On May 20, Goodman Theatre held a "Sequins and Soul" extravaganza at the Fairmont Chicago. This year, the annual gala invited the talented Broadway performer Billy Porter ( who has a new CD, Billy Porter Presents the Soul of Richad Rodgers ) to entertain attendees.
He kicked things off with Barbra Streisand's "Don't Rain on My Parade." Porter kept the tone light while emphasizing how he stands for women's rights. In addition, he sang a selection from the recent musical Shuffle Along and a few from Kinky Boots, such as the touching "Not My Father's Son."
Porter encouraged donors to sing along on the microphone to the Marvin Gaye classic "What's Going On." He offered earplugs to anyone that might think he was singing too loud. His powerful voice, backed by musical director James Sampliner, filled the room.
One guest from a nearby table assisted Porter to zip up his Kinky Boots. He took those boots to the middle of the dance floor to finish his perfectly timed set.
Afterward, he spoke backstage to Windy City Times about his Tony experience: "It is the original dream. I never abandoned it, but the dream did expand. I had moved away from the validation of it, then it happened."
Speaking about the new CD, he said, "The first time I tried to do it was in the '90s with a R&B deal on A&M Records, who was aggressively homophobic. It was toxic and destructive. The world has changed, even though there are people that want to take us back. It is time for me to reenter the market as a recording artist, not as a Broadway person that makes records. I am working on a tour. I am on Sony now so I have really good promotion. It has legs!"
He flew in to perform at the gala after accepting the Carnegie Mellon Alumni Achievement Award in Pittsburgh the previous night.
Meanwhile, heartthrob and Emmy-nominated actor John Stamos hosted the Wish Ball across town at Navy Pier. With a career that spans 30 years, Stamos had lots to talk about to Windy City Times. He has appeared in several of Ryan Murphy's projects such as Glee, The New Normal and, most recently, Scream Queens. When asked if he thinks Murphy has a crush on him, Stamos replied, "Maybe in the old days. He wrote Nip/Tuck for me. I ended up doing that. I love him, because he take my brand and turns it upside down."
On how gay people like Murphy have affected his life, the actor said, "I had a gay publicist and grew up in Orange County [in California]. He explained it to me that the same way I feel for a girl he felt for a guy. That made sense to me!"
He stated that Cabaret is his favorite musical after appearing in several such as Hairspray.
When asked how he stays young -ooking he joked, "I drink the blood of Lori Laughlin and eat yogurt."
He is currently producing Laughlin and the rest of the cast in the Full Hose sequel Fuller House, now in its third season. He begins a tour with the Beach Boys in Europe this week as far as future plans. He reminisced about the Make-A-Wish kids coming to the Fuller House set in the past.
Since 1985, the organization has granted more than 13,000 wishes for children. For more information, visit Illinois.wish.org
Photos and text by Jerry Nunn