Uptown Players announces 2015 season

Nathan Lane starred on Broadway in ‘The Nance,’ which will receive its regional premiere from Uptown Players in 2015.

Uptown Players’ upcoming 2015 season will feature two major recent Tony winners, from a new comedy to a rock musical, as well as the return of a TV spoof in the Rose Room at S4 and the annual fundraising performance.

Things were more complicated for Uptown Players this time, scheduling-wise. For several years, they have shared the Kalita Humphreys Theater with the Dallas Theater Center, which moved to its new digs in Downtown’s Wyly Theatre, but which is still the primary leaseholder at the Kalita. DTC mostly performs at the Wyly … mostly — not exclusively. So when DTC announced its 2014-15 schedule this spring, it threw a monkey wrench into the works: Its plays would seesaw between the venues, and the timing was going to interfere with Uptown Players’ calendar.

But they worked it out, in part by starting a month early. The first show of their 2015 season will actually be in December 2014: Christmas Our Way, UP’s holiday-themed Broadway Our Way fundraiser (where men sing women’s songs and vice versa) will be held Dec. 11–14.

The first official show of 2015 will be Gilligan’s Fire Island, another spoof by playwright/actor Jamie Morris, who was last represented onstage at the Rose Room as Julia Sugarbaker in Re-Designing Women. As the title suggests, the castaways have gotten pretty gay.

The mainstage season will arrive at the Kalita in June, starting with the wonderful comedy-drama The Nance, then the regional North Texas-produced premiere of Catch Me If You Can, the rock opera Hedwig and the Angry Inch and the new off-Broadway hit Harbor.

See the complete lineup after the jump. You can also get season tickets here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Uptown Players adds Dan Savage to Pride Fest

Dan Savage for Intiman by LaRae Lobdell | PhotoSister.comUptown Players has added queer advice/sex columnist Dan Savage’s one-man show Savage Love Live to the lineup of its fourth annual Pride Performing Arts Festival, which runs in September. In addition to his column and books, Savage is best known as co-founder of the It Gets Better Project.

UP had already announced several of the shows, but today came out with the full schedule, which adds Savage and Steven Jay Crabtree’s Dysfunctional Divas.

Opening the festival on the Kalita Humphreys mainstage will be the concert version of The Last Session, a revival of a show first produced in UP’s inaugural season. It will kick off the fest Sept. 12 at 8 p.m. Savage Love Live will bring up the rear, closing the festival on Sept. 20 at 8 p.m.

Here’s a list of the rest of the shows, including performance dates. You can get more information and purchase tickets here.

Mythical Beastie. Former college roommates Mark (a gay architect) and Greg (his straight friend) find themselves living together again after years of estrangement. Greg, a serial womanizer, invites his latest crush Wendy home to meet his best friend and to make an announcement that throws everyone and everything into a tailspin. Written by local playwright Bruce R. Coleman. Performances: Sept. 13 at 5:30 p.m., Sept. 14 at 7:30 p.m., Sept. 16 at 8 p.m. and Sept. 20 at 2 p.m.

From White PlainsA 2013 Off-Broadway hit, it  follows four men, straight and gay, as they attempt to take responsibility for past actions and move beyond them, aided and frustrated by celebrity, social media and viral videos. The play examines how male relationships change as boys grow into men and asks who speaks for a victim of bullying when he is no longer here to speak for himself. Performances: Sept. 13 at 3:30 p.m., Sept. 14 at 2 p.m., Sept. 19 at 8 p.m. and Sept. 20 at 4:30 p.m.

CommencingThe beautiful Kelli can’t wait for the blind date her friends have set her up on, until it turns out to be one very disappointed lesbian named Arlin. Mutually appalled, yet appallingly intrigued, they proceed to pull the screws loose on both straight and gay women’s culture, to find the common ground beneath in the search for love and self. Performances: Sept. 13 at 2 p.m., Sept. 15 at 8 p.m. and Sept. 20 at 6:30 p.m.

Falling Man. This play examines the lives of a diverse group of gay men from various backgrounds. Join Brandon Simmons in a tour-de-force performance as we meet a former drag queen, a young hustler who is taken over by the spirit of Tennessee Williams, the infamous Jeffrey Dahmer, and a former cha-cha champion who just wants to be remembered. Performances: Sept. 13 at 8 p.m., Sept. 14 at 6 p.m. and Sept. 18 at 8 p.m.

