HMC’s “From the Heart”

HMC’s “From the Heart:”  A virtual “greatest hits” that connects with long-time audience members and the community.

KANSAS CITY, MO (September 29, 2017) — Dustin S. Cates, Artistic Director of Heartland Men’s Chorus (HMC), announced Monday their 32nd year will start for the first time in the month of November by adding a fall performance, From the Heart, at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas. A goal of Artistic Director Cates since he began in 2014 has been expanding to a fourth concert to help raise awareness of the chorus with new audiences in southern Johnson County.  

The concert is at 7:30 p.m., Friday, November 10, in the magnificent new Church of the Resurrection sanctuary under Resurrection Window, the world’s largest stained glass window. From the Heart celebrates the chorus that has made a huge impact in the LGBT community in the heartland. The performance will include audience favorites from years past, a veritable “Greatest Hits” of the Chorus. The concert will also feature Kansas City musician Mark Hayes, an internationally known and award-winning composer, arranger, pianist and conductor who has more than 1,000 publications in print. His work includes compositions for piano, orchestras, jazz combos, small ensembles and choruses of all kinds. “Creating beautiful music for the world” in his home here in Kansas City, Hayes’ local roots are a blessing for Heartland Men’s Chorus as he’s composed more music for HMC than any other composer. Hayes will perform music from his recently released piano solo album.

In addition, HMC will perform “I Sing Out,” “Grace,” and back by popular demand “Like Dust I Rise,” commissioned for HMC’s 30th Anniversary season. Based upon four of Maya Angelou’s poems including “On the Pulse of Morning,” “Caged Bird,” “Equality,” and “Still I Rise,” the composition powerfully addresses discrimination as Angelou’s words resonate with hope and personal resilience in the face of opposition. Chorus member Steve Dodge has written “Each time we sing ‘Equality,’ I am reminded of the forces at work to take away hard earned rights of the LGBT community. As we sing her words, we stand together to send a message that no one is free until we are ALL free. ‘Equality, and I shall be free.’”

Completing the performance are works including “A Thousand Beautiful Things,” by Annie Lennox, a song that holds surprising meaning for long-time chorus member Todd Gregory-Gibbs. “It’s been an outlet for every negative feeling I’ve had, but much more importantly, it’s presented an opportunity to rejoice for ANY and EVERY reason. To rejoice even if only for being alive at this time, in this place, out of all human history.” In addition, the chorus will sing favorites “Thanksgiving Song,” by Mary Chapin Carpenter, “I Love You More,” by Ann Hampton Callaway, (from “Tyler’s Suite,” sung by soloist Nancy Nail), and “Dust in the Wind,” by Kerry Livgren, among others. Nancy Nail reminisced about singing the role of Jane Clementi (who lost her son to suicide after being cyber bullied by his college roommate). “It’s not about me…Nancy Nail … when I sing it. It’s quite emotional but such an important message. It’s about telling the ones we love how important they are, and how much we love them and support them,” said Nancy.

Tickets to the fall performance From The Heart at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection are on sale now. Purchase online at or call816-931-3338.

ABOUT HEARTLAND MEN’S CHORUS – Heartland Men’s Chorus ( is Kansas City’s gay men’s chorus, now in its 32nd season. Founded in 1986 with 30 singers to make music, HMC quickly became a safe oasis for a community scarred by fear and hatred, while plagued by a virus. Now with 120 singers, HMC is a vital part of Kansas City’s robust arts and cultural scene, making the historic Folly Theater its performance home for 24 years. HMC also presents regional outreach concerts in a five-state area and has performed nationally and internationally in joint concerts with other GALA choruses. The Kansas City Star has called Heartland Men’s Chorus “one of the most beloved arts institutions in Kansas City.”

Visit for more information about Heartland Men’s Chorus’ 2017-2018 season. High-resolution photos of the chorus can be obtained by contacting the chorus office at 816-816-931-3338.


Parking at HMC Venues

Information for Folly Theater parking can be found online at The parking garage, immediately west of the Folly Theater, is the primary parking garage for Heartland Men’s Chorus patrons. Event parking is $8 per car and may be purchased upon arrival (cash only at the gate).  Parking at COR is readily available and free to the public. Parking is also free and freely available at JCCC’s Carlsen Center.


