I hadn’t been in contact with my friend and former colleague for a while, but with his company filing for bankruptcy protection recently, I sent him a short email. He was surprisingly upbeat considering that and the recent passing of Proposition 8.
If anyone has reason to feel glum, certainly it would be the men of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles. Yet their show, It’s a Fabulous Life: Holiday Songs in the Key of Life, which opens their 30th anniversary season, is funny, touching, and, as one would expect, a touch campy.
For one weekend only, Dec. 20-21, at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, the two-hour show includes a few personal stories interspersed throughout musical numbers and some short dance numbers.
The show opens with Joy to the World and Santa Claus Llego a la Cuidad but also includes Kislev Cowboys — a mildly sexual-innuendo filled song based on “My Dreydl” with choreography by Billy Rugh, featuring Arron Rothbart and a few cowboys: Rod Andrada, Christopher Durbin, Chris Etscheid, Bill Gallimore, Jay Krift, Michael Lehman, Santo Ragno, Billy Rugh, Andrew Thomas, and Jacob Young. Yet the sexual content is less than you might find in sitcoms like the old Fran Drescher series The Nanny. This is definitely family-friendly fare.
The first holiday remembrance (Greg Knotts) is about teddy bears and explaining to a child (in this case a four-year-old nephew) about gay coupledom — “It’s about love.” That’s the central theme returned to over and over. One of the most touching moments is just before the rendition of Silent Night. An attorney (John Duran) for Act Up remembers how angry he was with those people who called AIDS “God’s Wrath” during the 1980s and yet learned that instead of facing people with hate and anger, perhaps he should see love — as in the love of some people and some churches for people — no matter what their sexual preference.
The first act ends with I Wanna Be a Rockette and the Parade of the Wooden Soldiers. Featuring Shawn Ingram, with choreography by Bill Rugh, it even has some cross-dressing faux Rockettes.
The second act includes an arrangement of the Skaters Waltz and Xanadu. Instead of ice skaters, this number featured roller blade skaters: Andrew Thomas and Peter Wilson for the waltz and Rod Andrada, Bernie Espinosa, Christ Etscheid, Bill Gallimore, Shawn Ingram, Michael Kelly, Aaron Millis, Jason Ralicki, Ben Westbrook and Jacob Young for Xanadu.
The last remembrance is from Hoa Le. Born in Vietnam and having moved to Belgium as a refugee, he recalls how, as a Buddhist, he found comfort in celebrating Christmas in his new country by recognizing that love is universal and even Buddha would not frown upon him enjoying the fellowship extended to him by his Christian neighbors.
Like Le, I am not Christian, but I do believe in God, and that the true meaning of Christmas is about love and celebrating the common bonds of humankind.
The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles will be performing two numbers at 8:25 p.m. (Santa Claus Llego a la Cuidad and Are You Burning Little Candle as part of the Music Center’s free holiday concerts on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24.