The Triangle Gay Men's Chorus ended its season with two area performances of a spectacular salute to Broadway, the second of which was heard on June 27 in Raleigh's Pullen Memorial Baptist Church. The parallel is to college or university men's glee clubs, but the difference is that the TGMC consists of mature, seasoned vocalists, and some of the group's 30 singers are of solo quality. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Dwayne C. Holloway, the group has made impressive strides, artistically. This is a chorus to be reckoned with, in terms of its balance, blend, diction, power, and enthusiasm. The program, "Give Our Regards to Broadway," was lighter than we normally cover in CVNC, but this critic was impressed, consistently, throughout the substantial show. The concert was presented in front of a handsome set depicting of the Manhattan skyline, in rainbow colors, augmented by posters from several shows. The production was attractively lit, there was some unobtrusive amplification in a few numbers, and in all respects the event was a class act - yes, even including the (for want of a better word) costumes!
Things got underway with music from Cohan's Little Johnny Jones , done up with additional lyrics by Teena Chinn and enhanced by dancer/mime Steve Dobbins. From the opening chorus, the performance standards were remarkably high. In "They call the wind Maria," from Loewe's Paint Your Wagon , the group's joint emphasis on words and music was exemplary - this quality persisted throughout the show. A short, sassy bit from Flaherty's Seussical set standards of a different kind, thanks to its exceptional sibilance, a quality often disdained in choral music that was the name of the game here. The opening group ended with a beautiful a cappella arrangement of "What I did for love," from Hamlish's A Chorus Line . The latter brought forward the first of seven excellent soloists who appeared during the program; all were more than capable, and some were of such high quality that one longs to hear them in even more serious fare.
The chorus's pianist, Timothy Owens, has been noted on previous occasions in CVNC ; this time, the keyboard was partly obscured from view and its sound was somewhat muffled. That's too bad, because Owens had some important parts to project, and his sound didn't always emerge clearly. That said, the balance was fine in a chorus from Rodgers' Oklahoma ! that was slow and gentle. Chorister Kevin Tillman, who also appeared as a soloist later on, supplied a handsome arrangement of the title song from Menken's Beauty and the Beast that got the performers - including soloist and TGMC President Brandon Bowman - a big round of applause. The first half ended with the title song from Leigh's Man of La Mancha , graced by yet another splendid soloist and delivered with awesome commitment.
After a longish intermission, ten of the singers emerged as cleanin' women for the song of that name from Grant's Working . This was a hoot, and this old Raleigh resident could hardly help wondering what the late voice teacher and choral director Geraldine Cate would have made of such goings-on in her sanctuary.... Tenor John Adams then held the fort - and the rapt attention of the crowd - in "Nothing can stop me now," from The Roar of the Greasepaint, The Smell of the Crowd , the Bricusse-Newley show that did so poorly in the UK but succeeded so well here.
Former music director Berry Gentry took over from Holloway for a medley from Elton John's The Lion King and "Bring him home" from Schönberg's Les Misérables . The performances were exemplary, but the stage business - which involved some shadow dancing behind a home-made scrim - was at best distracting, thanks in large measure to too-intense back-lighting. With excellent support from Owens, bass Nathan Walter dispatched "Stars and the moon," from Brown's Songs for a New World , with palpable commitment and panache. The entire group reassembled for "Make them hear you," from Flaherty's Ragtime , and for the grand finale, a medley of title songs from seven more great musicals - keeping up? the count of shows was 20! Like the opening number, these were graced by the work of Steve Dobbins, who donned - and shed - more costumes, and more quickly, than any fast-change artist I've ever seen. It was all good fun, and the tableau capped a great afternoon of rock-solid music making.
The TGMC's next venture involves a trip to Montreal, for the 7th International Festival of GALA Choruses; for details, see http://www.galachoruses.org/festival/index.html [inactive 8/05]. Next season will mark the TGMC's tenth anniversary, and its local offerings will be, in the words of our theatre editor, "must-see events." We'll list their programs in our series tab, in due course, but for more information now, visit http://www.tgmchorus.org/.