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Frankie Grande: 'I'm Available!'

Frankie Grande: 'I'm Available!'


Plus: NeNe Leakes channels her inner drag queen for Broadway

Photo: Frankie Grande Nov. 23 at the AMAs | Getty

I recently profiled Frankie Grande for the New York Times' Style section, as the 31-year-old Big Brother/YouTube star and close friend of sis Ariana Grande entered Broadway's hard rock jukebox musical Rock of Ages. While he ably rehearsed the adorbs role of the German developer's son, Franz, I got to chat with Frankie and learn that he's far from the pesky creature he seemed on reality TV. Actually, he's driven, talented, tons of fun, and a big hugger. He's also single!

Here's some of the other stuff he's told me:

About his career: "My goal is to always come back to Broadway, but to continue exploring the TV medium. TV is extremely fun right now and high energy. I like generating a lot of content. I like to be working and happy on Broadway, the place that I love, while TV takes its time. L.A. is so slow!"

About his personality: "I'm not shy. Big Brother has a lot of footage of me in not shy positions. I'm not afraid of anything. I've gone to Malawi to build a school, went to South Africa, traveled the globe, and loved meting people."

About his love life: "I'm a single lady. I've been traveling and trying to figure out what to do with this career of mine, and it's finally starting to look like something's happening, so I'm available!"

About his late grandfather, Frank: "He was the first one to support me when I came out. He said, 'He's my grandson. I'm gonna love him no matter what. He's perfect.' My mother lost a lot of her friends to the AIDS crisis. Her only real understanding of homosexuality was through AIDS. She thought I was choosing a life of chaos and disorder. But there is no choice and we're living in a modern time. I said, 'I'm gonna live in major cities and work in the arts, so it's not going to be an issue ever.' My mother was coming around. And when my grandfather said something, everyone stopped [questioning Frankie's sexuality]."

About the treatment of his grandfather's death on Big Brother: "Julie Chen said, 'We'll be right back' and put her head down and the camera panned out in silence. That gave me chills. I cried for 20 minutes. It's the kind of thing that happens at the end of The Sopranos."


Frankie Grande in 'Rock of Ages' on Broadway

About his on-air bromance with Zach Rance: "It never got sexual. We always talked about it, but it never ended up going there. We're both very proud of our relationship. I could never tell whether he was being 100% genuine with me. You can't be in that house. But outside of the house, I now know."

On his producing career. (He and friend Philip Morgaman collaborated on three Broadway shows): "Jude Law's Hamlet got a 160% return. I thought, 'I'll try another one.' Well, La Bete with Mark Rylance lost 30% and Born Yesterday [with Nina Arianda and Jim Belushi] lost everything."

So it was back to performing (and tweeting), and doing it really Grande! Rock of Ages runs till January 18, so if you're in NYC, pull up a stool.


Nene-leakes-madame-is-bootylicious-cinderella-on-broadwayATTENTION, GAYS! NENE LEAKES IS ON BROADWAY TOO

"I'm gonna be with the gays this weekend," NeNe Leakes told me the other day in the year's most unsurprising statement, lol. A gay-household name thanks to Real Housewives of Atlanta and Glee, NeNe was hosting a meet-and-greet to promote her Broadway debut in Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella as Madame, the attitudey stepmother, starting November 25.

"I love my gays," she went on, looking ultra-stylish in her marcelled blonde hair and fancy outfit. "I was asked to come to Stage 48 [for the weekly gay party Viva] this Saturday night, so that's where I'll be. I'd love to see a drag show too." I told her about one in a Hell's Kitchen bar the very next night and she unhesitatingly exclaimed, "We will be there!"

So why does NeNe Leakes love the gays so much? "I always say they invented everything, like how to do makeup," she answered, as I cagily tried to cover my splotchy face. "They taught you how to put a wig on. They live outside the box and they're over the top." I told NeNe that she's been favorably compared to drag queens, and she laughed, "I'm a drag queen on the inside as well, and I'm OK with that."

