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Tom Orr is the Greatest Show Queen

by David-Elijah Nahmod

Tom Orr
Tom Orr  

Tom Orr will sing for his supper at Martuni's when he offers The Greatest Showqueen, an evening of wild parodies of classic Broadway hits. The October 13 show is a comeback of sorts for Orr, who, in February 2019, was about to open a show at a club called Impromptu! in Guerneville. Instead he was flooded out when the banks of the Russian River swelled, leaving thousands homeless.

Undaunted, Orr returned to Seattle, where he had enjoyed success twenty-two years ago with his award-winning parody revue Dirty Little Showtunes. But now Orr is back in the Bay Area. He has already made a triumphant return to Guerneville, performing The Greatest Showqueen there on October 6 at the R3 Hotel.

Orr is a man who's had quite a diverse career. He's also done porn! It all began with Dirty Little Showtunes, where his closing number was a parody of gay theater in the 1990s, a time when there were a lot of "nudie" plays like Making Porn and others which would run for years because they had naked actors onstage.

"And then I did Naked Boys Singing, and played the perky little porn star who was the only character in the play who gets to break the fourth wall," Orr said.

"There was a fearlessness at being the only naked person in a room filled with 150 clothed people, and it was up to me to make them feel comfortable. My director for both Dirty Little Showtunes and Naked Boys Singing, Allen Sawyer, kept telling me that I should do porn. And finally, I had the opportunity to do it, and it was fun! And I was nominated for awards!"

Orr noted that his porn career never really caught on. He pointed out that the window for porn performers was limited and depends on whether or not the fans respond or if the studios want to hire you. Orr said he did around six films, and then the offers stopped coming.

"I'm actually interested in doing it again," he said. "I recently met with Falcon studios in Berkeley, and I'm going to start writing original screenplays for them. Once you've done porn you can't not have done porn, and I never wanted to be ashamed of it or deny it. So I incorporated it into my stage persona as the musical comedy cabaret porn star who does it all. I sing songs about sex and give people permission to enjoy their sexuality without shame or guilt or all those negative things that people associate with sexuality."

The show that Orr is doing at Martuni's is a new one he built when he got to Seattle. He wanted to get back on stage as soon as possible because it had been quite awhile since he had done anything.


"And that's what this became," he said. "A kind of greatest hits, little samplings from all my different shows. I wrote several new things for this one, and it's mostly to get me back on stage and let people know that I'm still doing my thing."

In the past, Orr has done shows with amusing titles like "The Devil Wears Nada" and "I Feel A Thong Coming On."

"So I've pulled some favorites from all of those, songs that I really enjoy performing, the ones that I know by heart, and the ones that I can get up and do at the drop of a hat." he said. "I'll also be telling the journey of what's been going on since I left Seattle; doing porn, contracting HIV, a battle with crystal meth, drug abuse and recovery. I've got a whole section of the show about harm reduction. I've become an advocate for not judging people."

Orr's advocacy has not gone unnoticed. Last summer, he was involved in Project Nunway, a fashion show featuring the Russian River Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence as models.

"I did a song and sang it for the sisters and at the end of the song they surprised me and kept me on stage and gave me a medal and a certificate," he recalled. "Two other people got sainted that day and we took an oath not to take things too seriously and to enjoy sex!"

At the time, Orr had been in the throes of a deep depression. He had recently lost several friends to suicide, and it took The Sisters' sainting him to snap him out of it, and to realize that people enjoyed him and his work.

"One of the things The Sisters say is that when you become a saint you make the world a better place," he said. "And it made me realize that I have so much work to do. I had gone five years without producing anything. If nothing else, if I can make people laugh and escape the horrors of our daily existence right now, then that is my sacred duty, to get on a stage and make people forget about their problems and laugh. They can laugh about my problems if they want."

When Orr takes to the Martuni's stage, he'll be accompanied by pianist Russell Deason, who Orr describes as a "funny cabaret guy who looks like a longshoreman."

"He's covered in tattoos," Orr said. "He's very butch, and he's a funny show queen who loves Broadway. He's a virtuoso at the piano and has challenged me in putting the show together to look at my lyrics. It's a great collaboration."

Orr said that he hopes people are open to hearing fresh takes on the classic show tunes. He writes, he says, the show tunes that he wishes had been written before gay characters were welcome on Broadway. Orr also wants people to know that he's single and "on the market."

"On Market and Valencia," he said. "That's where Martuni's is!"

Tom Orr in 'The Greatest Showqueen,' October 13, 7pm at Martuni's, 4 Valencia St. $20.


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