"Love and marriage” was the theme of this year’s Gay Men’s Chorus of South Florida, held at the Sunrise Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale in June. This year’s theme was to celebrate Marriage equality. This magical evening was under the artistic direction and conducted by the ever creative Harold Dioquino.
“Love” being the passionate theme of the evening had a storyline by Michael Leeds, that kept the audience mesmerized. Leeds, a resident director at Island City Stage, worked closely with Dioquino to enable not just the singing, but the representation of love by the Chorus. Dioquino himself explained in the program notes that he had a hesitation “about the use of the word love” but this “slowly disappeared in the most unexpected but magical way” as the creative process that resulted in this concert developed. To his great credit this magic was a tangible effect felt by the audience.
The magic of love was best exemplified in the staged musical number Starbucks. How do you know you are in love? It is akin to Meno's paradox: how do we know that we know? It is one of those questions that has delighted and bedevilled human thought for thousands of years. In this concert, we saw it played out in a Starbucks, but is it all that different from a cafe in Paris? Not as immanently romantic of course, but of the same ilk. It is representative of a lot of gay relationships when you meet somebody. In this case, very well done by soloists Scott Hindley and Marcos Acosta who portrayed a worker at Starbucks and a guy (Scott) who came in only to develop a crush on him. Done with humour and emotion, very touching.
The actors' collaboration with the storyline took the evening to a whole new level, telling the story of trials, tribulations of love and its complexities and made it fun. One of these many highlights was So Much in Common, a tune from No Way To Treat a Lady. It featured a perennial problem: what will Mother think of my boyfriend? In this case the Mother is Jewish, and far from rejecting the BF, she gets along better with him than her own son! It was performed by soloists Tim Richardson, Randy Zinkus and Charles Hood.
The reliance on soloists was a major feature of the concert. The focus has changed since the Chorus was directed by Gordon Roberts, and now the soloists for both evenings are the same, whereas they often rotated in past concerts. The different registers of the Chorus, such as alto and bass, also seem to be better delineated. In the past they often seemed to be simply loud and overpowered one another, now one can hear the individual parts.
It was a thrill to be part of the audience, everyone had a smile on their faces the whole evening!
And that is reflected in the Chorus itself. Previous concerts often seemed to present a lesson, often giving us technical songs that lacked warmth. Now it is much more light-hearted, and the Chorus expresses this in their own obvious enjoyment . One enhancement is that the staging of performances, set to the right, has better props. The focus has changed from the conductor to the soloists (15 in this concert), and this process will achieve its logical conclusion when Tropical Wave, a segment of the Chorus that offers its own features, is assigned a new conductor so that Dioquino can concentrate on the bigger picture.
The song selection included “Getting to Know You” (from The King and I) “Love is an Open Door” (from Frozen) “Do you love me? (from Fiddler on the Roof), and Turn it Off (Book of Mormon) performed by Tropical Wave.
It was wonderful to watch the nine-piece orchestra having fun during the event, who were clearly thrilled to be part of the “Season of Love”! Emcee and Narrator Randy Washburn added his own unique flare to the evening with his blond wig and angel wings. Everyone involved contributed to a wonderful evening and filled the air with harmony and excitement.
Next season the Chorus will be performing at different venues including Hard Rock in Hollywood. For more info visit their website: gaymenschorusofsouthflorida.org.
This review was written with the invaluable input of Sun News correspondents Wayne Doyle and Dr. Matt Emanuele.
Photos by Wayne Doyle.