Dallas — Broadway Our Way, the annual Uptown Players fundraiser, excels at the format of gender-swapped showtunes, making for a fun theatrical outing. This marks the event’s first year at Moody Performance Hall, and the new venue and larger audiences bring new energy to an already enthusiastic cast.
This year’s show, written and directed by B.J. Cleveland and Jeremy Dumont (also the choreographer), opens with the entire cast singing “On Broadway” from Smokey Joe’s Café. It then moves into a delightful riff with the ladies referred to as “The Diva Women” performing a few songs as tourists to New York City, ending with “Tom, Dick, or Harry” from Kiss Me, Kate. The lyrics for this song are humorously tongue-in-cheek, and the guys show one of the tourist gals that when you ask for a man in New York City, you might need to be a bit more specific.
Next, Coy Covington sings an homage to simple, down-home girls in “Ordinary Woman” from Pippin. The contrast of the lyrics to the glamor leads to big-time laughter. Throughout the night we are treated to the humor of our host Paul J. Williams and his alter ego Sister Helen Holy; her appearance as a real estate agent from Seagoville and her Q&A with the audience is riotous.
A highlight before the end of the first act is Walter Lee’s rousing rendition of the empowerment anthem “I’m Here” from The Color Purple, which brought many audience members to their feet on Friday. The last number for the first act is “World Outside these Walls” from The View Upstairs, which is coming later this season from Uptown Players.
During the extended intermission, patrons are invited to participate in silent auctions and raffles for some great prizes to support Uptown.
The second act starts with a series of songs in which “The Diva Women” take on the current world of politics as Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton and others. No need to spoil the jokes, but I will say that the special clap that Speaker Pelosi makes is used to funny effect. The divas’ “Run and Tell That” (Hairspray) is even funnier.
Uptown Players highlights two performers who have appeared in shows at Uptown Players and have gone on to have big success on Broadway and in the West End: Cedric Neal and Anthony Fortino. Both sing beautifully in group numbers and have standout solos. Neal—who recently made it to the semifinals on The Voice UK—performs an understated and nuanced “I Miss the Mountains” from Next to Normal, which captures the emotions and struggles in the song (Neal will not appear at the Sunday matinee). Fortino performs the Judy Garland classic “The Man that Got Away” and it is simple, lovely and touching.
Peter DiCesare sings the 11 o’clock number from Ragtime, “Back to Before,” with the grace and power that the song deserves.
The orchestra, led by Music Director Kevin Gunter, sounds polished while the acoustics of Moody work perfectly for this show. The musical arrangements and song mashups by Adam C. Wright bring variety and flair.
It is hard to hold together a night of so many different songs and styles, but themes of empowerment and acceptance run through the show. It’s a bit of an embarrassment of riches and the show runs longer than I expected—and I didn’t even mention some of the other highlights. That said, the show never lags and was thoroughly entertaining.
Here’s hoping that BOW returns to the Moody next year.