I had the pleasure to attend a cabaret concert this weekend by Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC entitled “Coulda Woulda Shoulda.” A handful of select performers from the chorus performed mostly solo selections about missed opportunities, regrets, and the occasional second chance. Prefacing each song with a personal anecdote, the singers invited us to join them in an intimate evening of music.
The event took place at the warmly atmospheric City Winery in Northeast DC. A dinner and dessert menu was available during the show as well as sommelier selections and some mostly local craft beers and cider. Valet parking is available at the venue and a parking garage is also nearby.
The first act was nicely balanced with a good mix of song styles to keep the audience’s attention and energy was high. Some standouts were Rob Hall in a heartwarmingly sincere and expressive version of “Til There Was You” (I especially enjoyed his dramatic ritard and falsetto at the end of the song) and Michael B. Smith’s self-deprecating encouragement to embrace old age in the very funny “No Time At All.”
Michael McGovern and James Trinidad shone with their interpretation of “Dancing on My Own/I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” They gave a powerful performance, drawing back to especially quiet dynamics at the end of the song which ramped up the wistful emotions of their opening monologue.
Pianist Jeff Hamlin dazzled throughout the evening; I greatly enjoyed the bouncy and cute energy on “No Time At All” (honestly the piano part is still in my head) and his collaboration with Rinaldo Martinez on “He Used to Be Mine” was perfection. I loved how Hamlin played up the dynamics towards the end to match Martinez’ outpouring of emotion which was equally moving. I felt that theirs was the best piano-voice interaction of the evening – not for lack of good playing or good singing throughout the night, but the two of them seemed to spur each other on to greatness in a true team effort.
Singer Garrick Jordan brought the house down in Act One with his hauntingly soulful rendition of “I’m Ready for Love.” Jordan, a classically trained opera singer, also boasts a Gospel music background as a former member of the Harlem Gospel Choir, evident in his impressive runs and vocal stylings. Jordan also took to the stage to close out the show with the powerhouse ballad “This is the Moment.” His authoritative mastery of his voice and his professional command of the stage made for a truly rousing finale.
But there was one person who stole the show tonight… and all I can say is that I hope some video cameras were trained on him because I want to watch his performance on repeat. (GMCW, this needs to be on YouTube.) American Sign Language interpreter Jamie Sycamore was ably translating songs all evening with what I’d say were normally expected ASL signs. And then we got to “Chandelier” (sung by James Trinidad) and O. M. G. It was like watching a lipsynch-for-your-life and then some. Sycamore literally signed and pantomimed swinging on the chandelier, all the while barely holding back his alcohol-induced vomit, then signed throwing back his drinks, falling deeper into despair and drunkenness… and finally blacking out at the end. On the chandelier. He was giving me life and unfortunately I don’t think most of the audience was watching him so seriously, video please. And put that translator front and center the next time he has something amazing like that up his sleeve because the whole audience needs to appreciate that genius level interpreting panache.
Despite all the good, there were a few things that could be tweaked to make the next cabaret even better. Act Two featured too many songs in similar musical styles (slow and jazzy) and the numbers started to sound alike. Not to mention that everyone had eaten dinner by that point and the post-food coma was probably setting in, so Act Two should pep people up with a variety of fast and slow songs to keep the audience better engaged.
Also, given that this was billed as a cabaret, I really would have liked to see some more “cabaret” like stylings from the singers: moving around the stage, laying on the piano, flirting with the audience, some choreography or at least dramatic hand gestures. The evening read a little bit more like a chamber music concert than a cabaret with the notable exception of Rinaldo Martinez, Michael McGovern, and Erich Sommerfeldt’s performance in teeny tiny costumes and raunchy choreography of the aptly named “You Gotta Get a Gimmick.” I’m not saying every song needs a gimmick, but some more Roxie Hart type bravado would be great in more of the numbers.
The fall cabaret of “Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda” was a one-night performance, so I highly recommend that you check out the upcoming performances of Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC including the Small Ensembles Extravaganza in October and The Holiday Show in December.
Running Time: Approximately one and a half hours, with one intermission.
“Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda” by Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC has ended its run. For more information on upcoming performances, click here. For more information on City Winery including their upcoming musical performances, click here.