BWW Reviews: I AM HARVEY MILK a Hit With Combined Chorus of St. Louis and Kansas City

Steve Wilson |

Heartland Men's ChorusThe Heartland Men’s Chorus and the Gateway Men’s Chorus from St. Louis, Mo. united on Friday night March 29 at theFolly Theater in Kansas City, Mo. The combined chorus presented I Am Harvey Milk, with words and music by Andrew Lippa. The production brought together three guest conductors, Dustin Stephen Cates, Al Fischer the Artistic Director for the Gateway Men’s Chorus, and Dr. Tim Seelig the Artistic Director of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.

The life of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to hold public office in California, from boyhood to his assassination unfolds through dialogue and music. I Am Harvey Milk stars Cam Burns, Tom Lancaster, and Sylvia Stoner and includes guest accompanist Martin Fox with the Gateway Men’s Chorus and guest sign language interpreter John T. Adams with the St. Louis chorus.

The Gateway Men’s Chorus opens the show with four songs, followed by the Heartland Men’s Chorus performing four songs leading into intermission. Carlton Lee, accompanied on guitar by Dean Rose and Sequoia Sprite, performs solo for The Gateway Men’s Chorus with their opening song “Candlelight.” The Heartland Men’s Chorus followed, performing four songs with the last song of their set featuring a solo by Dr. Tim Seelig singing, “Give ‘Em Hope.”

Act II opens in 1942 with the prelude I Am, “An Operatic Masterpiece,” featuring a young Harvey, adult Harvey, and the combined Gateway and Heartland Chorus. Dressed in garb reminiscent of the 1940’s Cam Burns plays the young Harvey and has a marvelous voice. Previously he performed for two seasons with the Kansas City Repertory Theatre in A Christmas Carol and the Living Room’s production of Carousel.

Tom Lancaster, who gives such a strong performance that he is no longer performing but has become Harvey Milk, portrays the adult Harvey Milk. He has a powerful magnificent voice that was particularly entertaining when he performs I Am The Moment, “Lavender Pen.” Lancaster has been a member of the Heartland Men’s Chorus for 14 years and has appeared with Spinning Tree Theatre, Musical Theater Heritage, and the Starlight Theatre Children’s Series at the Kauffman Center among other venues.

Soprano Sylvia Stoner performs solo with I Am The Question, “Was I Wrong?” She has a wonderful operatic voice that was delightful. Her performance with the chorus of I Am The Future, “Leap” was particularly inspirational. Stoner appeared in the world premiere of the opera Darwin produced by the New Ear Ensemble in collaboration with the Owen/Cox Dance Group. Last spring she was a featured soloist with the Topeka Symphony and is scheduled to perform concerts at Washburn University, the Westport Arts Series, and Venue Visitation.

The combined Gateway and Heartland chorus blended so smoothly that it felt as if they had always been one huge chorus. Act II brought the breath-taking performance of “I Am The Bullet,” which brought standing ovations from members of the audience. John Edmonds and Brandon Shelton were tremendous as soloist with the chorus for I Am The Castro, “Friday Night in the Castro.”

I Am Harvey Milk continues on Sunday March 30 at the Folly Theater.