I was very pleased to attend the recent musical offering of the esteemed Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC, (GMCW), Von Trapped, which was presented on March 14-16, 2014 at The George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium. As per usual, I was amazed at the level of sheer professionalism, enthusiasm, and musical “know-how” of this very talented organization. The production was an enjoyable and subtly satiric look at that perennial favorite The Sound of Music but revisited through the unique lens of the GMCW, their uniqueness shown by the sparkling lights on the Mother Superior’s habit, the puppet goats in “The Lonely Goatherd” and – above all – the beloved heroine Maria Von Trapp is now a handsome, fetching male who falls in love with the stern Captain Von Trapp. (Refer to the recent rave review by DCMTA’s own Derek Mong for more particulars about this wonderful production).
As their recent program states, “Von Trapped continues a long GMCW tradition of staged musicals. GMCW presented its first staged musical, Homecoming Hop, in March 1990 (GMCW’s ninth season). From the great body of Broadway and other stage musicals , GMCW has performed a wide variety of favorites, including Grease, Xanadu, The Rocky Horror Show, and When Pigs Fly.
Jump cut to past context (which informs the pleasurable present of this fantastic organization). I talked to Fred Boykin, one of the original members of the GMCW, and was told that The Washington DC Gay Men’s Chorus was formed within six weeks after the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus visited DC in the Spring of 1981. Every other city that the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus had visited had its own chorus within six months of the San Francisco Chorus visit, such was the fervor and excitement generated by the Gay Men’s Chorus idea.
As their website so succinctly states, “Led by Artistic Director, Jeff Buhrman, and newly-appointed Executive Director, Chase Maggiano, the Gay Men’s Chorus is now in its 33rd season with a mission that is dynamic and socially-relevant: The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC delights audiences and champions gay equality with robust artistry, fun, and surprise. GMCW has more than 250 singing members, two select vocal ensembles, 100 support volunteers, more than 500 subscribers, 500 donors and an annual audience of more than 12,000 people.”
I think of all the many times I have been entertained by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC from more serious-themed chorale music to outlandish spoofs to Broadway musical send-ups. During my twenty-six years living in the DC Metro area, I have had so many wonderful Christmas holidays attending their annual Holiday concerts at various venues. Everything on stage truly seems to be a collaborative effort from the chorus members singing in beautiful harmony to the soloists to the more theatrical members of the chorus engaging in parody and outlandish satire.
The musicianship of this vigorous group is of the highest order and kudos are in order for all of the GMCW’s past Artistic Directors including, of course, the current Artistic Director Jeff Buhrman. Buhrman’s skills will soon be a fond memory as his last concert will be on May 18th at The Kennedy Center Concert Hall for their show entitled A Gay Man’s Guide to Broadway where audience members will be treated to the stunning voice of Tony Award winner Laura Benati as well as the GMCW. This show is bound to be a treat for anybody interested in the GMCW and Broadway.
I was gratified to speak with the newly–appointed Executive Director Chase Maggiano, via e-mail, and he spoke with candor about his role as the new Executive Director, saying: “As Executive Director, I’m the #1 supporter of the chorus. That means making sure the financial and operational infrastructure can support our mission, making sure the chorus demands the best of its talents with every main stage and outreach performance (we have more than 60 outreach performances a year) ), and making sure that our product and mission keeps us competitive in attracting DC arts consumers and funders.”
I asked Mr. Maggiano if he felt that the GMCW should try and expand its appeal to a much wider demographic than a Gay audience and he responded: “Absolutely. The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington is one of the largest choruses around and I’ve been blown away by the amount of talent in this group. Being in one of the gay-friendliest cities in the country, there’s no reason to keep our talents to ourselves.”
What does Chase Maggiano hope to achieve over the next few years—what goals doe she have? I received this very interesting answer: “One goal is to attract more diverse audience members in gender, orientation, ethnicity and age. Some of this, of course, comes simply from getting the word out through marketing. But everything comes back to what and who is on stage, and making sure that reflects who we want to come through the door. Not only will this be a little different for the new audience, it’ll be a little different for our committed traditional audience as well. I actually remember the first time I saw a straight couple in a gay bar and my first thought was ‘they must not know where they really are.’ Well, they knew, and that was really cool.”
The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC’s prolific past and current stellar musical prowess promises us an exciting and bold artistic future.
With Potomac Fever and Rock Creek Singers
Friday, April 11, 2014 at 8 pm
New York Avenue Presbyterian Church
1313 New York Avenue NW, in Washington, DC
Saturday, April 19, 2014 at 5 pm and 8 pm
The Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle at the Mead Center for American Theater
1101 Sixth Street SW, in Washington, DC
In this special concert, Potomac Fever and Rock Creek Singers perform their best material, showing off their distinctive styles. GMCW’s select vocal ensembles perform 40 concerts annually from The White House to the Vice President’s residence to the smallest of venues.
PURCHASE TICKETS HERE.
Sunday, May 18, 2014 at 4:00 pm (ASL)
at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Concert Hall -2700 F Street NW, in Washington, DC
Tickets are available at The Kennedy Center Box Office by calling (202) 467-4600, or by purchasing them ONLINE.
Learn from the best as GMCW teaches you everything you need to know about Broadway musicals along with Tony Award-winner Laura Benanti. Experience Broadway’s finest moments through time from Anything Goes to Showboat to The Book of Mormon and Kinky Boots! Songs from our trip down Broadway Lane including “Defying Gravity” from Wicked, “Sunday” from Sunday in the Park with George, “Something’s Coming” and ‘Tonight” (from West Side Story), “Do You Hear the People Sing” from Les Misersbles, “You Gotta Get A Gimmick” (from Gypsy), “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (from Carousel), “If You Were Gay” (from Avenue Q), and many more!