By Anthony Rodgers June 13, 2017
The Heartland Men’s Chorus paid tribute to the American musical this weekend with glitz, glamour, and games in “Show Tune Showdown” at the Folly Theater.
The Theater District in New York City draws millions of persons to a variety of staged productions, and is a strong part of the American artistic tradition. This weekend, the Heartland Men’s Chorus took to the Folly Stage to prove that there’s indeed no business like show business. In Show Tune Showdown, HMC traveled through history to briefly examine the development of the American musical then played some games while keeping it light, keeping it fun, and keeping it gay.
The Chorus began strong, filling the theater with energy from its first notes and receiving immediate applause. 100 Years of Broadway is a mash-up of many beloved tunes from the vast history of the American musical arranged by Mac Huff. Brian Ellison provided guiding narration and historical tidbits with great showmanship and pizzazz for this large work. The HMC Chamber Ensemble sang recognizable numbers from Tin Pan Alley, including “Button Up Your Overcoat,” “Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man of Mine,” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” Blend and balance was great overall within the smaller group despite some difficultly with sound projection due to the distance between the ensemble and the mics. “Setting the Standards” featured selections from the legendary duo of Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein. Goofy antics accompanied numbers such as “Anything You Can Do” and “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair,” and the Chorus didn’t sacrifice good musicality for the gestures. R. Elise Pointer sang “How Are Things In Glocca Morra” with a beautiful, sensual tone, and choral harmonies in “If I Loved You” were rich and gorgeous.
“The Golden Years” is a fast-paced sampling of the musical’s greatest hits, and HMC delivered a magnificent display of showmanship for the eyes and ears alike. Featured musicals included Cabaret(“Wilkommen”), Guys and Dolls (“Luck Be A Lady”), The Fantasticks (“Try To Remember”), My Fair Lady(“On The Street Where You Live”), and Camelot (“If Ever I Would Leave You”). Particular homage was also given to two other big names of the musical world: Andrew Lloyd Webber and Stephen Sondheim. In the short segment “Breaking New Ground,” these composers’ haunting lyricism and vibrant harmonies came through in the hits “The Music of the Night” and “Send in the Clowns.”
As a whole, the production of 100 Years of Broadway was fantastic and fun. A small group of dancers provided simple yet effective choreography that helped paint a larger picture of each individual show. Some chorus members donned frocks and heels for drag appearances by the likes of Dolly Gallagher Levi, Norma Desmond, and a gruff, cigar-toting Annie. The lighting was brilliant and depicted the moods of various numbers wonderfully, including the heavenly purity of Jesus Christ Superstar and the bloody acts of Sweeney Todd. A pit of musicians headed by Robert Lamar Sims, piano, was also great, although the trumpets began to sound tired and inaccurate too early in the show.
The second half of the evening featured the titular Show Tunes Showdown: a game show hosted by Ellison with all the over-the-top shenanigans one could hope for. Contestants from the audience were announced, and brought to the stage to compete with buzzers, hidden props, and a large spinning wheel. In between rounds, the Chorus entertained with more Broadway medleys arranged by Huff and featuring numbers from more recent shows, such as Hairspray, Avenue Q, Into the Woods, and Rent. The audience was encouraged to sing along, assisted by superscript lyrics; there was a significant amount of participation during “You Can’t Stop the Beat,” “Seasons of Love,” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” A final collection of songs Broad-Gay Medley, arranged by Holt McCarley, was a delightful finale featuring the homo-iconic “I Am What I Am” and a rousing “Freak Flag” for an inclusive sendoff that encapsulated the spirit of HMC and their artistic dedication to Kansas City.
Heartland Men’s Chorus
Show Tune Showdown
June 10 – 11 (Reviewed: Sunday, June 11, 2017)
300 W. 12th St., Kansas City, MO
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