UPDATE: Funeral set for B.J. Cleveland’s dad

The memorial service for the father of B.J. Cleveland — who died just hours before B.J. went on stage in Victor/Victoria for an ailing Paul Taylor — has been set for 11 a.m. on Wednesday at the Glenview Baptist Church at 4805 N.E. Loop 820 in the Haltom City area. Interment will follow at the Greenwood Cemetery. For those wishing to sit with the family, visitation will take place Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m. and the Greenwood Funeral Home at 3100 White Settlement Road in Fort Worth.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

B.J. Cleveland: Tragedy to triumph in 24 hours

If you ever wondered whether the theatrical cliche “the show must go on!” was anything more than that — a cliche — you’d know for sure it isn’t if you were at the Kalita Humphreys on Sunday. Our friends at TheaterJones post this amazing story about B.J. Cleveland stepping in for an injured actor in Uptown Players’ production of Victor/Victoria (which I reviewed in this week’s edition). You can also read about it from Elaine Liner at the Dallas Observer blog. Facebook was flooded with comments and admiration for Cleveland, one of North Texas’ most notable and popular entertainers for more than 20 years.

I texted B.J. Sunday night to offer my condolences and congratulate him on his triumph just a few hours after his curtain call. He was in the middle of writing his father’s obituary.

That’s one dedicated theater queen, I’ll tell ya.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Clouseau, but no cigar

stage-1
LA CAGE AUX FOOLS A mobster (G. Shane Peterman, above) rejects his girlfriend (Whitney Hennen, below) because of his feelings for ‘Victor’ (Ashley Puckett Gonzales, below right) in the cross-dressing musical. (Photos courtesy Mike Morgan)

There’s pink but no panther in Blake Edwards’ drag musical ‘Victor/Victoria’

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

I have to confess: I am not fully convinced Wendy Williams is really a woman. The first time I saw a promo for her talk show, I assumed it was on Bravo or Logo, and meant as a joke — an African-American Dame Edna.

That kind of gender confusion is at the heart of Victor/Victoria, the 1982 Blake Edwards movie later adapted into a 1995 stage musical about a Jazz Age British singer who becomes a Paris sensation only because everyone thinks she’s a he.

stage-2It’s really nothing much different than My Fair Lady, where a Svengali-esque linguist crafts a guttersnipe into a lady, passing her off to society as something she isn’t. (Interestingly, both originally starred Julie Andrews.) Here, boozy gay lounge singer Toddy (Paul Taylor) takes wannabe cabaret act Victoria (Ashley Puckett Gonzales), creates a back-story for her as Victor, Poland’s greatest female impersonator, and wows everyone astonished that a man is so convincingly feminine. Along the way, there are questions of mistaken identity as American mobster King Marchand (G. Shane Peterman) finds himself uncomfortably attracted to “Victor.”

In many ways, it’s a cutting-edge comedy of contemporary mores, with the film well ahead of its time, dealing with gender-bending in a surprisingly tolerant and off-handed (if slapstick-heavy) manner. In the post-Queer Eye, post-Drag Race era, it’s perhaps less edgy, but there’s some poignancy about acceptance underneath all the French farce door-slamming and bed-hopping.

Which is not to say the script is well written. I doubt you’ll find many people who will defend its structure. It’s messy, with few good buttons to end scenes, some parts that drag (not the good kind of drag) and a few puzzlingly-placed moments best abandoned altogether.

In Uptown Players’ production currently at the Kalita Humphreys, some — not all — of those weaknesses are less obvious. The score, a pastiche of 1930s-style jazz with Broadway flash layered on top, has few memorable hits (the best, “Le Jazz Hot,” was composed for the movie 30 years ago), but the band plays and the cast sings it all well, all on a fabulous and mobile set that makes great uses of the Kalita’s space.

What it doesn’t do especially well is conjure up both the glamour of Old Paris and the camp extravagance of the drag world. It would be hard to over-play the flamboyance of a Parisian nightclub in interbellum, but this one does. The “Victor-as-drag-queen” scenes don’t fully work because Victoria doesn’t look like a drag queen. She may be meant to be convincingly female, but RuPaul accomplishes that with glamazon femininity that still leaves you asking, “Could she be…?” Gonzales, in ill-fitting costumes and too-tasteful makeup, has no panache as Victor. Androgyny is one thing, but Victor needs dazzle to make King’s obsession with her seem authentic.