HMC’s 32nd Season is underwritten by Hotel Phillips. The Muriel McBrien Kauffman Foundation, Missouri Arts Council, Hall Family Foundation, Richard J. Stern Foundation for the Arts, Arts Council of Greater Kansas City, and Neighborhood Tourist Development Foundation (NTDF) also are among the many supporters of Heartland Men’s Chorus’ 32nd season.

Student Discounts

Student tickets are available for $7 (with valid ID, one ticket per ID). They may be purchased in advance by calling the HMC box office at 816-931-3338 or at the door prior to the performances based on availability. The Box Office opens one hour prior to all performances.

Social Media

Receive updates by joining Heartland Men’s Chorus’ Page at and following @hmchorus on Twitter.

Heartland Men’s Chorus

2017-2018 Full Season at a Glance

From The Heart (FALL SHOW)

November 10, 2017 | Church of the Resurrection, Leawood, KS

Friday, Nov. 10, 7:30 p.m.

Packages With Beaus (HOLIDAY SHOW)

December 2-3, 2017 | Folly Theater, Kansas City, MO

Sat., Dec. 2, 8:00 p.m.

Sun., Dec. 3, 4:00 p.m.

December 10, 2017 | Yardley Hall, Carlsen Center, JCCC, OPKS

Sun., Dec. 10, 4:00 p.m.
Single tickets to Packages with Beaus are on sale October 16th.
Wrap yourself in HMC holiday packaging and finish it off with the perfect “Beau” to kick off your holiday merriment. At the Folly Theater, December 2-3, we’re beside ourselves to announce Well Strung, the hunkiest boys with bows, will be joining us to share their world-renowned string quartet magic. On December 10, in Johnson County’s Yardley Hall, we’ll be coming back for the second year and bringing our friend and Broadway sensation, Claybourne Elder, fresh from New York in “Sunday in the Park with George.” The perfect combination of familiar carols, choral classics and hilariously zany twists on adored holiday music; Heartland Men’s Chorus has become Kansas City’s favorite non-traditional holiday tradition!


March 24-25, 2018 | Folly Theater, Kansas City, MO

Sat., Mar. 24, 8:00 p.m.

Sun., Mar. 25, 4:00 p.m.
Single tickets to are on sale December 4th.

We hope you’ll put on your disco boots and join our dancing queens as HMC celebrates one of the greatest bands in popular music history. Featuring everything in the ABBA repertoire from “Take a Chance on Me!” to “Mamma Mia,” you’re sure to be singing at the top of your lungs before the curtain falls. We plan to be completely silly and have a great time to say, “Thank you for the music!” Single tickets available online beginning Monday, December 11, 2017.

Indivisible (SUMMER SHOW)

June 9-10, 2018 | Folly Theater, Kansas City, MO

Sat., June. 9, 8:00 p.m.

Sun., June 10, 4:00 p.m.

Ever wonder about the phrase “With Liberty and Justice for All?” We certainly do and with the prejudice, inequality, bias and discrimination happening in the world around us, Heartland Men’s Chorus will present our response with, “Indivisible.” HMC will be joining forces with the National World War I Memorial and Museum to celebrate the principles of our great nation’s founding . . . that ALL are created equal. Single tickets available online beginning Monday, March 26, 2018.

Season tickets starting at $72 are on sale to the public through Packages With Beaus. All season subscribers receive free tickets to From the Heart.



Please direct all media inquiries to Rick Fisher, 816-931-3338 or


Tickets on Sale Now for Kansas City Christmas!

KCC16 HMC website graphicHeartland Men’s Chorus
2016-17 Season Kicks Off with a
“Classy, Brassy and Sassy” Kansas City Christmas

Tickets are on sale NOW for what is fast becoming one of Kansas City’s favorite non-traditional holiday traditions, Kansas City Christmas! In its third year, Kansas City Christmas brings an exciting blend of familiar carols, choral classics and hilariously zany twists on your favorite holiday music.

What is helping to build the audiences of Kansas City Christmas? According to critics, it’s the unusual combination of a more serious first half combined with a really eclectic second half. It features something for everyone and will leave you laughing out loud and ready for the holidays.

