Leslie Jordan in My Trip Down the Pink Carpet. Photo by Gustavo Monroy.
BOTTOM LINE: A high-spirited, self-loving, very funny, optimistic one-man show that's as gay as the day is long.
Leslie Jordan refers to himself as the "gayest man I know." And he ain't lyin'. His new one-man show, My Trip Down the Pink Carpet, chronicles his journey from Chattanooga in the mid-20th century as a confused Southern Baptist boy, to Hollywood to pursue his movie star dreams and live openly as a homosexual. Jordan's experience is sincere and sweet - his ultimate message is about staying true to yourself; the audience understands from the joy that radiates from the stage that following your dreams can lead to a pretty incredible life. Jordan's bona fide bliss makes you feel like he's the luckiest man on Earth.
If you're unfamiliar with Jordan, perhaps you've seen his work. He is best known as Beverly Leslie, the nemesis of Karen Walker (Megan Mullally) on Will & Grace. Jordan won a guest-appearance Emmy for this role, bringing to life a short, bitchy Southern man in a Colonel Sanders white suit. Several other bit parts on television and in movies have given Jordan a pretty successful career as an actor. He's not a household name, but he has come farther than most aspiring actors, to be sure - and that's a feat given his stature (maybe four and half feet?) and his inability to be anything but flamboyant. Yeah, he's a type.
My Trip is about more than Jordan's rise to fame, although he takes every opportunity to regale the audience with bits of gossip about his celebrity encounters (i.e., describing Boy George as "high as a Georgia pine.") By the end of the show, you get the sense that Jordan just passionately wants to make sure that the gay kids of tomorrow don't have to face the oppression he experienced at a time when everyone was in the closet and gay was anything but normal. He’s on a mission to help future generations by telling his own story, and that’s downright noble.
At the same time however, this show is meant to entertain, and Jordan is a classic ham. In true autobiographical one-man show fashion, he talks directly to the audience as if sharing his deepest secrets for the first time. The Midtown Theater is set up with cabaret tables and cocktail service, so there is a laid-back, inclusive sense to the evening, like Jordan is right there to hang out. Production-wise, My Trip delivers in its intimate space.
There are several delightful quirks interspersed in the show, like the inclusion of great gay songs throughout history that play intermittently and provide Jordan much needed dance breaks. (Stay afterward for karaoke. Seriously). Watching Jordan rock out to “It’s Raining Men” and “We are Family” is about as endearing as you can get – he might not be the best dancer out there, but he sure is having a good time. And what's not to love about a walk down gay-anthem memory lane?
Jordan is a funny guy. When he says things like “I’m sweating like a pedophile in a Barney costume,” you can certainly understand his success as a comedian and an actor. This show is a tribute to his struggle and a celebration of his success – and it makes for an entertaining evening. There is only so much you can do with a show of this nature and director David Galligan takes this tale as far as it can go creatively. The stage is set to look like a red carpet (it's pink, shocking), with velvet ropes and a revolving door that leads off-stage. With a couple of black cubes, Jordan creates moments and places from his past with a pretty seamless method. Galligan really succeeds by letting the audience in on Jordan’s journey, yet he always keeps the bottom line close to home. That intimacy lets the audience experience the story more fully.
This show is certainly gay friendly and recommended for the homosexual crowd. It’s also great for anyone looking for an unconventional theatrical experience. My Trip Down the Pink Carpet crosses the line repeatedly between stand-up comedy and one-man show, and it’s theatrically fulfilling the entire time. It’s hard not to like Leslie Jordan – his good-natured humor and joie de vivre are incredibly refreshing – and his tale is both uplifting and valuable. Not a bad way to spend an hour or two.
(My Trip Down the Pink Carpet plays at the Midtown Theater, 163 West 46th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues, through July 3, 2010. Performances are Wednesdays through Saturdays at 9pm and Sundays at 6pm. Tickets are $55-$80. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit mytripdownthepinkcarpet.com.)