TOM ORR – A Conversation with Seán Martinfield

“I Feel A Thong Coming On”
at New Conservatory Theatre
through September 7th

sean-martinfield-2-2.jpg
By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Fine Arts Critic
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

Tom Orr is a quadruple and triple X-rated threat. He sings, he dances, he acts, he looks great in High Definition. And whether it’s (make that, IT’s) in full color on-screen, wiggling and bouncing behind a back-lit screen, or mostly aiming downstream while onstage at the NEW CONSERVATORY THEATRE CENTER – Tom Orr is very together in his comely all-together.

I FEEL A THONG COMING ON is part of NCTC’s Summer Cabaret Series and the latest in a string of Mr. Orr’s one-man musical sextravaganzas. This is one pulsatingly fabulous consenting-adults-type show. Directed by F. Allen Sawyer and with piano accompaniment by Scrumbly Koldewyn, Tom Orr plays in Theatre 3 until Sunday, September 7th. The show is hilarious, raunchy, verbose, smutty, delightfully clever, and – omigod you guys! – intelligent. Tom Orr is a brilliant lyricist. Drawing upon a canonical list of Broadway showtunes from such hits as Chicago, Hairspray, Babes In Arms, Flower Drum Song, Gypsy, Guys and Dolls, etc., Tom has re-written the lyrics to tell the saga of a guy with dual persuasions, powers and passions for the center spotlight and the centerfold. His personas are laid bare or hanging on racks – for He, She, and We. Tom slips in and out of pumps, boots, wigs, frocks, pants, straps, and even a “Pan” suit in the same swift tempo as his signature Gilbert and Sullivan parody, “I am the very model of a modern homosexual”. He is a walking encyclopedia of gesture and pose, a tongue-in-cheek magician probing those time-honored themes. Recall the bouncing balls at movie theater sing-a-longs? Tom Orr has a thong just for you.

i-feel-a-thong-coming-on-2.jpg
I FEEL A THONG COMING ON – Tom Orr. Photo, Duane Cramer

It was my pleasure to see Tom perform last year at THE GARAGE artspace (975 Howard Street) in another solo act, “iTom_shuffle”. Best known for his creation of the successful cabaret revue, DIRTY LITTLE SHOWTUNES, loyal fans and newcomers packed themselves into the SOMA converted garage and had a blast. Where there’s a will, there is always a way. Ed Decker, Artistic Director of NCTC, helped Tom find a way back to his theater space at 25 Van Ness Avenue (a bit north of Market) and to – as Norma Desmond might put it – “A Return”. Following the opening performances of I FEEL A THONG COMING ON, it was my pleasure to meet with Tom and bask in the truth and the way at the sun-lit Café Flore.

Tom: That’s the nicest part about moving the show to the New Conservatory – one BIG up-grade. The other was such a bare bones production; just me, the stage, and the karaoke tracks. I was limited to whatever I could find on karaoke and then stuck with the key it was in, and the format, and without any editing tools. So, for songs that come with four choruses – I had to do all four choruses. Some songs don’t necessarily require that. I can write lyrics to fill it and, hopefully, keep it interesting enough for the audience. But some jokes are told in the first sentence, then you’re just telling the same joke for five minutes.

Scrumbly Koldewyn was my musical director for DIRTY LITTLE SHOWTUNES. Twelve years later, we speak the same language – we speak shorthand – and just sort of get each other. Now I can do medleys or take the best of a lyric and just do that one verse and then move onto the next. The New Conservatory has a full staff of wonderful people. I don’t have to be trudging all over town hanging up posters. For this show I was able to just focus on my performance and the writing. We brought in Allen Sawyer, my director from Dirty Little Showtunes. Same story – he’s watched me evolve as a performer for 12 years. He really gets my approach and understands what I’m trying to do as a musical theatre artist. He understands burlesque, revues; he has an encyclopedic knowledge of Broadway and camp films. We draw from the same vernacular.

tom-orr.JPG
TOM ORR

While living in Seattle, Tom wrote for the Seattle Times and occasionally appeared in local leather contests. In this arena he started “The Mystery Song”, taking on challenging suggestions from the audience that included a specific show tune, sex act and location – and then writing a new song on the spot.

Tom: It taught me how to be very fast. When we did the same trick in Dirty Little Showtunes I would get the suggestions in Act One and during intermission write the new song. That’s how Act Two would start every night.

SEÁN: Did you ever get a song you didn’t know?

TOM: I put one restriction on it – no Lloyd Webber! Because? To parody Lloyd Webber is redundant. I remember the first time someone yelled out “Married” from Cabaret. At that point, I was only familiar with the movie and did not know the original score. I said, “That’s not in Cabaret!” and twelve queens in the front row go, “Oh, honey, yes it is!” Totally embarrassed with myself.

