Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuck’s latest TV dance-card is Pose, a rather fabulous retro indulgence set in 1987 New York.
The world of Madonna’s Vogue was ripped straight from the House Balls of New York’s queer and predominantly African-American community.
At a time when HIV-AIDS was rife and American wealth was symbolised by Wall Street & Trump Tower, many of society’s outcasts formed community clusters who would compete in fashion-offs amongst their own kind.
Balls were “a gathering of people who are not welcome anywhere else,” Blanca Rodriguez-Evangelista (Mj Rodriguez) explains. “Its a moment to become a star.”
“Being able to fit into the straight white world to embody the American dream. But we don’t have access to that dream…” she continues, “…dance your way into a world of acceptability.”
Blanca is a defiant young transgender who discovers she is HIV positive and compelled to break free from the ‘House of Abundance’. She has a dream to form her own House to make her mark on the world. Pose sees her assemble her young flock of outcasts.
Amongst them is Damon (Ryan Jamaal Swain), a 17 year old gay dancer who is banished from his home because of his sexual orientation. He wants to enrol at the New School of Dance, but there are more immediate priorities such as a roof over his head, which Blanca offers.
Then there is Angel (Indya Moore) a transgender prostitute, yet to have enough money for a life-changing operation. She meets Stan (Evan Peters), a rising executive who works at Trump Tower. Stan represents all that is the American Dream, including with his own young family, yet he is attracted to the alternative, ribald world of Angel in backstreets and hotel rooms.
Pose also explodes with flamboyant supporting characters including balls emcee Pray Tell (Billy Porter), rival “house mother” Elektra (Dominique Jackson) as well as James Van Der Beek and Kate Mara as Stan’s boss and wife, respectively.
The soundtrack of Donna Summer, 10CC, Kate Bush bursts from ghetto blasters and cassettes all adding to Ryan Murphy’s trademark theatricality. There were times I was reminded of Fame, especially those in the dance school.
What’s also remarkable is that Pose is built from a large cast of transgender actors (the largest for a TV drama), who all deliver vibrant and authentic performances. Mj Rodriguez and Ryan Jamaal Swain are the cast stand-outs -call me crazy but I’ve never really understood Murphy’s obsession with putting Evan Peters in everything he does -I guess he’s loyal.
As this struts its way through fashion categories of Royalty, Evening Wear and Business, Pose is as brash as they come and you can’t help but feel this is going to get even better the more it goes on.
Pose airs 8:30pm Tuesday on Showcase.