a crowd-pleaser. And, on opening night, the real Frankie Valli came onstage to congratulate Ballas and company.

So it comes down to this—do you take the exceptionally talented person sleepwalking through an abysmal show? Or do you opt for the lackluster but likable person who is killing himself to get through a better show? In this case, I will give it to Jersey Boys, by a hair. But if someone gives Deborah Cox a Red Bull, I'd go back in a second.

I also attended the Southland Theatre Artists Goodwill Event—otherwise known as STAGE. This fundraiser—the world's longest-running annual HIV/AIDS benefit—took its final bow with a cavalcade of stars from stage, screen and TV. The ageless Carole Cook was at the very first STAGE concert. She's been in 31 of the 33, but she had a good excuse for the two she missed—she was on Broadway! It was fitting for her to close the show, easily sounding and appearing a generation or two younger than her 93 years. She embodied everything that has been right with this event, which has raised tens of millions of dollars over these many years. Bravo!

We hear that Sara Gilbert was the driving force behind the Roseanne reboot—which explains why she's not only starring in it but also an executive producer. So far, it is only slated for a limited eight-episode season. Another high-profile reboot, Will & Grace, is set for 12 episodes. And we may have told you about the Dynasty"reboot last week, but now we've seen the trailer. And, well, you can judge it for yourself on BillyMasters.com .

Most shows spend the summer campaigning for an Emmy Award. However, the cast and crew of the sitcom Mom are going in a different direction. Instead of spending money on a media blitz, they donated the cash to Planned Parenthood. As far as I'm concerned, they're already winners.

Our "Ask Billy" question is from Josh in Denver. "I read that American Gods had the most explicit gay sex scene ever. But I don't watch it. Can you show me what the fuss was all about?"

The sex scene in American Gods has been touted by critics as "the hottest and most pornographic gay sex scene ever on mainstream TV." Riddle me this—since when is Starz mainstream TV? I'm not sure I even get Starz. Once I have to enter four digits on my remote, I give up. The scene in question is between Omid Abtahi and Mousa Kraish—not really names that roll off the tongue ... unless it's prayer time and you're facing east. But it is hot. Producer Bryan Fuller said, "It was no small feat for two gay Muslim characters to have a beautiful, sophistical, sexual experience." While I'm not exactly sure what "sophistical" means, I can certainly confirm that there were no small feet! See it for yourself on BillyMasters.com .

Could it be that Billy ran into a legend last week? Yes, at one of the events mentioned in this very column, he found himself next to one of the world's most recognizable men—and almost didn't recognize him! On initial viewing, the guy's face kinda looked like a deflated beach ball. While I suspect there are no undies that could lift that droopy derrière, I find it questionable when someone of advanced age wears skinny jeans with no socks! What is the male version of cankles? In this case, I'm going with "cadaver-kles." Photos to follow on BillyMasters.com .

When nothing comes between me and a blind item, it's definitely time to end yet another column. I should add that the notable name was attended to by a coterie of hot young underwear model types. Kinda like the guys you see on www.BillyMasters.com—the site doesn't charge by the hour. If you have a question for me, send it along to Billy@BillyMasters.com and I promise to get back to you before Mark Ballas takes over the lead in The Bodyguard! So, until next time, remember: One man's filth is another man's bible.


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