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THEATER REVIEW GRINDR The Opera (An Unauthorized Parody)
by James R. Wilke

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Book, music and lyrics by: Erik Ransom

At: The Buena, Pride Arts Center, 4147 N. Broadway. Tickets:; $20-40. Runs through: July 28

Looking for an easy way to chat with and meet other gay/bisexual men for immediate or long-term intimacy? There's an app for that! Looking for a show in which gay/bisexual characters explore an app that provides an easy way to chat and meet for immediate or long-term intimacy? There's a musical for that, too!

It's called GRINDR The Opera ( An Unauthorized Parody ). But don't let the title fool you. While writer/composer Erik Ransom has created an award-winning show that—like traditional opera—is sung throughout, the musical stylings of GRINDR The Opera form a tapestry of comedic songs in a wide range of genres and homages to popular tunes.

Sporting an all-male cast, this timely show is a witty, raunchy comedy replete with all gay characters. Even the feminine title character of the show—Grindr herself, personified— is played by a man in drag, sung in countertenor by actor Bruno Rivera. And helping Grindr weave her temptress' web of lust, love and impossibly quick costume changes are a pair of androgynous dancing Grindrettes, Occulto and Dilectus, played with gusto by Andrew Flynn and Brandon Krisko.

The storyline rotates between a set of four archetypal personalities as they engage Grindr in often relatable situations. We see the antics of Jack, a sex-hungry twink, and Don, a closeted daddy, played by Evan Wilhelm and John Cardone ( whose acting chops make up for their vocal pitfalls ). And then we find the budding romantic duo of Devon, a relationship-minded doctor, and Tom, a cynic whose heart finally opens to love. Played by Justin Cavazos and Ben Broughton, these two steal the show with touching duets like "You Can Leave" and "We Met on Grindr."

The most show-stopping moment of the show occurs when Broughton sings the heartfelt power ballad "Trick of the Mind"—arguably one of Erik Ransom's most touching and original songs. Yet love and lust in this brave, new, seemingly anonymous world of Grindr is not always what it promises to be, as our four characters come to discover.

Certainly an entertaining, laugh-out-loud funny romp, GRINDR The Opera does not, however, address many of the darker issues dating apps have exacerbated in gay society: body-image obsessions, drugs, diseases, discrimination or the superficiality of photos as the primary ticket to intimacy along gay men. But perhaps the gaps we see in GRINDR The Opera only serve to tell us that the gay dating app that "started it all" is indeed a more complicated, mysterious siren than we in the gay community ever realized. And we can at least thank Erik Ransom and the team of artists at Pride Arts for bringing our attention to her.

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