TOM: That’s when I was in college. Go, make my rent money. Michael was so used to really stupid, drunk West Hollywood boys that he would just brutalize on stage. They were just clueless, but the audience would roar. He threw something from THE WOMEN at me. A friend had a complete library of all the campy Hollywood movies and all the ’70s porn. That summer I absorbed it all. It was like a senior thesis in Queer Studies. So, next time Bruno threw a zinger at me, I came back with the appropriate response. He just looked, and then gave me another one, and I came right back. We did that all night long. Here’s this kid with a b%ner in his underwear doing Rosalind Russell and the audience is in stitches.

the-women-1939-2.jpg
THE WOMEN (1939) – Norma Shearer, Joan Fontaine, Rosalind Russell, Paulette Goddard, Mary Boland

Then Bruno moved here and was stage managing “Party”, one of the original nudie shows at the Cable Car. That was a big hit for about nine months; Allen Sawyer had directed it. Then they decided to close it even though it was selling well. Then there was this window at Cable Car from January to May that was dark. I thought I had an open run. So, I moved down from Seattle on a whim. Within two weeks I packed up my life and came down here with just a stack of new songs I had been writing – because I had insomnia. I’d just be staring at the ceiling in the middle of the night. And then I came up with “Modern Homosexual” [based on ” I am the very model of a modern major-general” from Gilbert and Sullivan’s THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE. The title just popped into my head. I sat down in front of the computer; three hours passed, and suddenly there was a complete song. My brain finally slowed down and I could go to sleep. I had a stack of these songs and Bruno says, “Let’s do a show.” Allen was then doing “Christmas With The Crawfords” and had also helped direct and write “Jungle Red” – just a bunch of those pivotal Queer camp spectacles that were making the San Francisco theatre scene so interesting back then.

I remember sitting next to him as he paged through this pile of songs. Allen has a very dry sense of humor and introverted energy. Every four or five pages he’d go, “Hmm … heh”, with a hint of a smirk. And I’m dying. Finally, he gets to the last song, closes the file and says, “Well, it doesn’t suck.” Over the years I have come to learn that is very high praise indeed from Allen Sawyer. A few days later we did a backers audition – trying to raise investing money – where we invited Trauma Flintstone, Birdie-Bob Watt, David Bicha, and Eric Brizee. It’s January ’97, they were coming fresh out of “Christmas With The Crawfords”. They were invited to come watch me perform 45 minutes of the show for the potential investors – of which we got no money. But, we got the cast. They saw and heard the material – they saw and heard a good thing, loved the idea and working with Allen. We didn’t have time for regular auditions; we had to start right away. We brought in Randy Wendelin – who, sadly, is no longer with us. He was the porn star, “Steve Regis”. First thing out of my mouth is, “I don’t want a porn star. We’re not selling the show that way, it doesn’t need that.” The first thing Randy says when he walks in is, “I don’t want to use the name Steve Regis, it’s not who I am anymore.” He was a big hunky daddy and we got to sing a duet – in one pair of pajamas, that we split. So, within five weeks we went from a stack of parodies in a file folder to a fully realized revue. Allen was the one who figured out the order of the songs, how to group them thematically, and gave DIRTY LITTLE SHOWTUNES an arc. Act One was mostly Broadway jokes, relationship and political jokes, and a little bit of smut. Act Two started with, “Oh, the leather man and the drag queen should be friends”, turns into the rumble from “West Side Story”, and then resolved into the hoedown from “Oklahoma!”. Then came six solos for each of us – either a leather song or a drag song – but each one topped the next. It just built to this explosive finale with Trauma Flintstone doing “I’m Still Here”. Trauma is one of the most gifted artists I have ever known – in or out of drag. With a look or a gesture he captured all 77 of the women named in the song – turning it into this tour de force and taking it to a transcendent level that was breathtaking. Then we came out in bathrobes and made fun of the nudie shows. We had to close because “Making Porn” was already booked at that theatre. We had an 8-week / standing room only / sold-out hit that had to close. We pulled it back together and moved to the THEATER RHINO for six weeks and then had to close because they were doing a nudie show.

trauma-flintstone-2.jpg
TRAUMA FLINTSTONE and DAN SAVAGE

I then took it Seattle to a bar called Re-Bar that was doing a lot of Queer cabaret. Dan Savage, the sex advice columnist, is an amazing theatre director. He got his hands on it and really challenged me to not just do it again, but re-examine some of the lyrics and write some new stuff to tailor it to the Seattle audience. That ran for 12 weeks and made a bunch of money. During that production, I was flying back here to rehearse because we were about to re-open again at New Conservatory for Christmas. That show ran 14 weeks. We didn’t do anything to compete with the Christmas shows and didn’t change the production that much. So, people who had already seen it twelve times came back one more time. There were a lot of factors, but the show ended up losing all the investments. By 14 weeks we had just spent it all and there was nothing left – “Whaddya mean? I’ve been working for a year and there’s nothing?!” So, I took it back to Seattle, it became a sequel, really re-vamped it, and then I was ready. “Let’s go Off-Broadway!” But, there was no money. Now, 12 years later, I’m still waiting for my cash cow to pay its dividends.

