During the weekend of March 9, at the NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus (NYCGMC) presented its zesty “Big Gay Sing X,” revisiting highlights of the previous nine seasons’ sing-along concerts. Artistic Director Dr. Charles Beale was on the podium for most of the evening and was spelled for selected numbers by Assistant Conductor John J. Atorino. Aaron Dai was the pianist; Jeff Lettiere and Ryan Scoble were stage directors; Christopher J. Anderson and Scoble were responsible for dance and movement; Shelly Guy and John Colon gave us their ASL interpretation; and Lupe Chenille designed the fabulous costumes. The first of the weekend’s three concerts is discussed here.
“Big Gay Sing X” began with “Another Openin’, Another Show,” by Cole Porter, from “Kiss Me, Kate,” certainly a rousing opening number for a show, and dancing groups of sailors, nuns, cabaret performers, and strippers, representing familiar Broadway musicals, took the stage along with the choristers. A Eurythmics pairing of “Sweet Dreams” and “Just Can’t Get Enough” was the evening’s first sing- and clap-along. A tough and tender, rough and romantic “Tonight” ensemble, by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim, from “West Side Story,” boasted a male Anita and Maria, in addition to Tony and Riff. Joshua Seals, Jacob Oswell, Ryan Frostig, and Seth Watsky were the soloists. Numbers were performed in Beale’s arrangements.
Atorino led the next songs. An Audrey Hepburn figure crossed the stage at the start of a dulcet a cappella “Moon River,” by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer, from the film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” after Truman Capote’s novella. A gently rocking “Rainbow,” by Kesha, followed. A medley of Donna Summer hits—“I Feel Love,” “Bad Girls” with a trio of ‘bad girls,’ “Hot Stuff” with a trio of their male counterparts, and “Last Dance”—was the next sing-along to which we lent our voices. With disco ball in place for “Xanadu,” the chorus was joined by dancers in their scanties of antiquity, roller skaters of course, cowboys and, as ‘Olivia Newton-John,’ NYCGMC Executive Director Lisa Reilly. A bevy of “Drag Race”-style beauties enhanced the merriment in a RuPaul pairing of “Jealous of My Boogie” and “Sissy that Walk.” Soloist Jo Lee and the chorus proudly celebrated gay identity, in the face of bigots carrying picket signs with hostile slogans, in “This Is Me,” by Benj Parek and Justin Paul, from “The Greatest Showman,” to conclude the first act.
Beale returned to conduct the opening of Act Two, in grand operatic style, with Freddy Mercury’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” featuring striking solos by second tenor Mark Mroczka and electric guitarist Adam Stoler. NYCGMC went from strength to strength, as next came a sing-along, dance-along, clap-along “Time Warp,” with “Rocky Horror” characters cavorting downstage, and soloists Bruce Ward and Mark Schall. A cappella ensemble Tonewall’s sung and rapped contributions were Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect” and Betty Who’s “Beautiful.” A hardy “Edge of Glory,” by Lady Gaga, was augmented by interpretive dance. We sang along with “Man! I Feel like a Woman!” and “I’m Every Woman,” as guys and dolls vied for best drag, followed by a parade of glamour queens. Chris Ingrao and Damian Wille were soloists for an encouraging “You Will Be Found,” by Pasek and Paul, from “Dear Evan Hansen.”
A “Wizard of Oz” (Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg) and “Wiz” (Charlie Smalls and Luther Vandross) medley was the chorus’ grand finale, as we “Follow(ed) the Yellow Brick Road” and went “Off to See the Wizard,’ then sang along with “Ease on Down the Road” and “Can You Feel It,” with Dorothy, Tinman, Scarecrow, and Lion in duplicate, helping to guide us. A quintet of Tina Turners inspired the chorus and audience in raising our voices in encore “Proud Mary.”
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