It is with pride and admiration that I say, “Welcome back, GMCW!” This year’s ‘The Holiday Show’ is an exemplary display of the top-notch skill and artistry that the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC is capable of – which they had let slide in last year’s basically basic annual show.
It is evident that the chorus has worked hard to not only regroup but to push themselves harder than ever before with this year’s tightly packaged and crisply executed Holiday Show…
But what a way to rebound! It is evident that the chorus has worked hard to not only regroup but to push themselves harder than ever before with this year’s tightly packaged and crisply executed Holiday Show, and the ongoing raucous cheers from the audience after many numbers were evidence of the success of their efforts.
Truly, I am so proud of the chorus for this dazzling concert. This is what I knew that you all were capable of and it was a joy and delight to be in the audience on Opening Night, December 7, 2019. The first and best detail that I noticed was how cohesive the concert was. From beginning to end, each number flowed into the next and complemented one another in musical styles. Rather than a jumble of random musical styles and selections, the chorus clearly approached this year’s concert as a team effort, with every smaller ensemble’s pieces fitting into the larger whole of the overall experience.
Rather than an emotional or narrative theme this year, the overall theme was musical, and honestly, it was lovely to see the chorus go back to their roots as phenomenal musicians. A swingy Ella Fitzgerald-Esque musicality was pervasive in each number and linked the show together, from the slower numbers to the more upbeat ones to the downright campy.
Although the interspersing of personal narratives has worked well for the choir in the past, as well as past crowd pleaser “Favorite One,” I wholeheartedly applaud the cutting of these two features in favor of shaking out of the rut. This year’s show was crisply unexpected and all the more powerful for not relying on past tropes.
We were treated to full chorus choreography (some of it quite difficult) which raised both the overall quality of the show and the audience’s outrageous enthusiasm throughout the night. The 17th Street Dancers also gave us some of their most challenging choreography yet, but so precisely and expertly performed that I was left once again ranking their numbers as my most favorite of the night.
But in this concert, the choir’s backup to the dance numbers was equally as fantastic and left me feeling like I had truly watched a high caliber team performance rather than fabulous dancing with background vocals. Both the Filipino traditional song and dance “Ang Pasko Ay Sumani” in Act One and the final number “12 Days of Christmas” that closed the show were beyond magnificent.
The GenOUT Chorus, made up of LGBTQ teens and allies and directed by C. Paul Heins, gave a wonderful performance in Act One with exquisitely pronounced vowels, clear diction, and beautiful tone. Don’t be afraid to project more! I know I’m getting old, because I actually teared up this year to see them on stage, thinking back to my high school days when a teen in the community could rarely find the safety to be out in high school – and here they all are, singing together in GenOUT at Lincoln Theatre, looking so confident in their identities, and being so warmly affirmed by the audience. I know their futures will be bright.
“The Holiday Show” even kicked the overall costumes up this year, with the chorus performing nimble changes in-between numbers with the lights dimmed. Is more glitter always better? Um, yes. But even more so when it’s used as thoughtful accents to specific numbers, as it was tonight, instead of as a random glitter bomb of decorative sparkle without meaning. Bravo!
Also, a shoutout to soloist Raymond Bradley Rinaldo, who not only gave us a gorgeously lyrical solo of traditional Jewish Blessing on “Hanukkah Rhapsody” – but also wore a blue scarf to represent his Jewish identity in the following number with small ensemble Seasons of Love instead of the green and red scarves that the rest of the ensemble wore for their song “This Christmas.” Hearts from your part-Jewish sister and kudos to the ensemble for celebrating the diversity of your membership! It was so meaningful to see the multi-faith representation on stage.
I adored the concept, dancing, costumes, and music in the song “Dear Santa,” performed by the whole chorus and 17th Street Dance. I refuse to spoil what song it parodies, but you won’t be disappointed. The vocals of the four soloists, Brian Duckworth, Gabriel Lopez, Jordan Peyer, and Ryan Williams were perfectly on point – but I would love to see you all bring about 200% more swag to the stage. Own it, gentlemen! You were great but just slightly hesitant, so don’t hold back.
The absolute show-stopper soloist of the night, despite only having about two lines to sing, was without a doubt Santa Claus, voiced by bass Jonathan Jones in Potomac Fever’s number “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” He was hilarious and so perfect in his role.
One small technical issue was that the sound was very muddy and both the choir and soloists were almost unintelligible during the few numbers that had soloists using individual lapel mics. Perhaps there is a way that the sound crew can resolve this issue before the next show. On all the other numbers, the sound was perfectly clear.
Every number in the show was uniquely brilliant but linked to the overall artistry of the evening, and I cannot recommend highly enough “The Holiday Show” by Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC with artistic director Thea Kano. Only three performances remain – don’t miss your chance to see one of this year’s best holiday concerts!
Running Time: Approximately two hours, with one intermission.
“The Holiday Show” at Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC plays through December 15, 2019, at Lincoln Theatre. For more information, click here.