This past holiday season I sampled a variety of festive events in celebration of the season. None pleased me or entertained me as much as the program by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles at the Alex Theatre in Glendale. There were only three concerts, two with guest artist Sheryl Lee Ralph and the Sunday concert featuringLeAnn Rimes. I saw Sheryl Lee Ralph but watched LeAnne Rimes on YouTube The evening was called Comfort and Joy and had plenty of both.
The Chorus was formed in response to the awful AIDS epidemic that plagued the gay community. As new medicine became available and people were living with the disease, the focus evolved into a true celebration of gay men with humor, class, trash, and incredible heart.
The evening began with a rousing rendition of “Merry Christmas/Christmas Carol” by Leslie Bricusse. They then presented a variety of songs both religious and secular including “Comfort Ye” from the Messiah, “Ave Maria” by Anton Bruckner, “Sleigh Ride” by Mitchell Parish, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”, and “All I Want For Christmas is You” by Mariah Carey and Walter Afanasieff. These were all sung very well under the direction of guest conductor Dr. Tim Seelig.
Sheryl Lee Ralph appeared in several skits (she was very funny) and sang a lovely “Lo How A Rose”/”The Rose” in honor of the young persons who have taken their lives because of being bullied about being gay. This is as somber as the evening got.
But there were plenty of laughs, including “The Jingle Elves” singing, prancing, and dancing to “Mr. Santa” by Suzy Bogguss and Pat Ballard. The inventive choreography was by Billy Rugh with just the right amount of camp (as when they did a Rockettes move) and gymnastics. Later in the program the Elves did an even funnier number called “Elves’ Broadway Christmas” which, as the title suggests, reflected the supposed love of Broadway tunes by gay men.
Though almost every number was choreographed in some manner using swaying, hands, etc., my favorite number was “The Twelve Days of Christmas”/“Christmas Wishes” by Leslie Bricusse with new lyrics by Phil Hettema. The number featured a marvelous troupe of puppeteers calling themselves “The Foamettes.” With the help of black light and some amazing puppets we saw all the Calling Birds, French Hens, Lords-a-Leaping, etc. The evening concluded with “Peace, Peace, Peace”/”Silent Night.”
This concert is one to put on your list for next year; it will be totally different but, most likely, just as entertaining. Comfort and Joy played at the Alex Theatre on Dec. 18th and 19th.