Backwards, forwards or sideways, the annual song and dance benefit extravaganza Uptown Players mounts at Dallas’ Kalita Humphreys Theater in celebration of non-heterosexual life and love is a pleasure to experience. This year’s fundraiser, “Broadway Our Way”, marks the 10th year of successful performance with mature grace, effective balance between vocals and dance and occasional ribald irreverence. Subtitled “A Decade of Divas”, the two-act show incorporates Broadway classics along with excerpts from recent hits, giving topicality and nostalgia (and the men and women performers best-suited to certain eras) equal billing rights.
The show opens with regional favorite Jim Johnson springing up from a seat in the audience, acting the part of a confused rightwing bigot searching for Marcus Bachman as he waves a “Pray Away the Gay Flyer” and wonders what sort of ‘event’ he’s stumbled into. The full company responds by erupting into a high energy, pride-filled rendition of “Freak Flag” (from Shrek the Musical), as Johnson drops his sanctimonious role-play and joins the tuneful, gyrating throng onstage. Bold and decisive, the ensemble illustrates the event’s point over and over, as B.J. Cleveland affirms to thunderous applause when he delivers the poignant “I’m Still Here” (from Follies) near Act One’s conclusion. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-gender: people of non-hetero gender orientation are here today as they have always been, and it’s time our society accepts them in every aspect of life and rights. Past time.
With fourteen musical numbers in Act I and thirteen in Act II, the show provides a full range of entertainment. Sexy ballads (Queen of divas in drag, Coy Covington, slinks alluringly through Babe: TheBabe Ruth Musical’s “Growing Boy”, man-handling a baseball bat prop with provocative aplomb) and cleverly choreographed gender bending song and dance delights (Chicago’s “Cell Block Tango” features six macho inmate hotties) feed the audience’s spirits and energy like double espresso. At the same time, thoughtful lyricism punctuates the performance and grounds the audience in emotional reality. Jeff Kinman’s soaring “Fly, Fly Away” from Catch Me if You Can and Kayla Carlyle’s solo in “Flying Home” from Songs for A New World excel with simple depth and superb voicing. And, yes, a bevy of hunky young lads strut their “stuff” throughout for lusty Uptown subscribers’ visual delight in the first three rows of seats.
Celebrate the Rites, or everybody’s rights, of Spring, with Uptown Players’ “Broadway Our Way” through March 25 at the Kalita Humphreys Theater. Maybe 2012 will be the year that Uptown comes out of the closet with their worthy advocacy (not a word about LGBT focus in their mission or on their website)? Nobody does it better or with more comprehensive dignity than they do. Cabaret songbird diva Amy Stevenson intones proudly in Act Two, “I Am What I Am”, with not the slightest intimation of “don’t ask, don’t tell” about it. B.J.Cleveland directed “Broadway Our Way”, with choreography by John de los Santos and musical direction by Kevin Gunter and Adam C. Wright. Scenic design by Dennis Canright, Lighting by Julie Simmons, Sound by Virgil Justice.
TICKETS: http://www.uptownplayers.org 214.219.2718
“I Am What I Am” comes from La Cage Aux Folles.
Mike Morgan photos
By AB with love: straight, but hardly narrow….