This week, two superstars of American music will bring their “musical fantasia” to the Gate Theatre as part of the 2023 Dublin Fringe Festival. In their “joyous, surprising and hilarious” show, Only an Octave Apart, cabaret artist Justin Vivian Bond and award-winning opera singer Anthony Ross Constanza will combine classical music with cabaret comedy to create a performance that “defies genre”.
Anthony Roth Costanzo, described as “vocally brilliant and dramatically fearless” by The New York Times, began performing professionally at the age of 11 and has since appeared in opera, concert, recital, film, and on Broadway. Constanzo is a highly decorated opera performer, having received an Honorary Doctorate from the Manhattan School of Music, the 2020 Beverly Sills Award from the Metropolitan Opera, and even a GRAMMY Award.
Constanzo’s co-star and the co-creator of Only An Octave Apart, Justin Vivian Bond, has been praised as “the best cabaret artist of [their] generation”. Bond, too, is a highly decorated performer, having appeared on Broadway and West End productions throughout their illustrious career. Bond is most notably renowned for their decades-long residency at Joe’s Pub at The Public Theatre in New York City.
In 2022 the duo released their “classical crossover” album, Only An Octave Apart, to rave reviews, even hosting their own NPR Tiny Desk Concert following the album’s release.
GCN sat down with the show’s co-stars ahead of their performance to find out what exactly makes this duo and their show Only An Octave Apart a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
When asked how the duo first crossed paths, Constanzo shared that he had recently found a photograph of one of the first times he met Bond. Referencing the photo taken in Brooklyn in 2011 during the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy, Constanzo and Bond remembered one of their first encounters.
“We had a mutual friend, Martha Wainwright. And Viv had her entire brownstone in Brooklyn. Someone had said, ‘Well, it’s going to be dangerous, so we should all be together in a brownstone.’ So we assembled this group of, well, misfits, really, to weather the storm,” Constanzo said.
Bond quickly reminded their co-star, however, that they’d met prior to their lockdown in Martha Wainwright’s Brooklyn brownstone. “We met on a rooftop, at a dance party, actually,” they said.
“Right,” Constanzo remembered. “And then my friend said I should really see Viv perform, so I went to her show at Joe’s Pub and I was totally blown away. I immediately wanted to see if I could be a part of her world, so I asked if I could perform with her.”
“And I said no!” Bond added, promising that interested parties could learn more about how the duo’s relationship bloomed in Only An Octave Apart.
While Bond and Constanzo have been developing Only An Octave Apart, which they have also recorded as an album, for the last decade, they admitted that the natural progression of the show was anything but ordinary.
“We started working on developing a repertoire to try it out and perform it before we recorded it, but the pandemic happened, so we recorded the soundtrack and then made the show, as opposed to the other way around, which is how we intended to do it, but it worked out.”
Bond went on to add that the only song that is featured in the show that isn’t part of the recorded album is the title track, ‘Only An Octave Apart’. “That [song] was something we took from Beverly Sills, the famous American opera singer, and Carol Burnett, who were performing live together at the MET,” Constanzo added.
When asked how the Sills-Burnett duet related to their show, Constanzo said that the choice was partly due to the fact that the performers’ own voices are “only about an octave apart”.
“But it’s also a high and low thing,” he continued. “It goes back and forth. Beverly and Carol Burnett had that same kind of dichotomy.” Never one to let a sexually suggestive punchline slip away, Bond also added that the title is a euphemism: “You know, [an octave] is eight inches. So there’s eight inches between us.”
With renditions ranging from Freddie Mercury’s “Under Pressure” to Henry Purcell’s “Über Allen Gipfeln ist Ruh”, the duo went on to talk about some of their favourite numbers from the show to perform.
Constanzo said that he particularly enjoyed performing the duo’s rendition of a Sylvester hit: “There’s a disco number in the show at an unexpected moment… and the audience gets kind of like, shocked by it at first, and then they either get into it or they don’t, depending on what city we’re in.”
“The gays usually like it. And the gay’s girlfriends that are with them,” Bond added.
When discussing what fans and newcomers can expect to see when Only An Octave Apart premiers at the Gate Theatre on September 5, Constanzo described the performance as a “musical fantasia.”
“It kind of defies genre. It exists in a theatre context, but it’s also a concert and it’s also classical music, it’s pop music, it’s standards, it’s a lot of things,” Constanzo added.
“And don’t forget the mesmerizing choreography,” Bond interjected.
“Yes, there’s incredible choreography, there’s amazing costumes by Jonathan Anderson and our co-creator, Zack Winokur, who directed and choreographed the show,” Constanzo went on. “He’s a total genius. And he’s remaking the entire show for the Gate Theatre, which is going to be really fun. The entire show, it’s a gesamtkunstwerk.”
Gesamtkunstwerk, as Costanzo uses it, is in reference to a German word developed in the time of the classical composer, Richard Wagner, meaning a “total work of art”.
Only An Octave Apart, starring Justin Vivian Bond and Anthony Roth Costanzo, will play at the Gate Theatre as part of the 2023 Dublin Fringe Festival from September 6 to 10. A preview showing of the performance will take place on September 5, followed by a Q&A session hosted by Panti Bliss.
Tickets for Only An Octave Apart are on sale now at this link.
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