Steve Wilson | Examiner.com
A blanket of fresh snow made the Heartland Men’s ChorusSpring Show seem more like a winter show. The harsh winter weather was not able to halt the production of a strong, moving performance by the chorus. “Falling In Love Again” ran on the stage of the Folly Theater, in downtown Kansas City, on Saturday and Sunday. The production was presented in conjunction with the Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals 1933-1945 exhibit at the Dean’s Gallery in the Miller Nichols Library at the University of Missouri at Kansas City campus.
Wilson L. Allen was fabulous as the emcee for act one, “Life Is A Cabaret”. Allen entertained the audience with subtle humor and a beautiful voice which was accompanied by the chorus. One of the most humorous pieces was “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” in which Todd K. Gregory-Downs, Matt Patterson and Jim Harlow donned pig noses and Rob Kottenbrock wore a wolf’s head, while acting out the children’s fable.
Mark A. Lechner, Josh Krueger, Jesse C. Davis, Benjamin Helmers, Damon Jones, Jeff T. Kalin, Wilson Pipkin, Samuel W. Zorn, Steven Jeffrey Karlin as Marlene Dietrich and Scott White as Frau Schnaub were featured in solo performances during the first act, while the Heartaches took the stage to sing T’ain’t No Sin.
Act Two; “For A Look Or A Touch” included music by Jake Heggie, Libretto by Gene Scheer, Morgan Smith as Manfred, Kip Niven as Gad and dancer Stephen Plante as Joe. The Heartland Men’s Chorus, dressed in prisoner-of-war uniforms accompanied Smith in the songs. William Whitener was a Guest Choreographer for the song, “Story of Joe.”
Act one was light hearted fast paced and was highly enjoyable but didn’t require much thought by the audience. In contrast act two is a strong, powerful tale of the forbidden love of two men in Nazi Germany. Niven gives a dynamic, heart wrenching performance as the lover who survived the Holocaust. It is hard for the audience not to cry with him as he sobs while talking to the ghost of Manfred.
Smith’s voice bellowed through the theater with a haunting beauty that added to the illusion of the ghost of Manfred. While Smith sings The Story of Joe, Plante dances, visually telling of the death of a Holocaust victim. It is hard to imagine the horrors that gay men of Germany were forced to face, just because of their sexual preference. Smith was featured in the first performance of the musical in May 2007.
The music and text for the chamber opera are based on the Manfred Lewin’s journal in the United State Holocaust Memorial Museumin Washington, D.C.