By Michael Block
There are certain ingredients that make up a pop star. It’s mainstream formulaic. But sometimes there comes an artist that breaks the mold. They may not see the light of radio glory but they garner a following. Say hello to gay pop superstar Johnny Darlin, the brainchild of Michael Doshier. In Johnny Darlin: In the Closet, Doshier puts on a concert as Johnny Darlin with interludes of the voices of the Queer South recanting their stories as members of the LGBTQ community. This is more concert than theatrical event but Doshier has the ingredients to push it toward the latter. Doshier sets up his evening by performing song after song, with those necessary diva costume changes. If he’s playing a persona, he might as well offer more interaction. Educate the audience on the origin of the songs. Describe how Johnny Darlin is like the voice of the Queer South. Explore just exactly how he came out. Providing more of a story within the already extraordinary material will absolutely enhance this production. We can see there’s a story inside Johnny, it’s time for the story to come out! The desire for more comes from the fact that Michael Doshier as Johnny Darlin is raw talent. He is a profound storyteller and an astonishing vocalist who doesn’t need to hide behind any autotune. Between professing his love for Olly Alexander to getting down in a cubicle, his music is exhilarating and dance-inducing. So much so he had two talented backup dancers in Alberte Nilausen and Quenton Stuckey bopping to Pia Vinson’s choreography. While the theatrical through-line from song to interlude could have been tighter, Doshier’s ability to jump from upbeat entertainment to moving lyrical sweetness was effortless.
There was a giant team behind Johnny Darlin: In the Closet that it’s hard to pinpoint where exactly credit is to be given. Regardless, this team should be proud of the physical product. If the goal of a concert is to entertain, they succeeded.
What makes Johnny Darlin unique is the ability to be the glam pop star that he is. There are certainly performers who fit that mold. Kylie Minogue and Lady Gaga to name a few. But the male vocalists who can reach those falsetto high notes in glam rock rarely get their moment in the spotlight. At least the mainstream spotlight. Johnny Darlin has the potential to break the mold. That wasn't sweat dripping down, it was accomplishment.