Artistic Director, Dustin S. Cates, recently commented on the fun task of choosing the music, “I love my job! Where else can you combine John Rutter’s Gloria with a wacky tribute to the holiday love-it-or-hate-it FRUITCAKE?”

To help take things to a feverish height, add in the Volker Brass from UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance and you have a celebration you can’t miss.
“Classy, Brassy and Sassy!”

So don’t wait! Get your tickets now . . . you have two locations from which to choose, the Folly Theater or Yardley Hall at Johnson County Community College.

“Kansas City Christmas” will be performed at 8 p.m. Saturday, December 3rd and 4 p.m. Sunday, December 4th at the historic Folly Theater, 300 W. 12th Street in Kansas City, and Saturday, December 10th, at Yardley Hall in the Carlson Center, on the campus of Johnson County Community College., in Overland Park, Kansas.

Tickets to the Folly performances are available online at or by calling 816-931-3338. Yardley Hall performances must be purchased through the Carlsen Center Box Office at 913-469-4445. Prices range from $18 to $43 with special student pricing at $7 (some ticket fees apply and vary by location). Come as you are, dress is casual, be ready for fun, but visit today!

On the Road!

Heartland Men’s Chorus, Kansas City’s gay men’s chorus, is hitting the road again following a wonderfully successful concert tour last month of Hays and Salina. On Friday, July 1st, a touring ensemble of the Chorus will make stops in the Kansas cities of Topeka, Abilene, and Russell singing a few a cappella songs at each stop that are appropriate for the July 4th weekend. All performances are free and suitable for all ages.

The first stop will be at noon in Topeka on the front lawn of Equality House at 1200 SW Orleans Street ( Coincidentally, this location happens to be directly across the street from the infamous Westboro Baptist Church. The singers will turn toward the church compound to ensure their voices of diversity and inclusion can be heard by those who hide behind outlandish signs and hateful beliefs.

Our second stop will be at 2:30pm in Abilene on the front steps of the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum at 200 SE Fourth Street. We look forward to singing for a cross-section of tourists who will be visiting this famous central Kansas landmark. (

HMC’s third stop will be at 5:00pm in Russell at the Deines Cultural Center at 820 N. Main Street ( Russell is well known as the boyhood hometown of two United States Senators, Bob Dole and Arlen Specter. Chorus members look forward to meeting local residents preparing to start their holiday weekend with our selection of patriotic songs.

The Chorus will overnight in Colby and then continue on to Denver for the GALA Choruses International Festival where they will be performing to a sold-out crowd in the 3,000-seat Buell Theater at the Denver Performing Arts Center on July 5th.

ABOUT HEARTLAND MEN’S CHORUS – Heartland Men’s Chorus ( is Kansas City’s gay men’s chorus, now in its 30th anniversary season. Founded with 30 singers to make music, HMC quickly became a safe oasis for a community scarred by fear and hatred and plagued by a virus. Now with upward of 125 singers, Heartland Men’s Chorus is a vital part of Kansas City’s burgeoning arts and cultural scene. HMC has made the historic Folly Theater its performance home for the past 23 years and The Kansas City Star recently cited HMC as “one of the most beloved arts institutions in Kansas City.”

Newly Commissioned Song “I Rise” Based On Poetry By Dr. Maya Angelou

Heartland Men’s Chorus (HMC), Kansas City’s gay men’s chorus, pays tribute to the late United States Poet Laureate Dr. Maya Angelou by commissioning a song inspired by four well-known poems written by the world renowned poet and civil rights activist.

HMC is the first chorus in the nation to receive the rights from the late poet’s estate to create music that uses her poetry.

The song, titled I Rise, was created by internationally acclaimed musician and composer Mark Hayes. It is written for men’s voices, runs approximately 11 minutes in length, and includes an orchestra of 16 instrumentalists.

I Rise will make its world premiere in its entirety on Saturday, June 11 and Sunday, June 12 as part of the Chorus’ 30th anniversary concert, also titled I Rise, at the Folly Theater in downtown Kansas City.

Four of Dr. Angelou’s poems are used as source material in the song: On the Pulse of Morning, Caged Bird, Equality, and Still I Rise.

“Maya Angelou’s name and poetry are synonymous with Civil Rights and elevating oneself and ones’ surrounding community,” says HMC Artistic Director Dustin Cates. “It’s only fitting, as Kansas City’s gay men’s chorus, to present a significant choral work for not only our own audience, but for anyone who hears it in the future, wherever they may be.”