Seán: Given the choice of doing a one-man show or going back to the six-person format, which would you prefer?

Tom: I would like to go back to the six-man thing. I want to put other people to work. I want to be able to take a break, take a pee, or have a sip of water. Some of my songs aren’t autobiographical in any way. But when they come out of my mouth people assume they are. When they’re coming out of another performer, then there’s a distance from me as the author of a lyric that people don’t automatically assume is true. There are character songs I can write for other performers.

Seán: Would you write a show that you are not in?

Tom: Sure, please! I would love that. I want DIRTY LITTLE SHOWTUNES to play in every Gay ghetto in America. I want it to go on the cruise ships. I want to put fabulous performers in every city to work. Sondheim wrote WEST SIDE STORY when he was 27. Fifty years later, think of the millions of performers, ushers, set people and crews – all the people who have been employed from one hit show. Plus, he could live off the royalties from that show and never write anything ever again. So, I’m still waiting for that one West Side Story. Whatever it’s going to take. I used to make fun of the nudie shows. I was very highfalutin about it – “Oh, no, I’m a Theatre Snob. I couldn’t POSSIBLY get naked on stage!” Until I got cast into NAKED BOYS SINGING with Allen directing. I played the “Perky Little Porn Star” from Skokie, Illinois who is the only character who gets to break the fourth wall and talk to the audience. His song is more about Jewish guilt than the joy at being a porn star. Eventually, I invented a 10-minute nude stand-up comedy routine – with jumping jacks and cartwheels and talking to the women in the audience. Then I get to sing the best song in the show, with choreography I had come up with and with Tom Siegel. We’ve worked several times together now. We really played with the jiggle factor in that one. It showed me the power of being the only naked one in the room. There’s 110 people glued to what you’re doing on stage, hanging on every word, and hopefully watching the eye candy as well. Except for the jaded queen sitting in the front row – “I’ve seen bigger.” Yeah? Well, you don’t have to remember your harmony part right now!

naked-boys-singing-2.jpg
NAKED BOYS SINGING & TOM ORR

Then I got a call asking me to be in the Provincetown version of Naked Boys Singing and to also choreograph it. I was promised my Equity card and lots of other things which never happened. The production was very controversial. There were two lesbians on the town council who didn’t like the five guys who owned the Crown and Anchor Inn and tried to have it shut down – because of the nudity, it’s too close to the church, and other blah-blah – all summer long. Free publicity! CNN picked up the story, the New York office totally ran with it and sent out pictures of the New York cast. Never sent out our pictures, and made so much money from our naked carcasses. I enjoyed doing that show. But I gave two years of my life to making other people a lot of money and put Dirty Little Showtunes on hold. I want to be playing at the ACTORS’ PLAYHOUSE and I want productions of DIRTY LITTLE SHOWTUNES to be playing around the world. It’s taken me ten years of learning how to produce a show to finally get the joke. “Oh, OK. Well, I was just kind of young and inexperienced and poor. I’m still waiting for just rich people to recognize – “Hey, the kid’s got talent! Let’s make him rich and we’ll make ourselves richer.”

Seán: So where are you in that process? Are you working on making that happen?

Tom: From your mouth to God’s ears.

tom-orr-and-sean-martinfield.JPG
TOM ORR and SEÁN MARTINFIELD

If you are steeped – if you are a true card-carrying Show Queen, this is the show for you.

To order tickets on-line to I FEEL A THONG COMING ON:
THURSDAY, September 4th, at 8:00 pm
FRIDAY, September 5th, at 8:00 pm
SATURDAY, September 6th, at 8:00 pm
SUNDAY, September 7th, 2:00 pm

Get the original sheet music and check out these new lyrics by Tom Orr (used by permission):

THE LADY IS A MAN (“THE LADY IS A TRAMP”)

She claims that fishnets just make her rejoice?
Blames cigarettes for her deep husky voice?
She puts the seat down when she gets the choice?
Yes, boys … The lady is a man!

Her looks are ideal … But look at those hands!
She walks in high heels … But watch how she stands!
Is that her camel toe … Or is it his glans?
Good chance … The lady is a man!

She fills each room with flowers in bloom
And too much perfume …
It’s cool!
She’s old school!
She hunts fresh chicken for her coq au vin?
Yes, folks … The lady is a man!

She thinks it’s tacky to not cause a scene!
She wears Bob Mackie in every routine!
Why be a princess, when she can be queen?
Come clean … The lady is a man!

