Uptown Players celebrates 20 years of ‘Broadway Our Way’ with cruise-themed fundraising show

RICH LOPEZ | Staff writer

Sara Shelby-Martin, Emily Truelove and Linda Leonard in Broadway Our Way (Photo by Mike Morgan)

Thursday night kicked off Uptown Players annual fundraising revue Broadway Our Way, a night of show tunes performed by a cast of local actors familiar to Uptown audiences that always makes for a funny and twisted night of revelry.

But for director, writer and cast member BJ Cleveland, BOW, now in its 20th year, is far more than a just another fundraiser.

“It’s a unique fundraiser, first of all. But really, it’s a love letter to Uptown Players,” Cleveland said by phone. “We have all this donated talent and time here to support Uptown. I also feel like it’s this gift to the community as well.”

Cleveland has been involved with Uptown since its very first show and has been in all the BOW’s save for “maybe two of them.” He goes on about the special quality that separates BOW from other fundraising efforts.

“We don’t have a gala or a seven-course meal here. And we get to have it at Uptown’s home-base at the Kalita,” he said. “I call it an all-star talent show with this top tier musical theater talent.”

Along with Cleveland, this year’s cast features Mikey Abrams, Tim Brawner, Coy Covington, Peter DiCesare, Jeremy Dumont, Presley Duyck, Stephanie Felton, Micah Green, Jason Hallman, Isaiah Harris, Brian Hathaway, Jacob Hemsath, Elizabeth Kensek, Linda Leonard, Laura Lites, David Lugo, Sara Shelby-Martin, Seth Paden, Amy Stevenson, Kylie Stewart, Gerald Taylor II, Trey Tolleson, Lee Walter, Brett Warner and Paul J. Williams.

With such a talented cast assembled and willing to show off its talents, Cleveland and the rest of the creative team have the task of putting the show together. The show is choreographed by Jeremy Dumont, with music direction by Kevin Gunter and Vonda K Bowling and musical arrangements by Adam C. Wright.

“As a production team, we sit down for about three hours, going over every person and our suggestions of songs. We always have a good mix of up-tempos and ballads. Then we usually work with a menu that’s, say, so many solos, group songs and quartets.

“When we’re done, they shove all those ideas to me,” Cleveland explained.

Normally the show has a loose theme. But this year, Cleveland said, he kept a continuous theme throughout the whole show.

“This is the first year that we’ve kept a theme, so this is more of a show with a streamlined plot,” he said. “We’re all on a cruise ship, and, while there aren’t major plot lines, the songs make sense as these stories unfold.”

Cleveland will serve as the show’s cruise director.

“I am your Julie from The Love Boat,” he said.

Broadway Our Way will also have a gallery of raffle items, including theater tickets, restaurant gift certificates, vacation stays, artwork, jewelry and more. But most appropriate for this year’s theme is the raffle grand prize: a four-night cruise on Celebrity Cruises out of Miami, courtesy of Dream Vacations and Celebrity Cruises.

For tickets, visit UptownPlayers.org.