Dysfunctional Divas. Steven Jay Crabtree presents yet another evening in the lives of his outrageous characters: the drama queen of lip-sync, Trayla Park; the superhero, Warrior Woman; the bombastic screen vixen, Martini Glass; plus other of Steven’s weird, wigged alter egos! Crabtree switches from boy to girl and boots to heels while playing his collection of kooky characters.  Rated R for adult language and humor. Performances: Sept. 13 at 9:30 p.m., Sept. 14 at 4 p.m. and Sept. 17 at 8 p.m.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WATCH: A preview of Uptown Players’ ‘Pageant’

In today’s edition, I have an interview with Kevin Gunter, the musical director of Uptown Players’ second-ever revival, the campy hit cross-dressing musical Pageant. The show pits six “natural born females” against each other for the coveted title of Miss Glamouresse. But you don’t have to take my word for it — see what the contestants are like in this video, previewing the production, which opens tonight. And you can get tickets here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Sam Harris: At the ilume, at the Kalita and in bookstores

SamHarris at ilume Park

SamHarris at ilume Park

It’s a surprisingly Sam Harris-y time to be in Dallas. On Tuesday night, the actor-singer-writer helped open the new ilume Park development on Cedar Springs at a gala fundraiser for the Red Party, benefiting Legacy Counseling Center. Harris charmed the audience, reading from his new memoir, Ham, and even performed a few songs, sounding as clear and powerful as he did when he won the first-ever Star Search contest 30 years ago.

His reign doesn’t end there. Tomorrow in Dallas Voice, we run a review of Ham (preview: It’s hilar!) and in just more than a week, Harris is back for a one-man show at the Kalita Humphreys Theater, courtesy of Uptown Players. In it, he both performs essays from his book and sings numbers. And he’s still pretty easy on the eyes.

I’ve become a fan all over again. You will be, too.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Uptown Players face possible protests over ‘Most Fabulous Story’

Uptown Fabulous Story 087KOThis year, Uptown Players got to do something they haven’t done since their first season: Open a late-autumn production. Since it was close to the Christmas holiday, they chose a (kinda) religious-themed play to inaugurate their new time-slot: Paul Rudnick’s sassy The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told. A riff on the right-winger mantra of “The Bible speaks about Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,” Rudnick goes ahead and makes it about Adam and Steve (and their lesbian counterparts, Jane and Mabel … instead of Cain and Abel). Adam and Steve are mostly naked for the first 15 minutes or so.

Let’s face it: This is provocative stuff for the Bible Belt. Co-founder Craig Lynch even acknowledged that some gay theatergoers may not appreciate a satire of the Old Testament. Then again, isn’t pushing boundaries what theater is supposed to do sometimes?

Apparently, not everyone agrees. Lynch informs me that as of the start of this week, the company had already received 800 protest emails, though he attributed the vast majority of them to a robo-email program sponsored by a right wing religious organization. One patron even called and offered to buy out every seat for the entire run with the intent not to use the seats, to prevent any audience for the gay-themed play.

Similar protests have been logged in Oklahoma City and Austin, with varying degrees of success. One Catholic group has even called for a “Rosary of Reparation” on Sunday, to protest the show at the Kalita Humphreys.

Call me naive, but inviting hundreds of your followers to show up at a theater is a great way to give a troupe free publicity — which, I admit, is what I’m doing as well.

Of course, peaceful protests and disagreements are one thing; intimidation, violence and threats are another. So far, The Most Fabulous Story Even Told — which opens tonight, and runs until Dec. 15 — seems to have avoided any scary-level protests. I expect it will stay that way. After all, doesn’t the Bible say something about turning the other cheek? A good Christian should know about that.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

6 ways to fabulize your week

divineWe’re all about diversity in the gay community, and here’s how we prove it.

Let’s say you have a hankering to spend some time in the dark with gay Latinos this week. We got some suggestions. One is by seeing the musical Kiss of the Spider Woman at the Kalita Humphreys Theater, a musical set in a South American prison. Another is checking out Men on the Verge of a His-Panic Breakdown at Teatro Dallas, which features nine comic monologues dealing with all aspects of the gay Latin experience in the U.S.

If you’re tastes fall more along the lines of WASPy gay humor, you can still try to scrounge up a seat to Kathy Griffin, who is performing tonight at the Verizon Theatre. She’ll certainly talk about Kardashians, Real Housewives and, of course, “her gays.”

If that’s not your style, perhaps a little drag is what you need. The Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff is screening a 35mm print of John Waters’ outrageous classic Polyester tonight at 9:30 p.m., followed by a John Waters-themed dance party at 11. Costumes are encouraged. (You know you wanna try out that Tracy Turnblad get-up you have!)

If you wanna up the fashion quotient, the DFashion Week runway show — an inaugural fundraiser benefiting AIDS Arms and LifeWalk — comes to the Rose Room on Saturday. You can get tickets here.

For those who prefer the whole smorgasbord of choices, and like to be entertained as well, Sunday night is the Voice of Pride finals at the Rose Room. Ten singers walk in, one walks out with the title, cash, plane tickets … and bragging rights.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

EXCLUSIVE: Uptown Players reveals season including ‘Oz,’ ‘Vanya’

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A scene from the Broadway production of ‘Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,’ which will be one of four mainstage shows in Uptown Players’ 2014 season

Uptown Players‘ 13th season — its fifth in the Kalita Humphreys Theater — is its most ambitious and impressive yet.

