What does it mean to be gay in today’s world? Is there a “right” way to do it? Must some landmark status or achievement be reached to earn this title? These are all questions posited in a humorous and heartfelt way by North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre’s world premiere of Gay Card, written by Jonathan Keebler with music by Ryan Korell and under the joyful direction of Timothy E. Locklear.
Gay Card proves promising from the start, thanks to an exhilarating backdrop that resembles many a college dorm room wall. Everything from a Riverdale poster to a cartoon image of Disney princesses to posters from popular musicals fill the wall, instantly evoking a lively feel..perfect for the lively characters who will soon grace the stage.
Most lively of all is young Logan, portrayed sweetly by Collin Dunn. Logan is a young man about to enter the college world, ready to come out as gay to everyone he meets and embrace the sexuality that, in his mind, defines his identity.
What Logan quickly comes to realize, however, is that “gay” and “self” are not interchangeable terms, nor does his embracing of his sexuality suddenly and magically make him an entire person. His journey is one that all viewers can identify with. Whether it’s realizing that “Christian” or “Muslim” or “White” or “Black” does not comprise an identity, Logan’s longing for self and soul and definition is one that viewers from all walks of life can find resonation with, making this show powerful and timely from the outset.
Also nice here is the way in which Keebler’s script not only creates identifiable characters, but also tackles stereotypes that exist even within an already-oppressed community. It is a forward-thinking show that handles heavy social issues, ones oft-not explored, with a lighthearted hand that keep it from ever feeling preachy.
And, fortunately for Logan, he is not alone on his journey of self-discovery and his progression through the mire of “meanings of being gay.” He’s backed by his long-time best friend, Melanie (Miranda Millang) as she moves into his carefully-chosen “Diversity House” with him. There’s also feisty RA Danielle (Chelsey Winstead), jocky Justin (Aydan Hansen), and brooding but sure of himself Graham (Shane de Leon), as well as countless others.
As these characters move through their first few days and then months of college, the projector backdrops create a wide variety of believable settings, allowing the small space of the NRACT stage to widen and come alive. Even without this nice effect, however, there’s no doubt that this production would be full of life. In fact, “lively” is the perfect way to describe this thrilling production.
Everything from the crazed choreography (courtesy of Kyle Jordan), especially on numbers like “Follow Me,” “Fake ID,” and “Perfect Day,” bursts with enthusiasm and real, palpable energy. Feeling every bit as bright, shiny, and new as it is, this production never loses its feel-good vibes, even in more tender moments like de Leon’s pitch-perfect delivery of “Afraid.”
De Leon, in fact, is one of the show’s standout performers, though the vivacious ensemble cast never lets up with its energy and panache, all made even more fantastic by Sheila Cox’s fabulous and often-shiny wardrobe choices. Also nice here is Millang’s understated Melanie. Practical, fastidious, and controlled, Millang makes for a relatable best-friend character who has her own self-discovery to master.
Perfect for pride month and full of fun, Gay Card is a thoroughly excellent new musical. At first glance, some of its themes may seem juvenile, which is just-right for its target audience and cast. However, a closer look proves that this show is for everyone, regardless of sexuality, who has ever had to find themselves. And, for those who have yet to do so or who are still working on it, the message is ultimately one of hope and a continuing promise of self-discovery…which is what being human is all about.
Kudos to NRACT for debuting such a new, exciting, and ultimately fabulous show.
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