Dallas — Blake McIver was born into a show business family, with a mother who had been a dancer on The Dean Martin Show and on USO tours with Bob Hope in Vietnam, and a father who was a movie studio executive. So it’s no surprise that he entered the business at young age: He was a winner on Star Search, which led to the role of Derek from 1993 to 19995 on Full House. He also had guest roles on The Nanny and Home Improvement, and played Waldo in the 1994 movie The Little Rascals.
Stage came at age 11 when he played The Little Boy in the U.S. premiere of Ragtime in LA, before it went to Broadway. He’s currently making his Dallas—and drag—debut as Adam/Felicia in Uptown Players’ extravagant production of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (based on the fantastic 1994 Australian film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert). The show opened Friday.
Tonight, Sunday, July 15, he’ll give a performance of his cabaret Blake Sings Barbra, in which he recreates Barbra Streisand’s 1994 “comeback concert” — with several songs cut. It happens at the Kalita Humphreys Theate.
TheaterJones asked him a few questions about his career, singing Barbra, and performing in Priscilla.
TheaterJones: Your parents were in show business. Did they encourage you to go another route?
Blake McIver: They were the opposite of stage parents, because they had had careers there. They were never pushing me into show business; my mom would not even be visible on the sets when I was a kid. She wasn’t the scary helicopter mom.
How did you break in to the biz?
My mom [who is from Houston] noticed that I wanted to perform; I was pushing for it from when I was a teeny kid. She knew Patsy Swayze [Patrick’s mom] who had a dance studio in Houston [Patsy taught such dancers as Debbie Allen and Tommy Tune], and so [my mom] sent me to a dance studio in LA. One of the judges was from Star Search, and convinced me to audition. I got on the show as a vocalist, won three times and went to finals.
Were you a fan of Full House when you got that job?
I was literally watching them the week before and then a week later I’m at a table read with them. It was their sixth season so they were famous by then.
When did your focus shift from singing to acting on stage?
I never stopped singing and always kept studying voice. I was [The Little Boy] the U.S. premiere of Ragtime when I was 11, and that changed the game for me when it came to the theater. I was thrown into a world that I didn’t know that well. I loved it. That whole creative team was incredible, with Terrence McNally, Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty.
How did you find Uptown Players and this production?
When they were casting, they asked Del Shores, who is a friend. I have heard great things about Uptown from friends in L.A., Emerson Collins [with whom McIver starred on Bravo’s The People’s Couch] and Stacey Oristano.
You were a kid when the movie The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert came out. Did you see it?
I saw it a few years after it after it came out; I was a teenager. I was not out. I remember thinking what they doing is dangerous, but didn’t know why. RuPaul said drag is activism as art. I was fascinated. You know you identify with these characters but you don’t know why.
When did you discover Barbra Streisand?
I saw the comeback concert [Barbra: The Concert] on HBO in 1994. That was my second season on Full House and I had started filming The Little Rascals. That was also the year of the Northridge earthquake; my parents lived there and their house was demolished.
Why did you want to sing the Barbra concert?
I kept saying that I’m just going to write this and see what comes of this. I started adapting her patter and putting my stories into the material. I did a few times in LA for friends and family to see where it would go. We did three runs in New York last year. This is the third city for me to perform it.
Do you try to sing like her, or as close as possible?
It’s just me doing the songs. I would never try to impersonate her. She is untouchable. The inspiration was Rufus Wainwright’s Judy Garland concert [Rufus Does Judy at Carnegie Hall].
Have you done drag before this production of Priscilla?
This is my first time doing drag. We have seven different pairs of [shoes], platforms, heels, giant disc shoes. I’ve had to learn how to dance in them.
Have attitudes about drag changed in general, considering the popularity of RuPaul’s Drage Race and musicals like Priscilla and Kinky Boots?
I think so. Now is such an important time for a show like this, maybe even more than when it was on Broadway, because it seems like we’re going in reverse in some ways. Priscilla is important and moving, and it’s fun at the same time. The other night in rehearsal, when we were singing [Cyndi Lauper’s] True Colors, we all were moved about saying those words in this environment.