Steve Wilson | BroadwayWorld.com
The outstanding musical production of Kansas City Christmas opened the 29th season of the Heartland Men’s Chorus on Friday December 5 at the Folly Theater. The newly appointed Artistic Director Dustin S. Cates led the chorus of about 120 men through an array of humorous and sincere holiday songs to kick off the festive season. Cates served as a Guest Conductor for the Chorus’s production of I Am Harvey Milk.
Robert Lamar Sims accompanied the chorus on piano with the support of a small band. Jerry Jay Cranford designed the choreography, which included a hilarious segment in which Genewa Stanwyck as the Christmas Tree Angel attempts to return to the top of the tree as the chorus sings “Christmas Tree Angel.”
Kansas City Christmas opened with Brian Larios, Shawn Revelle, David Wood, and Samuel W. Zorn performing solos as the chorus sang “Noel.” The show continued with “Gloria,” “There is Faint Music,” and Songs of the Season that included an uplifting and amusing interpretation of “Pirate Song.”
Cole Hoover, Evan Morrow, Grant Sharples, Justin Underwood, and Jack Weber formed a drum line to accompany the chorus in the presentation of “The Little Drummer Boy.” The song originally known as “Carol of the Drum” written by Katherine Kennicott Davis made its debut in 1941 and was recorded by the Trapp Family Singers in 1955. Ray Conniff Singers, Bing Crosby, Johnny Cash, The Harry Simeone Choral, Stevie Wonder, and a host of others have performed or recorded the holiday classic. Of all the performances, I have had the privilege to see; none has been as grand and moving as the one performed by the talented Heartland Men’s Chorus. This song alone would be worth the price of a ticket.
Soprano Sarah Tannehill Anderson joins the chorus in Act 1 for The Messiah: Three Christmas Chorus Settings for Men’s Voices and Soprano Soloist. In Act II, she returned to the stage to perform “Variations on Jingle Bells” with the chorus. Self-produced indie pop recording artist Dustin Rapier delighted the audience with “Christmas in Kansas City”. De De DeVille, the infamous Kansas City drag diva, performed a solo from the popular Walt Disney Animation Studios film Frozen, accompanied by John Edmonds, Bob Kohler, and Brandon Sheldon as the snowman.
Ad Astra is Latin, meaning “to the stars” and symbolizes the feelings for the members of the Heartland Men’s Chorus who have passed Ad Astra. The chorus paid tribute to their missing comrades with a rendition of Stille Nacht that is sure to bring tears to the eyes.
Kansas City Christmas continues at the Folly Theatre through Sunday December 7. Photo and video courtesy of the Heartland Men’s Chorus.