After presenting I Rise in Kansas City, Heartland Men’s Chorus will travel to Denver for the International Gay and Lesbian Choral Festival where HMC will perform it for thousands of singers, composers and directors on Tuesday, July 5 at Buell Theater in the Denver Performing Arts Center.

30th Anniversary Concert “I Rise”

Heartland Men’s Chorus, Kansas City’s gay men’s chorus, presents I RISE, our 30th anniversary concert that looks back at our proud history while looking forward with the inspiring words of the late United States Poet Laureate, Dr. Maya Angelou.

The first half of our concert features songs that are memorable milestones of our incredible history starting with Brothers Sing Out which was performed at our very first concert in 1986. Since then, our audiences have been moved to tears, offered raucous laughter and reflected upon songs that resonate with them for so many different reasons. Our first half selections are the musical gems of Heartland Men’s Chorus.

The second half of the concert will offer songs that evoke the feeling and memories of the safe places we call home, followed by the world premiere of I Rise our newly commissioned piece by internationally renowned composer Mark Hayes and inspired by the poems of Maya Angelou. HMC is the first chorus to receive rights from Dr. Angelou’s estate to make use of her poetry in a significant musical work.

“Her poetry is synonymous with Civil Rights and elevating oneself and ones’ surrounding community,” says HMC Artistic Director Dustin Cates. “It’s only fitting for Kansas City’s gay men’s chorus to commission and present this significant work.”

HMC is proud to be collaborating with the Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey as four of their dancers, directed by Chief Artistic Officer Tyrone Aiken, will interpret I Rise on stage with the Chorus.

“This concert is a perfect way to celebrate the rich history of an incredibly unique arts organization,” says Cates. “No other chorus in the Great Plains does what we do, or draws such large crowds, or provides a message that entertains, but also heals and inspires.”

I RISE will be performed 8 p.m. Saturday, June 11 and 4 p.m. Sunday, June 12 at the Folly Theater, 300 W. 12th Street in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. Tickets ranging in price from $18 to $43 are available online at or by calling 816-931-3338.
Come as you are, dress is casual, be ready to be inspired!

(Christmas) hammin’ it up

Kristin Shafel Omiccioli | KC Metropolis

Kansas City ChristmasA trumpet duo called the Heartland Men’s Chorus concert to order Friday night, followed by chorus members placed throughout the aisles, on a sober Personent Hodie arrangement by Lara Hoggard. The final line, a strong unison of all voices, was majestic and beautifully set the tone of the first half, which included more traditional holiday selections. With a mixture of sacred and secular, old and new, familiar and perhaps not-so well known, Dustin Cates’s programming was a testament to the historical themes of the season—peace, togetherness, acceptance, good cheer—while striking me as rather timely messaging for today’s tumultuous world, too.

The first half showcased works that had some of the most complex polyphony, mixed meter, and counterpoint I’ve heard from HMC, including a set of Hovland’s The Glory of the Father (excerpt) and Powell’s The Word was God, Helvey’s trio of Christmas carols (“Fum, Fum, Fum,” “Coventry Carol,” and “Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day”), and selections from Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols. The chorus shined in its comfort zone during this half’s heartfelt “The Ground” from Gjeilo’s Sunrise Mass and the lively African-American spiritual Child of God, which gave guest pianist Jan Willbanks the spotlight, rockin’ licks on the keys in a swinging blues style.

HMC included its Jewish members and friends in its holiday celebration with Knecht’s Shalom Aleikhem, featuring Max H. Brown in a committed, dignified solo introduction, and Alex Bency added a delicate touch with his cello part. On the second half, after a dramatic flourish on the piano by accompanist Lamar Sims, the HeartAches octet put an upbeat spin on Hanukkah songs—usually minor-keyed or phrygian—with “Boogie Woogie Hanukkah,” revealing a playful and acute sense of humor both musically and lyrically.

