Brian Baez says ‘goodbye’ to RVA with one last, deeply personal show
Soon Richmond will say a fond farewell to Brian Baez as he embarks on a new journey in Florida with his husband, Jason Campbell, but not before one last RVA show.
CHEMO: The New Atkins, Baez’s farewell cabaret/concert is his gift to a community that has given him a chance to shine, supported him in good times and bad, and holds a lifetime of memories.
Inspiration for the show’s title came in two parts.
In 2011 during a holiday run with Virginia Rep’s My Fair Lady Baez was performing with a giant lump under his jaw the “size of a jumbo egg.” Baez was diagnosed with a fast-growing and rare cancer curable with aggressive treatment including chemo.
After the Christmas break, Baez joked with his theater friends that “Cancer. Santa brought me cancer,” when they asked what he got for Christmas.
The second part of the title was inspired by a friend in Australia, a fellow dancer on Baez’s last cruise ship contract.
When the friend learned of his cancer, he quipped, “OMG! You’re so lucky. You’re gonna be so skinny . . . Chemo’s like . . . the new Atkins.”
Sometimes in the face of trauma, we laugh to keep from crying.
Baez called the upcoming performance a very personal one. “I looked for and chose songs that worked to push my story forward,” he said. “I connected with, or expressed what I was at a loss for words for. I wanted to create something as a way to provide closure from this experience.”
Baez is tight-lipped about the actual song in his lineup, but did tease there “will definitely be an acoustic blues cover of a Britney Spears classic!”
This summer Baez celebrates three years in remission, and he “can think of no better way to celebrate life than creating art.”
Baez’s cabaret/concert is sure to please musical lovers of all types. His musical inspirations and tastes “have expanded, like my waistline, with age.” For the show, he’s drawn from classic and pop rock, musical theatre, cabaret, top 40′s pop, and Brazilian jazz. A glance at his iPhone reveals artists from Amy Winehouse to Astrud Gilberto and Josh Groban to Adam Lambert.
Baez began his Richmond theater career in an administrative/work study position with Barksdale/Theatre IV. In 2006, Baez was cast as Junior Babcock in Barksdale’s MAME at Willow Lawn.
While attending VCU in pursuit of a degree in musical theater, Baez worked as a singer and dancer at Busch Gardens and Kings Dominion during summer breaks, followed by three years on board Royal Carriben Cruise Line touring over 35 countries.
Since My Fair Lady and recovering from cancer, Baez has “been blessed” to perform all over the city with VA Rep, Firehouse Theater, Richmond Triangle Players, TheatreLAB, Swift Creek Mill, and Jewish Family Theatre.
Baez will miss Richmond, particularly the theatre scene.
As a person, and a signer, Baez has “never fit into a mold.” In music school his teachers didn’t like that he sounded different from his classmates. Baez himself is drawn to singers who have a vocal quality that sets them apart from the rest. It is this quality in Baez that local Richmonders love about him.
“I don’t think RVA really knows how lucky it is to have such a thriving arts community,” he said. Richmond is an environment where “young artists and performers are encouraged, and given a stage to create art and opportunities for themselves.”
He’ll miss the opening night buzz and the overflowing love… “good times, champagne . . . good memories. But there is comfort in “understanding that you can always come home. They’ll leave the light on for you.”
Baez will also miss the abundant festivals from Broad Appetit, Friday Cheers, First Fridays and South of the James Farmers Market.
He will miss not being able to go “ANYWHERE without running into people you know.”
But, “I think I will miss the view driving up on 95 North most of all. You can see the skyline between the trees, and then rounding the bend there’s Richmond in all it’s glory…”
As Baez and his husband embark on their new journey – to Florida for Campbell’s continued recovery from a stroke – those who have come to know them feel a sense of sorrow over the loss of such beautiful people. Those who know them, however, also know that our friendships are lifelong.
So we wont say goodbye, we’ll just leave the lights on for you.
Originally planned as a “one-night only event” on August 16th, the show sold out in a matter of days. Fortunately, Baez has added a 2nd show on August 17th.
Tickets for the 2nd show on August 17, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. are still available at www.triangle.org.
The show will be at 1300 Altamont Avenue and will feature piano/musical direction by Leilani Giles, drums by Joe Lubman, Bass by Nancy Millhouse, and Joe Barry on guitar.
Julie Harthill Clayton is an out and proud bisexual with a passion for reading, writing . . . and NOT arithmetic. Her work has appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, the Internet Review of Books, Curve Magazine, Lambda Literary and more. She is working on her first novel - Two Tickets to Freedom - a semi-autobiographical queer coming-of-age tale. A paralegal by day, Julie spends her free time knitting, writing, and reading anything she can get her hands on. She lives in Richmond with her partner, local artist David Turner, and their mischievous and loving hunting dog, Max.
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