‘One Touch of Venus’ premieres in Houston. Finally.
by Donalevan Maines
Photo by Dalton DeHart
Rob Flebbe doesn’t know how handsome he is. It might have never crossed his mind.
But that’s what makes him perfect for the role of Rodney in One Touch of Venus, says Paul Hope, artistic director of Bayou City Concert Musicals. The 1943 musical kicks off BCCM’s 2012–13 season September 6–9 at HCC’s Heinen Theatre.
“I chose Rob for the role for his beautiful tenor voice, and he is good at playing someone good-looking [who doesn’t know he’s good-looking],” explains Hope. “The role is the show’s arc. It’s about how Venus helps Rodney discover his manhood and what a great guy he is.”
OutSmart spoke with Flebbe (pronounced FLEE-bee) the day before rehearsals began on July 16.
“I’ve done a lot of chorus work, but this is a lead character,” said the out actor, who has choreographed many local productions.
“Rodney is a bit quirky and eccentric,” he adds. “He’s only had a little bit of experience.”
In love, that is. It rocks Rodney’s world when he unwittingly brings to life a marble statue of Venus, the (intimidating) goddess of love.
“She has no inhibitions. I liken her to the way Italian boys are raised,” laughs Flebbe. “Very forward sexually, with complete confidence in themselves.”
Flebbe was raised in Warren, which is north of Beaumont. He attended Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Richland College in Dallas, and The Actor’s Conservatory of the Southwest, also in Big D.
The role of Venus established Mary Martin as a Broadway star after Marlene Dietrich quit the show during rehearsals, reportedly because she thought the character was “too sexy and profane,” says Flebbe. For example, Rodney and Venus are still practically strangers when she eyes a bed and asks him, “Aren’t you going to ask me to lie down?”
In the Houston premiere, Venus is portrayed by the beautiful Danica Johnston, a graduate of Humble High School who completed her master’s degree in pedagogy and performance at the University of Houston. Johnston has performed internationally in the operatic, concert, and musical theater repertory. Now the mother of two boys, she teaches private voice lessons.
“Did you know the name Danica means ‘morning star,’ which, by the way, is Venus?” says Sharon Williams, BCCM president. “Could it be destiny?”
Hope adds, “It seems strange that a show written in the 1940s can be a Houston premiere, but One Touch of Venus has never before been seen on a Houston stage.
That’s a sad oversight BCCM will correct in September.”
Musical director Michael Mertz returns this year after his much-praised work on last year’s Finian’s Rainbow, says Hope. “The ballet-infused choreography will be designed by the talented Krissy Richmond. And what would a BCCM show be without conductor Dominique Røyem leading the orchestra?”
BCCM follows One Touch of Venus with cabarets next February and May.
What: A Touch of Venus
When: September 6–9
Where: Heinen Theatre, 3517 Austin
Tickets/info: bayoucityconcertmusicals.org or 713/465-6484.
Donalevan Maines is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.