Applause: Uptown, girl

Posted on 24 Aug 2012 at 11:00am

EXCLUSIVE: Uptown Players reveals its ambitious new season, including a world premiere, a first-ever revival and another trip to the Shores

uptown-girl

Linda Leonard, who won a Leon Rabin Award for her performance in Uptown Players’ original production of ‘Kiss of the Spider Woman,’ reprises her role next summer.

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Applause Editor

This show is killing Jeff and me,” says a weary Craig Lynch, referring to himself and fellow Uptown Players founding producer Jeff Rane a week before the opening of The Producers. The reason? It’s a massive show with dozens of scene changes — the biggest thing Uptown Players has yet undertaken.

But he’s not complaining, not really: It’s just another step on his troupe’s slow progression from upstart gay theater company to trend-setting arts community pioneer. That includes the upcoming Producers, the second annual Pride Performing Arts Festival (including a one-night-only staging of Dustin Lance Black’s play about the Prop 8 vote in California, 8) and the entirely new season, for which we got a sneak peak.

Once again, Uptown is expanding venues, performing not just at their still-newish home at the Kalita Humphreys Theater (where they have to share space with the Dallas Theater Center, and adjust their own season accordingly), and not even just at the Rose Room, where once again they’ll stage one of their camp spoofs. Nope, they will also be teaming with the Turtle Creek Chorale for a concert staging of the Tony Award-winning musical Ragtime at the soon-to-open City Performance Hall, with Michael Serrecchia directing a full cast.

And there’s another first in the offing: Uptown is, for the first time (discounting the spoofs and their annual fundraiser, Broadway Our Way, which also returns), reviving a full production from the past: Kiss of the Spider Woman.

“There aren’t that many gay musicals, and this is a good one,” Lynch explains. It also allows them to do a show that was constrained by the smaller KD Studios Theater space where they first performed it nearly 10 years ago to the more glamour digs of the Kalita. Not everything will be different, though: Linda Leonard will return in her Rabin Award-winning role as the title character.

“Linda looks great,” Lynch gushes.

“They’ve talked about [reviving it] for a few years, so I was thrilled when Jeff called and said, ‘We’ll only do this if you’re available.’ I said I would make myself available,” says Leonard, who has a long history with Uptown: She directed their very first production, When Pigs Fly, in 2001. It will be a welcome change, she says, to revisit a role nearly 10 years later.

“I think there is a maturity in that role, and what’s happened to me in the last six or seven years my life has changed a lot,” she says. “I think that’ll bring more texture to the character.”

Another first will be a world premier (Jamie Morris’ drag-camp parody Re-Designing Women) an the Southwest premier of the acclaimed play Yellow by native son Del Shores, who will also direct.

“This is the first time since we did Southern Baptist Sissies at The MAC in 2001 that I’ve directed one of my plays in Dallas,” Shores says. “It’s time.”

The award-winning play is “probably my most mainstream since Daddy’s Dyin’,” says Shores. “There is a young gay character but that’s not the focus. It’s a funny story that started off very light and airy and just turned into American tragedy. A lot of audiences are not prepared for that — especially if they think they’re gonna see Sordid Lives.”

The full season is below.

Broadway Our Way, Jan. 18–27 (in the Kalita). The annual fundraiser is also a musical revue featuring some of Dallas’ top talent. It also previews songs from the upcoming season’s musical.

Ragtime: The Concert Version, Feb. 7–9 (in the City Performance Hall). Terrence McNally penned this Tony Award-winning musical, based on E.L. Doctorow’s novel. The performance will be in conjunction with the Turtle Creek Chorale.

Yellow, Feb. 22–March 10 (in the Kalita). Uptown continues its long and successful partnership with playwright Del Shores, having previously mounted his plays Sordid Lives, Southern Baptist Sissies and Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife.

Re-Designing Women, April 5–May 19 (in the Rose Room at Station 4). Jamie Morris, who has written several spoofs produced by Uptown Players (including The Silence of the Clams earlier this year), debuts his world premiere send-up of the camptastic sitcom Designing Women with a drag cast.

Songs for a New World, June 21–July 7 (in the Kalita). Originally slated to run at this fall’s Pride Performing Arts Festival, Uptown bumped the show to next summer in order to give it a fully-mounted production. The song cycle features the music of Tony Award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown.

The Kiss of the Spider Woman, July 26–Aug. 11 (in the Kalita). Uptown Players’ first-ever mainstage revival of a pass production will again star Linda Leonard as the film noir seductress who gives comfort to a gay prisoner in a South American gulag.

The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, Dec. 5–15 (in the Kalita). In another first, the Dallas Theater Center’s decision to move its annual Christmas Carol to the Wyly next year frees up the Kalita for the company’s first-ever holiday show, Paul Rudnick’s irreverent retelling of the Christ story.

DSM to announce full season Monday
Dallas Summer Musicals will make its official full-season announcement on Monday, but we already know most of the shows, which have been posted on their website for several months — three of which are returning (sometimes multiply) engagements. The season so far: Can Me If You Can, Feb. 12–24; Mary Poppins, March 20–31; Wicked, April 10–May 5; The Lion King (the State Fair musical), Oct. 2–20.

…………………….

Uptown Players will perform most of season at the Kalita Humphreys
Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd. Individual ticket prices range from $20 to $50. For season tickets or additional information, visit UptownPlayers.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 24, 2012.

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