What makes Uptown’s annual fundraiser so appealing is its deceptively subversive premise. Men sing Broadway tunes originally written for women, women sing pieces intended for men. In addition to other logistical nightmares, this requires transposing the keys, to accommodate a different range. We’ve certainly become accustomed to gender-bending when personalities like Dr. Frankenfurter, Ru Paul, and Dame Edna Everage have entered mainstream pop culture, but Broadway Our Way is something else again. It’s so easy to forget that live theatre exploits the advantage of spectacle. Consider the moment when a priest lifts the host and chalice heavenward. Broadway Our Way (BOW) provides alternative context for these musical narratives. Sometimes they’re sly. Sometimes ribald. Sometimes shamelessly starry-eyed and melancholy. We are now 17 years into the 21st Century and dear God we seem (more than ever) to need this demonstration, this assertion that there’s nothing criminal or morally bankrupt about being smitten with someone of the same gender. I wonder sometimes if BOW is so saliently pleasure-driven that its intoxicating political power isn’t obvious. I want to put my feet up, darlin, and soak it all in.
In the second act the milieu was private Catholic School. Most of the performers dressed as students and the raucous homage to West Side Story’s Gymnasium Dance was punchy and inspired. Later the women sang The Bitch of Living from Spring Awakening, a virile, male, angry, sex-tortured song if there ever was one, and did so with palpable rage. In the first act there was some cowboy, prettyboy, roughtrade and waiter flavored hi-jinks: guys waggling scrumptious behinds and flirting with each other with impunity. There were special “guest” appearances by those Duchesses of Drag, Coy Covington and B.J. Cleveland (AbFab’s Eddie and Patsy and Liza Minnelli) and Janelle Lutz reprised her phenomenal Judy Garland. There were yearning torch songs and the gentle irony that comes from longtime, monogamous love affairs. Brett Warner (The Night Dolly Parton Was Almost Mine) Alex Heika (Pulled) and Amy Stevenson (My Eyes Adored You) reminded us that BOW never lacks for delicious, silly, often earthy comic relief.
The cast of Broadway Our Way donated their time and was ready to roll with only two weeks of rehearsal. Kudos to B.J. Cleveland, who found the perfect mix of promotional pitch, jubilant anthems to queer pride, tender explorations of same-gender devotion and giddy hilarity. Dallas is very blessed to to have a company like Uptown Players that provides warmth, refuge and sense of purpose to the sixth largest LGBT Community in America. But apart from their nefarious, hidden agenda (shudder) is a team of artists who converge to create a show of glorious, impeccable quality.
Uptown Players presents their 15th Annual Fundraiser, Broadway Our Way, playing March 2nd-5th, 2017. Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Boulevard, Dallas, Texas 75219. 214-219-2718. uptownplayers.org