Where The Boys Are was obvious this week: Parker Playhouse in Ft. Lauderdale, site of the Gay Men's Chorus of South Florida.
The performance on June 24, entitled Generation OUT, marked a significant evolution in the development of the Chorus. Music Director Harold Dioquino is now fully in command in a post he unexpectedly found himself in 2 years ago. Leaving the technical approach to music behind, Dioquino has successfully transformed the best regional chorus to world-class status. The Chorus was obviously really “into” the performance, not just going through the motions. This is now an audience-centered group that has achieved a unification of sound. "I didn't expect it to be so inventive," said a member of the audience. It works!
While audience opinion was divided on the value of having a professional comic start the show, a rendition of the unofficial Ft. Lauderdale theme song Where The Boys Are was a sure-fire way to get the audience fired up. A large screen showing Connie Francis helped set the tone for the concert, and when a young George Hamilton appeared on the screen guys whooped and hollered. The middle-aged singer of this classic song, Tony Walsh, shows that someone of any age can be looking for Where The Boys Are.
For the first time, vignettes were used at the beginning of several selections to amplify the message of the song. These 2-3 minute vignettes took several forms, including soliloquy, and they were uniformly touching and poignant. Some had a touch of sass too “”I'm gay so I'm good at telling people what's wrong with them!”
The first act included YMCA, which got the audience rocking. One audience member singled out the guy playing the 'Indian' character as having really good energy, and looking good too! This is Eric Strom, who also delivered a very fine opening vignette. Highlight of the first act was I Am What I Am with soloist Mun Wye Chng. It was forceful, personally provocative, and Broadway quality. Bridge Over Troubled Water ended the first act with a very unique arrangement that had a gospel touch to it.
Anything Goes was a good choice to launch Act Two, which featured a Dolly Parton song, Backwoods Barbie. The second act did not pack as much punch, perhaps because the songs were not so iconic, but kudos to soloist Steven Begert-Clark for his rendition of Not My Father's Son. Tackling an Adele song, Someone Like You, was brave. As one member of the audience put it, "If you've watched American Idol, anybody that attempts a song like that blows it. But they did a wonderful job on it. I was really impressed." The finale, Everybody Rejoice, from the Broadway musical The Wiz left everyone walking out of the Parker Playhouse feeling very uplifted.
We all missed Randy Washburn for his satirical humor and Scott Hindley, whose choreographer duties were ably taken over by Ron Hutchins. We look forward to seeing both of these valued members of the Chorus return soon.
Overall the performance offered a genuine musical production, a quality show that could be taken 'on the road' for many more people to enjoy.