The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC is back to live in-person performance! With ample sequins and a sprinkling of snow, the 80+ singers alongside a dozen dancers and 20+ member youth chorus wished attendees a Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, or cheery whatever from the Lincoln Theatre. While universal masking made clear that times aren’t yet normal, the joy of sharing space and community was still palpable. The mix of irreverent holiday bops, old standards, and secular melodies hit good balance, avoiding the cloying tendencies of too many holiday shows.
…celebrate togetherness and share joyous holiday cheer…it certainly succeeded.
Launching into the program with “SparkleJollyTwinkleJingley,” 17th Street Dance set the tone with energetic tap, choreographed by Danny Aldous, from dancers clad in tiny shorts, festive tights, and Santa beards to disguise masks, alongside a Christmas tree, revealed with a twirl to be performer Nick Chantiles in gorgeous, festive drag. Throughout the 75 minute set, the full company celebrated a variety of cultures and styles, including a gentle rendition of “The Chanukah Song (We Are Lights)” with the warm lights from dozens of (electric) candles and an upbeat bilingual “Te Deseo Feliz Navidad (We With You a Merry Christmas).” Capturing the diplomatic ambivalence of this holiday show towards any particular religious tradition, the penultimate number “Merry Everything” uplifts the abundance of celebrations the wintertime heralds.
In between full-company numbers, smaller ensembles showcased their talents. The GenOUT youth chorus, featuring LGBTQ+ and allied youth, earnestly performed “Mrs. Claus” early in the program before turning the stage over to the Rock Creek Singers, whose contemplative and soulful delivery of “Glow” stood out as perhaps the most beautiful number in the show. They brought the tempo back up with the irreverent parody, “The Shouldn’t Be Carols,” enthusiastically singing out “we wish you an appropriate holiday acknowledgement.” The Potomac Fever Ensemble provided an a capella interlude, including a toe-tapping rendition of “Frosty the Snowman.” Finally, the Season of Love Ensemble rounded out the night with a mash-up of “This is Christmas” and “I Listen to the Bells,” arranged by assistant conductor Joshua Sommerville.
Amid the soaring voices, 17th Street Dance brought levity and grace to the Lincoln Theatre. In a delightful contrast to the professional black suits with sequined stole accents of the chorus, the dancers often rocked glitzy and weather-incongruous clothing, including as leggy presents, shirtless snowflakes, and a rainbow-adorned Santa Claus in “Super Gay Christmas.” However, understated grey and white outfits centered attention on the contemporary choreography in “Cold Enough to Snow.” This slow ballad about love past, sung solo by Brian Tucker, showcased the artistry and stylist breadth of the troupe, choreographed by Craig Cipollini and James Ellzy. The finale number of the show, “12 Rockin’ Days of Christmas,” a remix of the classic carol, transfixed with a cheeky move for each day that grew steadily more impressive as the days came faster and faster.
A small four-piece band accompanied the chorus. Although a vital public health measure, masks are unquestionably a detriment to the sound quality of live singing. Despite muffled projection and enunciation, the singing was certainly good, but I expect in a world where the health and safety of the company and audience does not require such measures, the company would have delivered glorious excellence. Maybe next year!
The Gay Men’s Chorus of DC is “creating music that changes hearts and minds,” according artistic director and conductor Thea Kano. That lofty goal is beyond my expertise, but if a secondary goal of “The Holiday Show” was to celebrate togetherness and share joyous holiday cheer (whatever holiday that may be), it certainly succeeded. With the 2021 Holiday Show wrapped up, may we wish the chorus a happy new year and many more!
Running time: 75 minutes with no intermission.
The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington D.C. performed “The Holiday Show” December 4 – 12, 2021 at Lincoln Theatre, 1215 U St NW, Washington, DC 20009. Tickets to their 2022 performance, including “It’s a GAS” on February 13th and “Brand New Day” on March 12th, may be purchased online at a later date.