Uptown’s ‘B’way Our Way’ reinvents itself (again) with a toe-tapping show
The folks with Uptown Players will happily recount, if you ask them, how small they started out; how, in the first year of Broadway Our Way, their annual fundraiser, eight men sang songs written for women over the course of one weekend in a 120-seat theater.
Ten years on, BOW has become an extravaganza — a cast of 26 (men and women) with lots of gender-reversal showtunes. Last year’s production injected an energy occasioned by the semblance of a storyline tying together all the musical numbers. This year, the focus is on dancing: There’s a tap number, several same-sex pas de deux and enough comedy and schmaltz to confuse your lacrimal glands about whether you’re laughing or crying. With hot men and sexy ladies contorting to Jeremy Dumont’s impressive choreography, and singers wringing emotion out of every tune, it’s moving, and it moves.
The production begins with a rousing comic performance by Marisa Diotalevi of the song made famous by Neil Patrick Harris at last year’s Tony Awards (“Broadway — it’s not just for gays anymore!”) … and then proceeds to prove exactly why it is for gays. At least it is for Uptown’s audience, which lapped up B.J. Cleveland and Coy Covington performing “Sisters” as the rotting human husks of Jane and Blanche Hudson (Joan Crawford and Bette Davis) from Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, or Cleveland and Beth Albright in the psychiatric one-two punch of “I Cain’t Say No” and “To Excess,” or Darius-Anthony Robinson’s sassy “I’m Outta Here” from Ghost: The Musical. An all-female version of “Gee, Officer Krupke” proves inspired.
There are melancholy moments, as well. The production is dedicated to Uptown alum Jeff Kinman, who passed away last month; he gets a soaring tribute courtesy of Denise Lee and his surviving partner, Adam C. Wright, who serves as co-musical director on the show. Angel Velasco’s wrenching ballad “With You” (also from Ghost) left few dry handkerchiefs, and Paul J. Williams performed against type with a poignant interpretation of “Hello, Young Lovers.”
The subtitle of this edition is Divas Raise the Roof, a reference to one of the songs mounted in the show, from Andrew Lippa’s The Wild Party. It’s an apt selection, because a wild party is exactly what BOW is.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 25, 2013.