She could learn a move or five from Whitney Hennen, who steals the show as King’s ditzy platinum blonde moll Norma. Bubbly and empty-headed as Lina Lamont, she turns eating a piece of chocolate from throw-away stage business into comic art, all with an excess that rises to the level of farce Edwards established in his Pink Panther movies. (The best scene, in fact, may be the dance of characters sneaking in and out of the bedrooms, which director Cheryl Denson choreographs beautifully.)

In the wake of Dallas Theater Center’s recent awesome production of Cabaret — and Uptown’s own high-bar-setting Next to Normal — Victor/Victoria seems incidental, though considered on its own, there’s much to enjoy, especially as a respite from the August heat. Here life is a cabargay, old chum. Come to the cabargay.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Uptown Players’ ‘Victor/Victoria’ opens tonight

Lady looks like a dude

What is poor Victoria thinking? Dressing up as a man who performs as a female entertainer? Clearly a struggling artist will do anything to get by. Uptown Players presents the musical Victor/Victoria where Victoria becomes the toast of Paris as Victor but now has to deal with the mobster who is getting a little too attached.

DEETS: Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd. 8 p.m. $30–$40. UptownPlayers.org.

—  Rich Lopez

Best bets • 07.29.11

Friday 07.29

Lady looks like a dude
What is poor Victoria thinking? Dressing up as a man who performs as a female entertainer? Clearly a struggling artist will do anything to get by. Uptown Players presents the musical Victor/Victoria where Victoria becomes the toast of Paris as Victor but now has to deal with the mobster who is getting a little too attached.

DEETS: Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd. 8 p.m. $30–$40. UptownPlayers.org.

………………..

Saturday 07.30

Being all he can be
Justin Elzie may be a happy man right now. As “don’t ask, don’t tell” comes to an end, his work wasn’t in vain. Named Marine of the Year in ‘93, he was discharged for coming out on national TV. He sued, won and has been advocating for LGBT rights in the military. He comes to Dallas to discuss his work in fighting for DADT’s repeal.

DEETS:     Resource Center Dallas, 2701 Reagan 2 p.m. RCDallas.org.

………………..

Thursday 08.04

Just a hot mess
Do we love Ke$ha because she’s the sloppy mess we wish we could be? It’s a brilliant act to come off as a drunken slacker and a blonde bombshell. See how she does it this week on her Get Sleazy Tour with LMFAO and Spank Rock.

DEETS:     Gexa Energy Pavilion, 1818 First Ave. 7:30 p.m. $30–$65. Ticketmaster.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 29, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Uptown Players announces its 2011 season

On Tuesday night, Uptown Players hosted a nice turnout at the Kalita Humphreys Theater where they announced the roster for their 2011 season. They held off on announcing one production due to contractual reasons, but if it fits in with the rest, it should make quite a season — especially for the LGBT community. Joining Players producers Jeff Rane and Craig Lynch onstage was the cast of the upcoming show Closer to Heaven, the Pet Shop Boys musical which opens Oct. 1.

• Uptown Players will start the season with Thank You For Being a Friend, The Musical, a Golden Girls parody by Nick Brennan. Expect camp overdrive as the “women” aren’t too thrilled about a certain gay celebrity moving in next door. Who knew Lance Bass could be such a problem? The show runs Feb. 4–27 at the Rose Room inside Station 4.

• As part of the upcoming Foote Festival celebrating playwright Horton Foote, Uptown Players joins in with the regional premiere of his Pulitzer prize winning play, Young Man from Atlanta. The show runs April 1–17 at the Kalita.

• UP brings back Broadway Our Way in which local actors switch-hit showtunes. Men sing the women’s parts, vice versa and it’s a gay ol’ time. BOW runs May 6–15.

• The Twilight Zone theme played when they didn‘t announce their next show, which will run June 10–July 2. We know it’s a musical at least, but the official announcement will be made Feb.1.

• Victor/Victoria, the musical based on the Julie Andrews/James Garner 1982 film, will run July 29–Aug. 2.

• Personally, I thought their announcement of the Dallas Pride Performing Arts Festival was the most exciting. The fest will feature cabaret sets, performances and plays with the musical Crazy, Just Like Me by Louis Sacco and Drew Gasparini as the centerpiece. The fest coincides with Dallas Pride and runs Sep. 9–17. The full schedule will also be announced Feb. 1.

• Finishing off the season will be The Temperamentals, a new play by Jon Marans which opened this year off-Broadway. The site notes that the play “‘tells the story of two men – the communist Harry Hay and the Viennese refugee and designer Rudi Gernreich — as they fall in love while building the first gay rights organization in the pre-Stonewall United States.”

—  Rich Lopez