Director B.J. Cleveland goes from kids to kink with trashy parody
ARNOLD WAYNE JONES | Life+Style Editor
B.J. Cleveland is gay, and in the theater, so spending every waking hour at Station 4 for the past week shouldn’t seem out of the ordinary. Only he’s having a different kind of fun from what you might expect.
“Very, very odd to be in a bar that’s deserted — it’s like being a kid in a candy store with no money,” he says with a wink. “It’s an empty bar but fully stocked, and you can’t touch a thing.”
By night for the past three weeks, Cleveland has met his cast and crew in the off-hours of the Rose Room, readying the latest camp spectacle from Uptown Players, Thank You for Being a Friend. Like the company’s two past shows in the same space — The Facts of Life: The Lost Episode and Mommie Queerest — it’s a parody of a gay fave, performed by men in drag: The Golden Girls.
Because it’s an unofficial send-up of the classic sitcom, the names have been tweaked: Rose becomes Roz, Sophia becomes Sophie, etc. But, Cleveland insists, you’ll recognize all the characters and set-ups from the series.
“It takes place in the kitchen just like on the show, until the end where it moves to Shady Pines retirement center where the girls compete against Lance Bass to win a talent contest,” Cleveland says. “It’s basically a goofy 90-minute episode: Lance Bass has moved in next door and is having wild gay orgies. The girls take him a basket of dusty muffins to convince him to keep the noise down,” but things escalate.
You won’t just recognize the Golden moments, either — this is a musical, with some original songs and alterations of Broadway standards: There’s some Dreamgirls, Chicago, Gypsy and 9 to 5 thrown in for good measure — even a spoof of Madonna’s “Vogue” video. And all played by men in dresses.
Cleveland almost didn’t do the show. He was asked by producers Jeff Rane and Craig Lynch to read the original script and offer his insights.
“It was a lot raunchier,” he says. “It went just a little too far over the line, and some stuff that really would not work,” especially in a space where TABC has strict rules about what can happen in the presence of alcohol. But a few rewrites later, Cleveland had signed on.
It’s a far cry from his current day job. In addition to his teaching gig, Cleveland is huffing and puffing his way through a Three Little Pigs play at the Dallas Children’s Theater; when he’s done there, he high-tails it to Cedar Springs and the nastiest old ladies this side of Wasilla.
“It’s a chance to blow off steam and be show-trash,” he says. “It’s like uncorking the cheap champagne at night after the children have gone to bed. This is definitely a have-a-cocktail, come-see-a-show-in-a-different-environment theater. The show doesn’t end when the curtain comes down. You’re still at a bar.”
And maybe when the show opens, he’ll get that drink after all.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 11, 2011.