As for her all-female role in R&H's Cinderella, NeNe assured me, "I will not make her urban." "But how did the character manage to have white daughters?" I asked, semi-joking. "How did she have white daughters?" NeNe responded, smiling. "Well, I've been known to date a couple of white men, so it's not impossible. And she has a black daughter too. It's multicultural!"

Speaking of shade, NeNe is sure her RHOA costars will throw some at her performance ("They'll say, 'It was cast perfectly' "), but that will hardly stop her forward march to even more career experimentation. Would she ever do Dreamgirls? "I think I'd be a fabulous Dreamgirl," she replied. Get out the wigs, gays!


Ryan Silverman, Emily Padgett, Erin Davie and Matthew Hydzik in a scene from 'Side Show' | Photo by Joan Marcus


You think the Elephant Man had problems? His woes paled next to those of Violet and Daisy Hilton, conjoined twins who in the Depression were exploited as a side show attraction on the road to other ordeals and heartbreaks. The Hiltons were the subject of the 1997 musicalSide Show, which has been extensively revised into a more successful treatment of their lives and loves. (Some spoilers ahead.) As presented in the Bill Russell/Henry Krieger musical, with new material by directorBillCondon, one twin (Violet, played by Erin Davie) wants to be normal, while the other (Daisy, portrayed by Emily Padgett ) longs to be rich and acclaimed. They occasionally get in each other's way and crave alone time (I'm serious), but for the most part they're willing to bury their differences and appreciate the depth of their unbreakable bond. Two promoters come along to lure the Hiltons from the bad treatment at the side show and boost them into stardom, while unexpectedly falling for the women.

At this point in the musical, it looked like the twins were swatting off hot men left and right, and I'm ashamed to admit I thought, "They can get tons of boyfriends and I can't?" But it turns out the guy who loves Violet is gay and can't go through with it, whereas the man who adores Daisy wants her to be surgically separated so he won't have to be involved in such a "freaky" situation. Trouble ahead!

The production is beautifully designed and fluildly staged, with occasional moments echoing Krieger's Dreamgirls (the show NeNe Leakes wants to do)and the Condon-written screenplay of Chicago, as they span the ups and downs of both humanity and show biz. Act 2 has two overripe numbers for male characters that unfortunately result in showboating finishes. But there are more "wow" moments than in most musicals, particularly with "The Devil You Know" (sung by the other side show stars), "One Plus One Equals Three" (a Cabaret-ish boudoir romp featuring the twins, Violet's pursuer, and his beau), and especially the twins' duets "I Will Never Leave You" and "Who Will Love Me As I Am?", the latter proving to be one of the most thrilling moments of the season so far, as delivered by the amazing Davie and Padgett. The show might remain as much of a fascinating curio as the Hiltons themselves, but it's easy to get stuck on it. In fact, it cries out for repeat viewings.

By the way, I ran into Bill Condon at Angus McIndoe after the performance I saw and asked him if that character, Buddy, was gay in the original production. "No," he said, "but you kept waiting for the scene where he was!" This time, we know exactly why he can't consummate with Violet. Plus it enforces one of the show's themes, which is that some people (like Buddy) can hide their differences, while others simply can't.

Another offbeat revival is the CSC production of Rodgers & Hammerstein's 1947 musical Allegro--their third collaboration, coming after Oklahoma! and Carousel--which chronicles a small-town man's life from birth, as he's drawn to the medical profession his father practices and eventually reaffirms his mission to save small-town lives. As directed by John Doyle (who did bracingly good versions of Company and Sweeney Todd), this is a way-scaled down production with a bare wooden floor (except for a battered piano and two benches), minimal choreography, and the ensemble playing instruments. It's a low budget in search of a higher purpose. The cast is onstage the whole time, some playing multiple roles and all of them acting as a Greek chorus overseeing the doctor (played by Claybourne Elder) who experiences aspirations, dedication, love, and loss. There's some good music, if no real breakout songs (except possibly for "The Gentleman is a Dope"), which is one reason it's become obscure in the R&H canon, especially compared to NeNe Leakes' current vehicle. It leads to a pseudo heartwarming conclusion, but the whole thing was daring for its time, and under Doyle's hands, it's even more austere and remote. The result is certainly worth experiencing, though it feels more like something that's good for you than something truly delicious.

