The time-worn cliché, "the show must go on," was played out in the Kalita Humphreys Theater Sunday afternoon with a poignant mix of comedy and tragedy.
Fort Worth actor B.J. Cleveland, summoned on short notice to substitute for an injured lead actor in Uptown Players’ production of Victor/Victoria, gave a bravo-worthy performance only hours after learning that his father had died.
Uptown’s production team learned Saturday that Paul Taylor had suffered a back injury and could not go on as Toddy, who coaches the female title character in how to pose as a man posing as a woman in order to stage a female impersonator act.
"Paul phoned us around 2 p.m. Saturday and said his back was hurt and he couldn’t get out of bed," said co-producer Craig Lynch. "We cancelled that evening’s performance. B.J. was called in and he rehearsed that night with Cheryl Denson, our director. B.J. was the first person who came to mind."
Cleveland’s 11th hour performance was little short of miraculous. He used the script, in a lose-leaf binder, as a prop, occasionally pointing to it and shrugging at the audience, and at one point carrying a cocktail on it as if it were a tray.
When one character mumbled a sentence, title rolist Ashley P. Gonzales inquired of Cleveland: "What did she say?"
"I don’t know," he replied, deadpan. "It’s not in my script."
Cleveland’s accomplishment came as no shock to anyone who has worked with him.
"I’m not surprised,’’ said cast member Mark Oristano. "That’s B.J. But I’ll say this: I know of no other actor in town who could do that at the last minute."
This is not Cleveland’s first 11th hour rodeo.
"A few years ago I was attending a play at Casa Mañana, and before the show I went backstage to say hello. I wound up playing a girl with a harp when the actress didn’t show up.’’
The next performance of Victor/Victoria is Friday evening, Aug. 12.
"Our hope is that Paul will be well and can come back,’’ said Denson. "We can reblock some of the scenes if he needs to favor his back. But it’s good to know that B.J. is there. He’s a consummate actor.’’
Cleveland was helping paint a set at Glenview Baptist Church in Fort Worth when he got the SOS from Uptown. He is directing a production for the church’s Stage Right Theater.
Funeral services for his father, Bob Cleveland, will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Glenview, 4805 NE Loop 820, at Haltom Road, Fort Worth. Visitation will be 6-8 p.m. Tuesday at Greenwood Funeral Home, 3100 White Settlement Road, Fort Worth.