Artistic Director Stephen Edwards used "Journeys" as his unifying theme for this year's concerts. Last March the group took us on adventures around the world. For this, the Spring Pride show, the travel was close to home, as a way of demonstrating the beauty and strength of the contributions gay people have made all over America.
In its new venue, the Auditorium at Senn High School, the Chorus had a larger stage, with more room on the risers, leading to a more relaxed performance, and more room for their unique brand of comic mayhem.
The first act was more subdued, with songs that were like wistful reflections on our life's destinations as gay people, the possibilities still before us, and the meaning of home. Act two was raucous and unbridled, a true road-trip, complete with sing-alongs, a touch of good-natured drag, Broadway satire, sailors and Texas Aggies, Muppets and Madames, freaks and a cheerful declaration of Pride.
The show distilled the hope that is the essence of every Road Trip, and in this case, the very special hope for lives of extraordinary journeys.
"You can take the color out of Colorado,
You can take the Mary out of Maryland...
As John Philip Sousa said
I can't march if I can't hear
The Boys in the Band..."
The sweet voices of the Aria Women's chourus kicked things off with their characteristic wordless vocal arrangement from the Republic of Georgia, "Satamasho", a song which children might sing while playing. A gentle plea from France followed, "Vois sur ton chemin"calling for us to take the hands of lost and forgotten children, to lead them to other tomorrows. Next, a lovely, quiet version of "Rhythm of Life" from "Sweet Charity" reminded us of the powerful heartbeat of life.
"Everything Possible" was unexpectedly moving, a song that might be sung by a parent to a gay child, filled with love and encouragement for us to be who we are, and pursue the path that feels right to us. It is a song many of us wish, in fantasy, that our parents had sung to us when we were children.
Mark appeared then, in a small ensemble, for "The Road Home", an emotional double-whammy after "Everything Possible", a song that might be sung by a grown child who cannot return home, and is looking for a new road, an new place to belong. The beautiful vocalizations suggested, to me, the men's chorus used in the mountain scenes of "The Deer Hunter".
The Men's Chorus assembled then for a trio of Old-English melodies by Ralph Vaughn Williams from "Songs of Travel".
And in a thrilling departure, the Chorus tore through a wildly rhythmic and energetic "Wedding Qawwali" by Slumdog Millionaire's A.R. Rahman. This was the most difficult piece of the evening, and it was put over wonderfully, with subtle support from a drummer and guitarist. The song was also fascinatingly interpreted by the group's agile Sign Language performer.
After Intermission, we got some lighthearted pieces that many remembered from their childhoods, the Muppets' "Movin' Right Along", and "Ease On Down The Road" from "The Wiz". With that, the road trip was underway!
"You can't take the sissy out of Mississippi
He's there and he's going to stay!..."
Aria came back with that staple of '60's Easy Listening radio, "Route 66", followed by an homage to the open road, "Wide Open Spaces".
A quartet of especially zaftig good sports hammed it up in size 12 pumps and "Maude"-style dresses for a round of "Let's Get Away From It All".
What's a road trip without a sing-along in the car? So, the group decided that the Lesbians would rock out to Four Non-Blondes' "What's Up" ("I said hey---What's going on?"), and the Gay Boys would channel their inner Cher ... with four of her biggest hits. All of these were presented with projected lyrics, and the audience had a blast.