“THE LADY IS A TRAMP” – By Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. From “Babes In Arms”; arranged for piano and voice with guitar chords. 4 pages.

THE MODERN HOMOSEXUAL ( “MODERN MAJOR GENERAL” )

Tom:
I am the very model of a modern homosexual:
I’m stylish, good at cooking, a good-looking intellectual!
At passing legislation, though, I’m largely ineffectual …
I’m sometimes into S&M, as long as it’s consensual!

I’m clever with the crudités, especially asparagus …
And I ignore republicans whenever they disparage us!
I think about adoption when I shop for baby carriages …
I live in San Francisco and I’m dreaming of gay marriages!

Chorus:
He lives in San Francisco and he’s dreaming of Gay Marriages! etc.

Tom:
I decorate with tasteful sprays of flowers and dried ears of corn
And I would not be caught dead in an outfit I’ve already worn …
For esoteric sex acts that are highly unconventional,
I am the very model of a modern homosexual!

Chorus:
For esoteric sex acts that are highly unconventional,
He is the very model of a modern homosexual!

“MODERN MAJOR GENERAL” – from THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE (or The Slave Of Duty). Music by Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan, lyrics by W.S. Gilbert. Vocal score. 213 pages.

Visit Seán on YouTube
Lorena Feijóo – A Look at “Giselle” with Seán Martinfield
SAMSON & DELILAH – Meet Seán Martinfield

For related articles and interviews:
OPENING NIGHT, September 5th – San Francisco Opera’s 86th Season
STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS – More Lucas-Cloned Crap
CALIFORNIA ACADEMY OF SCIENCES – Opens Wednesday, September 27th
AT THE LEGION OF HONOR – The State Museums Of Berlin And The Legacy Of James Simon
OPENING NIGHT, September 5th – San Francisco Opera’s 86th Season
NEW CONSERVATORY THEATRE CENTRE – The Season Begins
THE MIKADO – Opens 56th Season of The Lamplighters Music Theatre
FESTIVAL OPERA’S A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM – Opens Saturday, August 9th
BERNADETTE PETERS – A Triumph In San Francisco
THE DROWSY CHAPERONE – Now at San Francisco’s Orpheum Theatre
THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE – Now through July 27th at Broadway By The Bay
JENNIFER SIEBEL – A Conversation with Seán Martinfield
COPPOLA’S “THE CONVERSATION” – AT THE LEGION OF HONOR, July 17th
SAN FRANCISCO SILENT FILM FESTIVAL – At The Castro Theatre
A CHORUS LINE – Returns to San Francisco’s Curran Theatre
VIVA TO THE DIVAS! – SF Opera Summer Season Concludes This Weekend
TALENT COMPETITON – On-Line Reality for A CHORUS LINE
ARIODANTE – Cross-Dressing Goes Baroque – at SAN FRANCISCO OPERA
WOMEN IMPRESSIONISTS – At San Francisco’s Legion of Honor
TIMOTHY HORN – BITTER SUITE – A Sweet Tribute To Alma Spreckels
‘TIS PITY SHE’S A WHORE – At A.C.T through July 6th
60TH ANNIVERSARY CONCERT – San Francisco Boys Chorus celebrates at the War Memorial Opera House
LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR – Bats it for FREE at AT&T Ballpark
CONTEMPORARY JEWISH MUSEUM – A Grand Opening!
THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN – Just say “NO!”
ERIK BATZ – A Conversation With “The Scarecrow” At The Mountain Play
SAN FRANCISCO BALLET’S 2009 SEASON – Includes World Premiere of All-New Swan Lake by Helgi Tomasson
A CONVERSATION WITH MAESTRO HELMUTH RILLING
CHERYL BURKE DANCE – Dancing with Gavin and Jennifer
DALE CHIHULY – Lighting-Up At The de Young
ERIK BATZ – A Conversation With “The Scarecrow” At The Mountain Play
SAN FRANCISCO BALLET’S 2009 SEASON – Includes World Premiere of All-New Swan Lake by Helgi Tomasson
SWEENEY TODD – PRIME CUTS FROM DIRECTOR TIM BURTON
ANITA COCKTAIL and LEANNE BORGHESI – A 3-Way Dialogue
NORMA SHEARER in “MARIE ANTOINETTE” – At the Legion of Honor

See Related: FINE ARTS CRITIC SEAN MARTINFIELD

sean-martinfield-250-pixels-new-sentinel-mug.jpg
Seán Martinfield is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.

jason-steinberg-imagery-2.gif

sophisticate-interios-3.gif

facebook-badge-3.jpg

SENTINEL ADVERTISING RATES
EMAIL

SANFRANCISCOSENTINEL@YAHOO.COM

Comments are closed.