By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Make no mistake, there's a big Boo Boo in this year's Broadway Our Way, the upbeat annual musical comedy fundraiser put on by Uptown Players at Kalita Humphreys Theater. You'll recognize Honey Boo Boo, the reality TV starlet, played for Uptown by the drag-mazing comic actor B.J. Cleveland. Out (s)he toddles, in a plus-size frilly pink frock, pouting and tattling about gay old "Uncle Poodle." "Everybody's a little bit gay, but you're a whole LOT gay," says Cleveland as Honey, pointing down at the front row. Then Cleveland sings "Born to Entertain" from the musical Ruthless!, turning his Honey into Baby June on go-go juice.
The gayer the better at Uptown, the theater company dedicated to presenting shows by gay playwrights on gay themes for their loyal audience of patrons in the Oak Lawn neighborhood. Broadway Our Way always uses the cute gender-flipping gimmick of having men sing show tunes written for women and vice versa. This year that allows Morgan Mabry Mason to belt West Side Story's "Maria" and John Campione to wow the crowd with "Don't Rain on My Parade" from Funny Girl.
Lots of funny girls and guys crowd the stage for Broadway Our Way, directed by Cleveland and featuring 26 performers who have been or soon will be in musicals at Uptown. They're doing the Peter Allen bio-musical The Boy from Oz later this season (starring Alexander Ross in the title role), plus the new musical fairy tale Soho Cinders and a concert version of Sweeney Todd with the Turtle Creek Chorale.
The depth of local talent available for all these shows is evident in the current one. Broadway Our Way is a musical theater bonanza, with 31 numbers from past and current Broadway hits, including three songs from Kinky Boots (of course), male singers doing "My Boyfriend's Back" from Jersey Boys and women doing "My Girl" from Motown the Musical. Coy Covington glides in on sparkly stilettos to growl-sing the hooker's lament "Everybody's Girl" from Steel Pier. Chad Peterson and Kevin Moore do a super duet of "You've Got Possibilities" from It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman.
Choreographer Jeremy Dumont has them all tapping and twirling up and down the staircases on the revolving set. Musical directors Kevin Gunter and Jesse Fry get some hot licks out of their tight five-piece band tucked in stage right.
If you don't leave humming at least one of the songs (my pick is "Raise You Up" from Kinky Boots, which closes the show in high-heeled fashion), you just haven't had enough go-go juice.