Cody Ray Strimple’s first love is country music.
“It’s in my blood,” says the openly gay performer, who is thrilled to be singing in a “country cabaret” in Midtown on September 16.
“I am singing a solo, ‘More than a Memory’ by Garth Brooks, which is hands-down my favorite ballad by him. So I am extremely excited,” says Strimple. The song was the first number-one single from Brooks’ 2007 album The Ultimate Hits.
Strimple also will harmonize with three fellow singers—Seth Daniel Cunningham, Shannon Nichols, and Amanda Parker—on Little Big Town’s breakout hit, “Boondocks.” The cabaret will be presented by Pitch Me This (PMT) Productions at Charlie’s Big Top Lounge.
“It’s your soon-to-be favorite dive bar,” says PMT’s founding artistic director, Eduardo Guzman. Many of PMT’s performers hail from little big towns in the bay area southeast of Houston. The company, which presents local singers, dancers, and musicians in a variety of formats, begins its fall season at 7 p.m. September 7 and 8 with their “PMT Is Fringe” concert event at the Midtown Arts and Theater Center (MATCH).
“We are Houston artists. We want to tell Houston stories,” Guzman says.
Strimple has stirred cocktails at South Beach, Tony’s Corner Pocket, and Crocker Bar, and has competed twice for Pride SuperStar, including a duet with Ashley Hennessy.
His next gig for PMT will be in October as the hair/wig/makeup designer for a children’s musical-theater camp in Friendswood, and as the assistant stage manager for a show the kids will perform called Barnyard Follies. It was written by Sam Carner, a musical-theater lyricist in New York City; Strimple was a featured soloist in Carner’s traveling show Bigger in Texas at Music Box Theater.
Strimple, 27, plans to join Carner in the Big Apple after about five more years honing his craft as a singer and cosmetologist in Houston. Broadway might seem like a long hike from Deer Park where Strimple grew up, but he began performing with the highly regarded Jr. Art Park Players when he was just 11. “The more I did theater, the more I noticed I had a knack for hair design and makeup,” he says. “It’s been really cool to get to work on shows that highlight both of my passions. There really is a way to make it happen. Anything is doable.”
Strimple recently performed double duty for Art Park Players on a production of The Wedding Singer, a musical based on the popular 1998 “date movie” that starred Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore.
Onstage, Strimple played the title role’s flamboyant gay sidekick, George, who dresses like Boy George and sings in falsetto (and in Hebrew) at a bar mitzvah. “George was very quirky and off the wall, so I got to wear colorful stuff like neon-striped Beyoncé braids. A running joke was that our bandmate, Sammy, had no idea George is gay.” In contrast, when Strimple came out tentatively to a friend at age 13, “She was like, ‘No shit,’” he laughs.
Behind the scenes of The Wedding Singer, Strimple designed goofy wigs for the show’s slate of amateur celebrity impersonators. “I got the idea from how in the show they’re always addressed as ‘Fake Tina Turner’ or ‘Fake Cyndi Lauper,’ etc.,” he explains. “I wanted to play off of how they clearly weren’t convincing as celebrity impersonators. I had way too much fun hunting down these awful wigs.” The impersonators also attempt knockoffs of Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Billy Idol, Mr. T, and Imelda Marcos, whose $10 up-do was “like combing through Christmas tinsel.”
In Houston, Strimple has appeared in the ensemble of American Idiot for Standing Room Only Productions. Closer to home in Deer Park, he has played Ren in Footloose, Tommy Ross in Carrie the Musical, and has had featured spots in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, The Producers (with Christina Wells), The Great American Trailer Park Musical, and The Addams Family Musical.
What: PMT Pop Up: Country Cabaret
When: 8 p.m. on September 16
Where: Charlie’s Big Top Lounge, 3714 South Main St.
“Pay what you can” tickets are available for purchase at PitchMeThis.com.
This article appears in the September 2018 edition of OutSmart magazine.