More than 20 years ago, “Paris is Burning” shone a light on the New York ball scene. Now the narrative musical “Leave it on the Floor,” showing Saturday at Out On Film with two of its stars in attendance, continues the tradition.
The musical follows Brad (Ephraim Sykes, who made a lot of noise earlier this year as one of the stars of the world premiere “Bring It On: The Musical” at the Alliance Theatre), a young man thrown out of his home by his mother. He steals her car, travels to Los Angeles and almost literally stumbles into a dance event, where he meets and befriends the members of the House of Eminence and ultimately decides to compete himself.
Set in the contemporary ball culture of Los Angeles, “Leave It on the Floor” (photos) features eleven original songs. Director Sheldon Larry has been trying to get the project made for almost 20 years and finally got the green light last year.
Two of the film’s stars will be at the Out on Film screening on Saturday. Phillip Evelyn, who stars as Princess Evelyn in the film, was born in Atlanta and attended Georgia-Cumberland Academy. While here, he was in the House of Escada. James Alsop (top photo, left), who plays Eppie Durall, is from Charlotte, N.C.
“I auditioned for it – on Skype – for Sheldon and got the part,” Alsop says. He didn’t actually get to meet anyone from the cast until he showed up on the first day. He calls Eppie the heart of the film – she keeps the family all together.”
Besides acting and performing, Alsop got to help choreograph one of the major musical numbers, set in a bowling alley.
He admits that the ball scene in Los Angeles isn’t as prevalent as it is in New York and on the East Coast. “It’s not as widespread, but I am glad that a lot of voices are now being heard in LA,” he says.
“Leave It on the Floor” is choreographed by Frank Gatson, Jr.—the force behind the moves of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” video—and written by Out On Film veteran Glenn Gaylord, who visited Atlanta in 2009 with “Eating Out: All You Can Eat.” This film is a 180-degree departure for Gaylord, who also wrote the lyrics.
Alsop says he is anxious to see the reaction to the film in Atlanta, which has its own ball scene, albeit an underground one. He notes how much impact “Paris is Burning” had—“It shined a light on a community that has had an effect on culture; look at Madonna’s ‘Vogue’”—and hopes that “Leave It” can reinvigorate the movement.
Jim Farmer is an Atlanta-based freelance writer and public relations professional specializing in film promotions. He has been a theater and pop-culture critic for more than a dozen years and is the director of Atlanta’s annual Out On Film gay and lesbian film festival.