Playwright and producer Ronnie Larsen is best known for his racy, gay-themed sex romps: “Making Porn,” “Cocksucker: A Love Story,” “All-Male Peep Show,” “Bathhouse the Musical.” Nearly all feature gratuitous frontal nudity and most regularly sell out extended runs to the mostly older, male gay audiences resident in South Florida.
But over the past couple of years, Larsen has mellowed — surprising both his fans and critics with more thoughtful productions. He collaborated with composer Dennis Manning nearly four years ago on the touching country musical, “Now & Then,” that earned a Carbonell nomination and went on to successful productions in Chicago and London.
He then picked up a Carbonell award for the funny one-woman show, “Grindr Mom,” about a Mormon mother who sets up an account on the hook-up app to better understand her gay son, and a nomination for “An Intimate Evening with John Wayne Gacy, Jr.,” a dark dive into the psyche of the serial killer on the eve of his execution.
And just before the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered theaters around the globe, Larsen debuted his newest musical, “Come Out! Come Out!,” and it was nothing like any of his previous works. Set during the Roaring ‘20s, it’s the story of closeted married men who explore their homosexual desires through dance. Yes, dance!
“I substituted nudity for tap dancing,” Larsen said at the time, “and it’s going to be the best thing I’ve ever done.”
According to Larsen, the tap-dancing served as a sort of metaphor for the physical encounters the men fantasize about while cruising Central Park. He scoured vaudeville scores of the period to find the right songs (loaded with double entendre) and then built the story around the music.
“Ma, He’s Making Eyes at Me” is no longer a popular hit, but the Con Conrad song captures the sentiments of Larsen’s characters, as does Eddie Cantor’s “Makin’ Whoopee.”
Two years later, Larsen pulled the show back out, reworked some of the scenes and expanded the cast to six performers. Oh, and he plans to take it to New York City for an Off-Broadway run this summer. Currently in previews, the “revival” officially opens on Thursday, Feb. 24 and runs through March 13 at the Foundry in Wilton Manors.
This wouldn’t be Larsen’s first hit in New York City, it would be his sixth and he knows what he’s doing.
MAC and Bistro Award-winning pianist and musical director Bobby Peaco is back with the production and Larsen hired veteran New York-based choreographer Oren Korenblum to rework the dance numbers. With the backing of his nonprofit, POW! (Plays of Wilton), and enthusiastic donors, Larsen invested in more sophisticated costumes and set pieces — all with his eye on the discerning New York audiences.
He recruited New York-based performers, including Kiwi crooner Tyrell Beck, tap dance assassin Vincent Law, and cubbish character actor Don Giovanni, a veteran of the first production, all of whom committed to an extended run.
Larsen remains confident, saying, “The show is sort of revolutionary, even though it’s a musical comedy set in the ‘20s. It feels very new, even if (the cast) is wearing top hats.”
Ronnie Larsen presents “Come Out! Come Out!” through March 13 at the Foundry, 2306 N. Dixie Hwy. in Wilton Manors. Tickets are $35-50 at RonnieLarsen.com.
Arts Bookshelf: Choreographers Let Their Feet Do the Talking