After intermission, HMC worked the Christmas ham (figuratively!) with a few recognizable standards (the jolly “We Need a Little Christmas” and a rock version of “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer”) and several newer pop tunes, including the saccharine local holiday anthem “Christmas in Kansas City.” The second half of the night was replete with HMC’s signature camp, light choreography, and costuming. A troupe of choristers dressed as the reindeer for “Rudolph,” with literal translations of their names (Blitzen was blitzed, Comet had cleaning supplies, etc.), and the men whipped out their cell phones to accompany the Straight No Chaser tune “Text Me Merry Christmas.” Brandon Shelton was convincing as the sassy letter writer to Santa, unapologetic for his cheeky request in “I Want a Lumbersexual for Christmas.”

Many fine soloists from the ensemble were featured throughout the evening, on classics and pop songs alike. Mike Sigler, at first an unassuming presence on stage, brought forth a robust, arresting tenor on two pieces of the Britten set. Tone Stowers and Jason Taylor flavored their solos (on Jewel’s “Hands” and “Christmas in Kansas City,” respectively) with a melismatic R&B pop sound, while Terry W. Christensen and Rob Curry gave tender interpretations apropos to the timely sentiments in the lyrics of their solos (introductions to “Grown-Up Christmas List” and “Merry Everything,” respectively). Keith Widenkeller provided the solemn, gentle solo on this year’s “Ad Astra” tribute, “Auld Lang Syne,” as the chorus behind him linked arms as commonly practiced in Scotland.

The stand-out piece of the concert was undoubtedly “Marvelous Holiday Sweater,” which featured Adam Brown not only in a hearty solo part, but also in a light-up tie and matching jacket as he “emceed” a “fashion show” of the tackiest, most over-the-top sweaters imaginable. Closing the night was a bright rendition of Andy Beck’s  “Let There Be Peace,” led by soloist R. Elise Pointer who embellished this spiritual-like tune with enthusiasm that brought down the house.

Dustin Cates, now in his second year as HMC’s artistic director, has continued and expanded on HMC’s strong presence in the Kansas City arts scene. His arrangements (almost half the tunes on this program) cater to the chorus’s strengths while still challenging them. With local pride being at epic levels, Cates decided to stick with last year’s “Kansas City Christmas” theme once again, especially after finding the perfect item to exhibit as the centerpiece of the expectedly incredible set. An original Manneco crown, once an iconic part of downtown Kansas City during the holidays, sparkled above the chorus in all its authentic, regal glory.

‘Big Gay Sing’ unites music, comedy, drag queens in fun filled hour

Bob Evans |

Heartland Men's ChorusDust off the vocal pipes, clap hands, snap fingers, sing along, and laugh a lot when viewing the Heartland Men’s Chorus in their Kansas City Fringe Festival 2015 entry, “Big Gay Sing,” that entertained many in its three day weekend run at Kansas City’s historic Union Station.

Drag Queens, Daisy Buckët and Summer Tryst acted as mistresses of ceremony and also preformed to the delight of the audiences. Heartland Men’s Chorus brought an abbreviated number of members to the songfest for the Fringe Festival.

According to their Fringe blurb, “Come sing your heart out with the gays! ‘Big Gay Sing!’ is a fun-filled, sing-a-long-tastic evening complete with all of your favorite big gay songs. This collision of karaoke bar and choir concert features fabulous singers, a live band, lyrics on the screen for you to sing along and special guest soloists and first-time drag performers straight from the audience. Join Heartland Men’s Chorus and host, Kansas City’s songstress drag queen, Daisy Buckët, in a concert event where you are the star.”

The show was fast paced, fun and full of audience members singing along and signaling approval with tons of laughter, clapping and loud singing. This performance differs from the HMC’s normal concert format where they present longer concert-style shows throughout the year. This show delivered fast-paced music, happy music, and encouraged the audience to sing their hearts out.

“Big Gay Sing” stands as one of the contenders for Best of Venue with packed performances and strong ticket sales. The show stands out as one of the premiere musical entries of the 2015 KC Fringe.

About the Fringe: The Kansas City Fringe Festival begins its second decade with this year’s slate of performances. The 2015 festival opens with a night of “Teasers” on Thursday, July 17. Performances begin on Friday, July 18 and run through July 26. Some shows present three times, while others have 4-6 performances. No all shows occur on consecutive days or at the same times. To be admitted to the Fringe, patrons need to purchase a Fringe button for $5. To purchase individual show tickets, the Fringe button needs to be shown. Fringe buttons are available at all venues.

