Every year Uptown Players holds: Broadway Our Way, a fundraiser and musical revue, featuring songs performed by women, but originally intended for men, and songs written for women, sung by men. Apparently, what with males and females having different timbres and registers and such, those cunning composers bore that in mind, when forging those memorable ditties. Who knew? For a couple of weeks, those industrious folks down at Uptown (both company and guests) have been feverishly rehearsing their hearts out, just to fashion a funny, whimsical, provocative, poignant evening of entertainment, rife with blue gags and queer culture coded references and just plain silly, giddy pleasure. And Divas Raise the Roof is a grand, enjoyable show.
Beginning with a number borrowed from the Tonys, the entire cast sang “Not just for Gays Anymore” (or whatever it’s called) a wink at the intersection between theatre and gay and pop culture (“no sodomy required”) then segued into The Wild Party’s “Raise the Roof.” Highlights thereafter included an odyssey taken by a young, green Mitt Romney, that culminates with his first visit to a gay bar (where denizens school him in torrid manlove) a raucous and bawdy all-female send-up of “Gee, Officer Krupke” and a deliciously twisted cover of “Sisters” delivered by Coy Covington (Joan Crawford) and director B.J. Cleveland (Bette Davis) in Whatever happened to Baby Jane? drag. Of course, there were somber moments and torch songs, Paul J. Williams singing “Hello Young Lovers” from The King and I, and Denise Lee, who sang “Going it Alone” in tribute to the late Jeff Kinman. Jeff Kinman was among the most brilliant craftsmen of the Dallas, Fort Worth theatre community, and far beyond. He was dedicated, meticulous, vibrant, invested and asked this of his many students and proteges'. He was warm, genuine and passionate, and impossible not to love.
I am no social scientist or cultural scholar, but I often quote the passage from Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song Trilogy, in which the hero responds to his mother, when she complains about his obsession with advancing LGBT ideology. He explains the profound loneliness that comes from being submerged in a society where the assumption is that all men want women, all women live for men, etc…There are dozens of tacit ways we are all conscripted to participate in gender messages without even realizing we are participating, from the moment we need to know a baby’s sex. After that, it’s all deeply embedded, sometimes nuanced, indoctrination. I have such great admiration for Uptown Players, who strive to build bridges between cultures and enhance the public’s knowledge of a more vast, complicated world.
But beyond that, Broadway Our Way has become a celebration of queer life : romance, longing, lust, exuberance, pop culture, drag humor, caricature, and self-parody. It’s impossible to calculate the power, synergy and radiance of the simple act of showing two men or two women kissing, in that gloriously reckless way that lovers connect. We’re more that ten years into the 21st century, but as long as people continue to denigrate, diminish, torture and murder one another, this kind of theatre is still an act of courage and anarchy. And on top of all that, they create stirring, magical, life-changing shows. God bless you, Jeff Rane, Craig Lynch and Uptown Players.
Uptown Players present : Broadway Our Way: Divas Raise the Roof, playing January 18th-27th, 2013, at the Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Boulevard, Dallas, Texas 75219. 214-219-2718. www.uptownplayers.org