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'Grindr the Opera' swipes right at Fort Lauderdale's Empire Stage

OK, you’re going to have to adjust and attenuate your idea of the word “opera” if you decide to catch “Grindr the Opera: An Unauthorized Parody,” now at Fort Lauderdale’s Empire Stage for a three-week run.

Come to think of it, in case you don’t know, it will be extremely helpful to know that Grindr is a GPS-based hook-up app for gay men. Not only can you check out a menu of men, but you can see how geographically close they are. It’s kind of like having a pizza delivered, or to be more precise, having a pizza-delivery man delivered.

Now, you’re all set. The finer details will be explained in the 22 songs in this mini musical over 80 minutes with no intermission, as “Grindr the Opera” goes for baroque. Ahem, make that broke.

That just may be the most enjoyable part of the show, its uninhibited and unrestrained mocking of opera tropes, sending up the class while celebrating the crass. If anything, the cast could surrender even more to the wild and audacious vibe coming off the book, music and lyrics by Erik Ransom and really cut loose. Keep in mind that this staging is from the same Orlando-based production house that brought the gay-licious “Bathouse: The Musical” and bawdy boy-lesque “Naked Boys Singing” to Empire Stage.

Remarkably, there is no nudity this time around, although one might suspect that the underwear brand Andrew Christian is getting a piece of the action. The story — and yes, there is a story, this being opera, remember? — centers on how the app has changed the landscape of gay relationships.

As one song says, “Find a guy you like and click. Want it nice and quick? There’s an app for that ----.”

Lured by their lust, four men download the app, embodied by a carnal incarnate named Grindr (Alexei Barrios). Devon (Tim Garnham) eventually meets Tom (Wes Miles), and a one-night stand expands into a relationship. Meanwhile, young and frisky Jack (Eric Fagan) has a night of kink with the older and closeted Don (Chris Eastwood). Each man is using the app to search for a different kind of connection.

No spoilers here, but there is a nice correlation between opera’s favorite plot device, masquerade balls, and the anonymity of digitally downloading dudes — masked balling, if you will. How their stories entwine is simultaneously funny and, in a slightly predictable way, relevant to some of the highly charged interpersonal issues in today’s gay community.

But mostly, it’s a laugh riot. With little unsung dialogue, Ransom’s lyrics are profane, prurient and perfect. On the high end, there is rhyming of words like “haste” and “chaste.” On the other end, there is “horse” and “remorse.” Let your imagination fill in what comes in between. The music riffs on Mozart, Puccini, Gilbert and Sullivan. There’s even a nod to Stephen Sondheim and the Village People. The company matches the live vocals with the digital music tracks rather well, no easy feat. There are no divas (though we wish Grindr was a little more over-the-top). Everyone knows you can’t be too big in opera.

“Grindr the Opera” runs through Nov. 19 at Empire Stage, 1140 N. Flagler Drive, in Fort Lauderdale. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, and 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets cost $35. To order, call 888-202-1708 or go to Tep.TicketLeap.com.

rhagwood@southflorida.com

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