Salvatore Antonio does it like Madonna in Truth/Dare: A Satire (With Dance).
TRUTH/DARE: A SATIRE (WITH DANCE) created by Salvatore Antonio and Adamo Ruggiero, with Antonio, Ruggiero, Gavin Crawford, Sharron Matthews, Damien Atkins, Keith Cole, Terrence Bryant, Sebastien Heins, Paul Charbonneau and Roney Lewis (Buddies in Bad Times, 12 Alexander). June 26-27 at 8 pm. $20, advance $15. 416-975-8555, buddiesinbadtimes.com. See listing.
Madonna's groundbreaking 1991 documentary, Truth Or Dare, blended scenes from her Blond Ambition tour and episodes from the singer's personal life. Shocking and exhilarating in equal parts, the film is still a memorable look at stardom.
Salvatore Antonio and Adamo Ruggiero were among those swept up by its on- and offstage passions, so much so that they've devised a stage version of the piece that replays its key moments and pulls the audience into the action in a fashion similar to a Rocky Horror Picture Show fan performance.
The result is Truth/Dare: A Satire (With Dance), part of Buddies' Pride celebrations.
The tall, bearded Antonio in a blond wig plays Madonna, and Ruggiero takes on her two brothers, one straight, one gay. Despite the send-up, the performers haven't lost their admiration for the Material Girl.
"I saw the documentary at a suburban mall with my sister and had my mind blown," recalls playwright/actor/teacher Antonio. "Growing up in the 80s, I knew who Madonna was, but all my knowledge was processed and filtered through MTV videos. In the film, I saw a candid Madonna: she swore, she showed her insecurities, she was a bit of an asshole.
"Though the film wasn't made so long ago, it was before the live stream of public/private access we now have to celebrities. In Truth Or Dare, I could see the human woman behind the icon. She was flawed, but I could identify with her."
Two decades later, Antonio was at a dinner party where everyone quoted their favourite lines from the film. That led to talk about a doing "a simple popumentary" that would use all the quotes, but when Videofag's Jordan Tannahill and William Christopher Ellis offered him their venue to create a new show, he went for comedy instead of documentary.
For that 2012 workshop that led to the Buddies show, Antonio roped in Ruggiero to help.
"I was a teen a decade later, in the 90s," smiles Ruggiero. "Sadly, pop culture was over-processed and a throwback to the conservative 50s. The Madonna film gave me a whole new view of pop culture, the opposite of refined."
Truth Or Dare, with its combination of black-and-white offstage scenes - including an angry Madonna referring to "the fascist state" of Toronto when she confronted police at a SkyDome concert - and colour concert clips, became the template for the stage show.
In addition to the audience dance breaks that are an integral part of the performance (though you can watch from the sidelines), you'll see Keith Cole as Madonna's stepmother, Sharron Matthews as a variety of powerful men, including Madonna's manager and Kevin Costner, and Gavin Crawford as Sandra Bernhardt and Warren Beatty. Dancers Paul Charbonneau and Roney Lewis perform iconic pieces like Express Yourself and Vogue, while the expressive Terrence Bryant provides the show's narrative voice.
Part of the box office goes to the Toronto People with Aids Foundation.
"It's important that this show be accessible to those who aren't fans as well as those who know Madonna well," says Antonio. "I think of it as being like a Sound Of Music singalong or a Rocky Horror evening. Watching others get into it is part of the entertainment."
"And what better time than Pride," adds Ruggiero, "to celebrate a classic queer icon?"