Fringe shows run at about a dozen different venues throughout the Kansas City, Missouri downtown and midtown areas. Shows range from comedies, dramas, musicals, vocals, instrumentals, stand up, improvisation, burlesque and more. Many shows make their debut at the Fringe in hopes of further development and productions.

Most Fringe shows are 60 minutes. A few Fringe shows are 90 minutes. Further information is available through the Fringe official website.

KC Fringe 2015: Big Gay Sing

Karen Hauge |

Big Gay SingPossibly the most FABULOUS addition to this year’s Fringe Festival, Heartland Men’s Chorus’s Big Gay Sing! brings the audience into the action with a big-screen projection of each and every wonderful word of all the anthemic pop songs they perform. The audience is encouraged to— nay, almost shamed into— singing along, by songstress drag queen Daisy Buckët and her friend Summer Tryst, which is not a difficult task when you consider the material the audience gets to sing. The works of Journey, ABBA, Meghan Trainor, and more feature in this musical extravaganza that got the whole room on their feet and partying along with HMC.

HMC and artistic director Dustin S. Cates stuck to simple arrangements with two- or three-part harmonies, a strong choice in the somewhat odd performance space of City Stage. The chorus had a blast, each man bringing a bag of props along to send the crowd into giggles with every appearance of sunglasses, feather boas, cowboy hats, or wigs. The best use of these props was definitely Stay Tuned!, a medley of popular TV show theme songs; I mean, the Brady Bunch theme song is funny enough on its own, but add wigs and a recreation of the opening Hollywood Squares-style shot and you’re sure to have a room full of people clutching their bladders and praying for control.

Pop anthems like “Don’t Stop Believin’” and “It’s Raining Men” were surely memorable, but it was the appropriately wacked-out rendition of “Time Warp” that will stick in my brain forever. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a nearly full house of casually dressed suburbanites jump to their feet and do the pelvic thrust with absolutely no provocation. Daisy’s “All About That Bass” restored my interest in that song completely, and the riotous disco medley that closed the show had us all on our feet again and dancing out of the theater.

KC Fringe 2015
Big Gay Sing!
Friday, July 17; Saturday, July 18, 6:00pm (Reviewed); Saturday, July 18, 10:00pm; Sunday, July 19
City Stage Theatre at Union Station
30 West Pershing Rd., Kansas City MO
For more tickets and more information, visit

A Couple’s Road To Emmaus, Fatherhood

StoryCorpsSuzanne Hogan | KCUR

Raymond Cattaneo and his husband Dustin Cates were together six years before they decided that they wanted to adopt a baby and build their family.

The Kansas City couple met with a social worker to partake in a home study, and as they were wrapping it up, Cattaneo called Cates from the hospital, where he was doing rounds.

“You said, hey there is a mom here who had a baby, and I think she wants to give it to us,” recalls Cates. Cates rushed to the hospital to meet with the mother and to see their son for the first time. “I can still remember walking in and seeing our little boy, and thinking how could she give him up?”

They started to talk to the mother about the next steps to take.

“About 15 or 20 minutes later, she said well I’m leaving the hospital today and I want you to have him,” says Cates. “So of course, we immediately panicked because we weren’t ready to take a baby home.”

Coats and Cattaneo met with their social worker and lawyer, figured out a plan, and six days later, they brought their son, Emmaus, home.

“I look at him in that name as a call for me to go change the world, because that’s what he did for us,” says Cattaneo. “It just speaks this idea of unconditional love.”

The name Emmaus comes from a Bible passage that is dear to their family.

It’s from the book of Luke. After Jesus had been crucified and resurrected from the dead, the apostles were walking to the town of Emmaus when they met a man along the road who was Jesus, but at the time they didn’t recognize him. They invite Jesus to walk with them and stay with them and eat, and during that process they realize who he is.

“And that sort of changes their entire world,” Cates says. “That was a really outstanding name for a kid who would do the same thing for us. Who would come into our lives, and turn things upside down, but make things amazing.”

Editor’s note: StoryCorps OutLoud visited KCUR in June to collect stories from Kansas City’s LGBTQ community in partnership with the Gay and Lesbian Archive of Mid-America.

