Chicago native Clarence Young stars in 'House Musical'

Fri. April 21, 2023 9:06 AM by Ross Forman

clarence young

photo credit // provided

'House Musical' is a story of love and acceptance, hope, bravery, and pride

Clarence Young, a Chicago native, who stars in HOUSE MUSICAL: COMING OF AGE IN THE AGE OF HOUSE, a limited-run performance at the Center on Halsted in the Lakeview neighborhood said it is “an amazing story (that) hits home for any queer BIPOC.”

A celebration of both the BIPOC LGBTQ+ experience in Chicago, and the explosion of a new musical genre called house music, HOUSE MUSICAL: COMING OF AGE IN THE AGE OF HOUSE tells the story of Dwayne (played by Young), who finds the strength to come out of the closet by sneaking into the Warehouse club, where House Music was born. The show captures the beginnings of the emerging black LGBT community of Chicago, which brought people together through the shared personal struggles: standing up to bullying and homophobia, fighting discrimination within the greater LGBTQ community, and the bravery of battling HIV/AIDS when there were no treatments.

HOUSE MUSICAL is a story of love and acceptance, of hope, bravery, and pride.

HOUSE MUSICAL runs April 21-30 with shows Thursdays through Sundays at 7:30 p.m.  Tickets are $30, with a $5 senior discount available. Tickets can be purchased online.

The characters, Young said, stand out. “These are real people; I’m so happy the cast is bringing this story to life,” he said.

Young, 29, from Chicago’s Roseland neighborhood, is a partnership manager for Kaizen Health. He was quick to join HOUSE MUSICAL. “A musical about house music with a predominantly queer cast?!? I need to be a part of this,” he said. “I (am) elated to be playing a character who I could relate to on a personal level. 

“Dwayne is a kind soul who was just never given the chance to learn about who he is. He wants the best for others and just wants to be understood by the people he cares about.”

Young acknowledged that house music is “revolutionary and rebellious,” and was the foundation for additional sub-genres of music.

“To me house music means freedom. It means being comfortable with you are. House music is community, expression and acceptance,” said Young, who noted that his character Dwayne’s coming-out is “such a real moment.”

“(Dwayne) has likely been conflicted for a while and just hadn’t had anyone to relate to until he meets his friends Riley and Jeff who give him the confidence to be the person he is.”

Dwayne, like so many others, would sneak into the Warehouse Club for its music and more, Young said.

“The black LGBTQ+ community has been around since the 1920s. Bronzeville was a hub for black queers to gather and music had always been a part of that, whether it was jazz, funk, disco or house.”

And the 1990s also was the heart of the AIDS epidemic, not to mention rampant homophobia. Young has heard the tales of that era and “read about the horrific experiences of our predecessors,” he said. “It almost feels impossible to believe that people were quite literally left for dead because of who they loved. People lost family, friends, lovers whose lives likely could’ve been saved had the country not been riddled with homophobia.”

Love and acceptance sing in HOUSE MUSICAL.

“It’s about finding self, finding chosen family and feeling comfortable with being you,” Young said. “Especially at a time where love and acceptance for people like Dwayne or myself were an even smaller minority. Through this story I see the journey and stages that many people who weren’t as accepting of the LGBT community take to find that understanding and I think that truly is something to learn from. Love is love.”

Quick Hits With … Clarence Young

Favorite Part of HOUSE MUSICAL: “The cast! It’s amazing to be in a predominantly black and queer cast where neither has to be turned down for the stage.”

Who Should See HOUSE MUSICAL: “Anyone who has lost someone in the AIDS epidemic. Anyone who loves house music. Any young adults who are still trying to find themselves. I hope that they can see themselves in Dwayne and gain the freedom that he does.”

HOUSE MUSICAL: “I would say HOUSE MUSICAL is my life, but almost 40 years ago. So many queers in the black community have experienced these same things. While so many strides have been taken, we are sometimes still not made to feel comfortable by even the people we care for. It means so much to me that I can share this story with people and I hope it’s as cathartic to them as it is to me.”

Campsongs Productions, in partnership with Center on Halsted, presents the world premiere of House Musical - Coming of Age in the Age of House, with book by Marcus Waller, music by Scott Free with Michael Foley, and lyrics by Scott Free and Marcus Waller. House Musical is directed by Dion Walton, and will run April 20th - April 30th, 2023 at Center on Halsted’s Hoover-Leppen Theatre. The preview performance is Thursday, April 20th at 7:30 pm with a post-show discussion to follow. Opening night is Friday, April 21st at 7:30 pm. Performances run Thursdays thru Sundays at 7:30 pm, thru April 30th.