The website for Kevin J. Thornton touts him as a comedian, singer, storyteller and, well, something not so flattering. His new show Strange Dreamz, presented at WaterTower Theatre's Out of the Loop Festival, is definitely a mix of those first three performance styles. As for the fourth thing, yeah, it's easy to see how he wears that title like a badge of honor.
People gotta be who they gotta be, especially when it plays into the character created by a solo performer.
That's the best way to categorize his work, solo performance, although he prefers the throwback description of variety entertainer. Except this variety show, heavily infused with stand-up, has very blue and 21st century material in the mix. And he doesn't juggle. Not that we know of.
His material in Stange Dreamz, which is also the name of his podcast, includes threads about sex toys, sexting, falling in love with a boy named Cory at the church lock-in in Indiana, and his wish for straight guys to stop "acting gay." It's definitely for mature and gay-friendly audiences. But in his t-shirt printed with a collar and tie, rolled up short sleeves revealing multiple tattoos, and thin lamé suspenders, there's a compelling mix of the wholesome and the dangerous, like a love child of a disciple from Godspell and a rockabilly singer.
That's especially evident when he's wielding his grandpa's guitar (that story is one of the few sweet moments in the show), and performs lovely, soulful versions of songs such as Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark," Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream," TLC's "No Scrubs" and Lady Gaga's "Edge of Glory," each of them fitting into a narrative thread.
When the jokes miss, or rather don't get the guffaws he might land in, say, a gay club, he calls attention to it; but not in an annoying way. "If it wasn't funny, then it was art and you just didn't get it," he says.
This show would probably be better served in one of WaterTower's smaller spaces, rather than the big main stage (see his video below about the space, recently posted on his blog), but that's the way it goes with performing arts festivals. You don't always know what you'll get.
With Thornton, you get honesty, charm, talent, goofiness, charisma and entertainment. Whether we're laughing with him, at him or because of him, the laughter is what's important.
◊ To see a complete schedule of shows and venues, go here.
◊ WaterTower is streaming several shows and events at Out of the Loop. To watch them on our site, click the US Stream icon at the top of this page. It will open a separate tab. The streaming schedule is also included there.