The rituals of online dating may be rightly compared to a “song and dance,” but “GRINDR the Opera,” opening on Oct. 26 at Empire Stage, puts real songs and dances behind the popular gay hook-up app.
The musical parody, written and composed by Erik Ransom, is being mounted in South Florida by Tim Evanicki, the producing director of the Footlight Theatre at Orlando’s Parliament House. More recently he directed and produced “Bathhouse: The Musical” and a revival of “Naked Boys Singing” at Empire Stage.
“I produce LGBT theater in Orlando and a friend put me in touch with the composer in New York,” explained Evanicki. “I had seen some videos of a read-through and knew, as a producer, the show would be a great sell.”
In Ransom’s world premiere opera, “Grindr” is a mythical siren of antiquity, accidentally awakened from her millennial slumber by “technology.” Her powers, derived from raw human lust, allow her to manipulate her gay devotees with the dulcet tones of her soprano voice.
Four gay men—Devon the romantic, Tom the cynic, Jack the twink and Don the daddy, all representing different “tribes”—meet via the Grindr app, but discover each is seeking a different sort of connection. Their muse leads them into hilarious and calamitous situations, climaxing in a musical orgy.
“It’s an opera in that it’s a completely sung-through show, but there are certainly many styles of music, with a lot of nods to familiar tunes,” explained Evanicki. “There is a little bit of Baroque recitative, but a lot of the music is what I would consider traditional musical theater.”
South Florida audiences will recognize Tim Garnham, the young Australian actor who starred in both of Evanicki’s previous productions at Empire Stage. Starring in the role of Grindr is Alexei Barrios, an Orlando actor who has created a popular drag persona in the community. They are joined by three other central Florida actors in the cast.
While the opera is an “unauthorized” parody, Evanicki emphasized that the story illuminates several real-life issues in the gay community.
“If you’ve ever used Grindr, then the references will definitely be very funny, but even if you’ve never used it, it will still be funny,” he said. “There are also serious moments. One of the characters contracts HIV…and there are the issues of finding the love of your life and dealing with infidelity.”
And, for those who have never resorted to Grindr and other apps, but are open to using them, there may just be some tips in the show, he hinted.
The world premiere production of Erik Ransom’s “GRINDR the Opera,” opens Oct. 26 and runs through Nov. 19 at Empire Stage, 1140 N. Flagler Drive in Fort Lauderdale. Tickets are $35 at TEP.Ticketleap.com.