The company has scored two coups, snagging local rights to two Tony Award-winning hits: The musical The Boy from Oz and this year’s best play winner, Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.

In addition, UP will stage only its second-ever revival with the campy musical Pageant. The company’s first revival, Kiss of the Spider Woman, opens tonight. Rounding out the mainstage season will be The Lyons, a comedy-drama that had a Broadway run in 2012.

In addition to the season series, Uptown will have two bonus productions: the annual Broadway Our Way fundraiser, and the Pride Performing Arts Festival, with its mainstage production the musical Soho Cinders. The latter, however, will move from its position for the past three season during Dallas Pride, and now will coincide with National Pride Month in June. (It has already announced another co-production with the Turtle Creek Chorale of Sweeney Todd, following its successful collaboration this year with Ragtime.)

For the first time in several seasons, the troupe has no plans to do a cross-dressing bonus show at the Rose Room. Lynch held out the possibility, however, that such a production could be added down the line, if a property became available.

Here is the full season:

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

This week’s takeaways: Life+Style

Uptown Kiss 196Rl

Following a slowdown right around the Fourth of July, the theater scene is hopping again, with the opening tonight of Uptown Players‘ Kiss of the Spider Woman, pictured, while up in Addison WaterTower continues its super-gay show, Xanadu. Best idea: Check out Spider Woman this weekend and go to LGBT night at WTT on Wednesday, with a pre-show cocktail hour and discounted ticket. Then on Thursday two more shows open: Men on the Verge of a His-Panic Breakdown at Teatro Dallas and the first preview for Theatre 3‘s first show of its season, So Help Me God.

If you’re in the mood for a little drag, there’s plenty of options as well. The Hidden Door hosts its 26th annual Leo Party and Miss Leo Contest on Saturday, with proceeds benefiting AIN’s Daire Center. And drag king troupe Mustache Envy gives its fans a gender-bending show at Sue Ellen‘s on Friday.

If you’re in the mood for even more giving, Resource Center Dallas holds a cocktail reception marking its 30th anniversary on Friday, and the Be An Angel fundraiser benefiting Legacy Counseling Center is on Saturday.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

EXCLUSIVE: Uptown Players’ Pride Performing Arts Festival line-up

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Freddy and Amy

For the third consecutive year, Uptown Players will put on a bonus series of plays to coincide with Dallas Gay Pride Week, including some returning favorites and several acclaimed off-Broadway shows.

Returning to the mainstage of the Kalita Humphreys Theater for the third annual Pride Performing Arts Festival will be Amy Armstrong and Freddy Allen, pictured above, two popular cabaret performers who were a draw at the first Pride Fest in 2011. They’ll open the series on Sept 5. The remaining shows will be performed at the upstairs Frank’s Place space. They are:

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

STAGE REVIEWS: ‘Re-Designing Women,’ ‘Penix,’ ‘Wicked,’ ‘Rx’

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Re-Designing Women. When Jamie Morris writes a spoof, he doesn’t hold back. Even before the actors come onstage for the first scene of Re-Designing Women, Morris’ send-up of the ’80s-era sitcom Designing Women, we’re treated to an “opening credits” video to remind us of the tone and characters. Of course, once the show begins (which is does at the Rose Room most Fridays and Saturdays for the next month-and-a-half), we simply revert, like muscle memory, to knowing who we’re seeing.

It’s the present day, and Sugarbakers Designs is going strong … well, not so strong. They’ve fallen on hard times. Finances are so bad, Suzanne (Ashton Shawver) has tricked the others into appearing on a Bravo reality show, Sugar Walls. They’re all mortified, until the show becomes a hit and Mary Jo (Chad Peterson) and Charlene (Michael B. Moore, whose vocal impersonation borders on the uncanny) become rivals while Bernice (Mikey Abrams) becomes the break-out star.

Morris, who also plays the stentorian Julia, has a knack for capturing the essence of a show while simultaneously updating it. Thus, there are tacky (but hilarious) jokes about “Sarah Palin’s half-wit baby” and the contemporary exacerbations that rankle Julia, including the cross-eyed Bravo producer Andy Cohen (Kevin Moore). (If you follow the ModernSeinfeld Twitter feed, you get the idea.) And while Morris never hesitates to push the line a bit too far (fart jokes!), this play — following Mommie Queerest, The Facts of Life: The Lost Episode and The Silence of the Clams — is probably his best writing: The characters are sharply drawn and even better performed. And when Morris recites one of Julia’s famous speeches from the TV days (her “Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” riff), fully half the folks in the Rose Room seemed to recite along. That’s called knowing your audience.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones