My first visit to Cutting Edge Theater proved to be an even greater experience than one might expect from a beauty shop in Slidell that morphs into a performance venue on weekend nights.
And I’m not being sarcastic.
First, I have to mention the place itself. By putting literally every fixture in Attractions Salon on casters, pulling in portable risers, and setting up a bar complete with frozen peach bellini daiquiris and tended by his cute shampoo boy, owner Brian Fontenot has managed to completely transform his space into a fully functional and seriously festive community theater. Ingenuity and glitter are always such a magical combination.
As great and clever as the space is, however, it’s what happens inside that really matters. Brian’s goal is to bring the experience of live theater to his community, and that means producing scripts by local writers, involving lots of people of all ages in the cast and crew and giving them an audience and a venue. Whew!
The plays he puts on can be categorized as either Adult Only (such as the recently closed “Sordid Lives — Dark Tales About White Trash”) or Family Friendly. The original production I caught was “Troop Glamour Girls,” loosely based on the 1980s Shelly Long comedy, “Troop Beverly Hills,” but relocated to New York. The musical fell into the latter category (although maybe more PG-13, due to some peppery language in the second half), with a cast that included, but was not limited to, an 8 year-old rapper; a cross-dressing “Lady” Liberty” and a number of young starlets who are clearly destined for pageants, the Mickey Mouse Club, and eventual tween stardom. There were a myriad, and I mean a myriad, song and dance numbers – ranging from pop re-do’s such as “Pricetag” by Jessie J and “We’re Not Gonna Take It” by Dee Snider to the troop leader’s ambitious solo of “I Will Always Love You,” which she happily and amazingly pulled off. It was fun, goofy, and charming, and the commitment of the cast to some serious rehearsing was obvious.
But the greatest part of the evening was being part of an audience that included black, white, gay, straight, old, young, families, couples, and singles — virtually every social divide being bridged by an entrepreneur in a strip-mall in Slidell, Louisiana — who knew? Talk about bringing people together through the arts.
In the opinion of this New Orleans transplant, who misses more cultural diversity over here on the north shore, Brian Fontenot is nothing short of a miracle man. I will definitely be spreading the word.
Next up at The Cutting Edge: An all-kid cast in Disney’s Cinderella, playing June 7-15. Click here for ticket information.
Simone Burke writes about the north shore community for NolaVie.