Glenn-close-lithgow-delicatebalanceSO GLENN CLOSE AND YET SO FAR

But John Doyle may be onto something because apparently a tap-dancing ensemble and full orchestra aren't needed this season. While it's usually musicals that dominate the Broadway box office charts, we already have a bunch of straight plays doing boffo business, most of them exuding the glow of star power. There's The Elephant Man with BradleyCooper, It's Only a Play with NathanLane, The River with Hugh Jackman, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time with special effects. And just opened is a starry revival of Edward Albee 's 1966 Pulitzer-winning work A DelicateBalance, with Glenn Close and John Lithgow as well-off suburbanites who play host to Close's boozy, caustic sister, their angry daughter, and weird neighbors oozing dread, all conversing over the deafening sound of clinking ice cubes. The couple is forever wounded by the death of their son (sound vaguely reminiscent of another Albee play?), but they have to face all new challenges when their four-times-married, "quadruple amputee" daughter (Martha Plimpton) comes back home and the anxiety-laden neighbors (Bob Balaban and ClareHiggins) drop by, then go to get their things! When they come back, it's clear that fear has moved in, bags and all. The play is witty and darkly hypnotic, filled with Albee's gift for unexpected language and alternately sadistic and loving relationships. Close does a fine job of presenting Agnes as a snippy woman who may be skirting insanity, albeit with a polished veneer, while Lithgow is excellent as the long-simmering patriarch who's finally reaching a boil of desperation. It's not their fault that something else has also moved into their house: the memory of the 1996 revival, which was better.

Just one star--Joy Behar--creates a colorful panoply of characters in her autobiographical one-woman show, Me, My Mouth & I, at the Cherry Lane Theater. The acerbic yet lovable comic is utterly hilarious as she takes us from her childhood to her struggling years to The View and beyond that. And she sprinkles LGBT references throughout the show. For example, when she was a receptionist at Good Morning America, she and the other women would gather 'round her desk every afternoon for a gossip break. "We called it Lesbian Hour," remarks Joy. When she started doing comedy clubs, she became a luminary on Christopher Street and cracks, "I wanted to make T-shirts that said, 'If you recognize me, you're gay'." Joy started getting uptown bookings, but felt, "Above 14th Street, it was scary. There are heterosexuals up there!" And her favorite guest on The View was French screen legend Catherine Deneuve,whom she stalked so avidly that Deneuve asked a producer, "Is she a lesbian?" "I am now," replied Joy, laughing. My own T-shirt may end up saying, "If You Dis Me, You're A Gay Icon."

See, I recently reported John Cameron Mitchell's response to me about whether he'd ever step into Broadway's Hedwig revival. (There were rumors that he was already preparing for the part.)He gave me a whole song and dance about how he was busy doing a movie, the staging would have to be way scaled back, and he hadn't been in a show in years. "Aw, come on, it's like bike riding," I said. "With the seat off!" he replied. Well, guess what? He is indeed going into the show in January. Perhaps his reply wasn't a complete denial, but it certainly seems shady in retrospect. JCM could have evaded my question in a more honest way by saying something like: "Hey, who knows? Anything could happen," but he didn't, and I can't say I'm surprised. Years ago, he promised me exclusive info about his movie Shortbus. Well, the next week, I opened a copy of the paper I worked for and saw that he had given it to another columnist!! Sounds like he owes me two huge favors--like a couple of tickets to see Side Show again.

And let's hear some catcalls for the drag queen who recently told me that her stage comeback, which I'd heard about, was a pure "pipe dream" at that point, meaning there was nothing reportable there. Well, an extremely short time later, I got a press release about her new shows! I recently was made to present an award to the stubbly gal, and rather than cause trouble, I said, "Fine," figuring I'd bury the hatchet and be nice for a change. Well, after I gave a gushy presentation, she made a quick speech, grabbed the award, and split without thanking me! Whatever happened to class, bitches?

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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