A “Wicked” good concert

Anthony Rodgers | KCMetropolis

A Little Bit WickedStephen Schwartz has found success writing music and lyrics for both stage and screen and remains a standard name in the theatre world today. Under the direction of Dustin S. Cates, Heartland Men’s Chorus had magic to do as the group paid tribute to Schwartz this weekend with a gravity-defying program filled with energy, laughter, and passion.

HMC is one of Kansas City’s most popular ensembles, and the Folly Theater was packed to hear the large, all-male chorus. The sheer sound created by the group is often full and sonorous, balancing strong lower voices with upper notes sitting nicely on top, and all with wonderful intonation. These moments were especially grand as the men sang “Glory” during a medley of numbers of Pippin and “No One Mourns the Wicked” from Wicked. At times, mumbled lyrics hindered the chorus from projecting this desired sound and instead made the songs difficult to understand and somewhat uncomfortable, notably in “Spark of Creation” from Children of Eden and “Just Around the River Bend” from Disney’s Pocahontas.

Unlike most choral groups, however, HMC does not shy away from the campiness that is group hand choreography. White gloves shone brightly under black light to give a mystical nod to the original staging of Pippin’s opening number, “Magic to Do,” and simple, repetitive motions enhanced the fairy-tale innocence of “That’s How You Know” from Enchanted.

The program predominately featured well-known numbers from Schwartz’s impressive and expansive oeuvre. HMC, however, decided to include a 2012 work that stood out in stark contrast to the rest of the evening’s selections. With lyrics taken from and inspired by the It Gets Better Project, “Testimony” was premiered by the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus as a response to the bullying of LGBT youth. While the message of the work is important and emotions ran high from the stage through the theater, the piece felt completely out of place with the rest of the program’s pop theatrical focus. HMC does a great job handling works with such sensitive subjects, but the placement of this particular piece was too uncharacteristic to the evening as a whole.

A variety of soloists performed with the chorus, many of which came from the ranks of HMC, demonstrating the levels of talent that regularly sing with the group. With a gorgeous tone and clean approach to his numbers, Kansas City-native Brandon L. Pearson was a standout vocalist. He commanded the stage during “Forgiveness’ Embrace” from True Home, connecting with the audience to present the heartfelt lyrics and sing the beautiful melody, accompanied by the warm sounds of Spectrum, a small ensemble of HMC members. Pearson also did a fabulous job maintaining high levels of energy during “We Beseech Thee” in a medley of songs from Godspell. This medley also included an intimate and well-deserved feature of Rick McAdams, the evening’s sign language interpreter, during “Day By Day,” and a strong proclamation from “Prepare Ye” by Michael L. De Voe. De Voe also put on quite the act during Enchanted’s “Happy Little Working Song” as a braided cleaning bear with Spectrum serving as his chamber maid choir! Ultimately, a swishy trio stole the show, as Wilson L. Allen, Bob Kohler, and Brandon Shelton pulled out all the pink stops—and tiaras and feather boas—for a delightful and hilarious rendition of “Popular” from Wicked.

Sopranist Sara Sommerer took an incredible about-face for the better with her performances between acts. Singing “When You Believe” from Prince of Egypt, Sommerer overshadowed her duet partner, Steven Jeffrey Karlin, and his smooth, dark sound with forced screamings of extraneous notes. In a pleasant turn of events, her Wicked duets with Julie O’Rourke Kaul were entirely on point. Sommerer and O’Rourke Kaul blended beautifully with one another as the singing witches and even incorporated well-considered staging in the style of standard productions.

Some of the numbers included guest dancers to add an additional visual element. While demonstrating elegant motion, a lack of precision and uniformity was a strong hindrance to the overall desired effects. The dancers also gave the impression that they did not know the choreography well enough on their own and instead relied on each other for the next position. And though it is standard for Elphaba to take flight on stage during “Defying Gravity,” the hoisting of a young dancer into the air was uncomfortable to watch during the evening’s closing song.

Heartland Men’s Chorus holds a high standard of musical and camp excellence, and this weekend’s presentation of Stephen Schwartz classics was a charming concert, paying tribute to one of musical theatre’s most prolific composers and the art of being “wicked.”

Heartland Men’s Chorus 

A Little Bit Wicked
June 13–14 (Reviewed Saturday, June 13, 2015)
Folly Theater
300 W. 12th St., Kansas City, MO
For more information, visit