‘TORCH: Songs from the Gay Life!’ at The Rainbow Theatre Project

A cascade of frothy, kitschy, verbally intricate, and highly theatrical songs pervaded the intimate atmosphere of the Bier Baron Tavern in Washington, DC as the innovative Rainbow Theatre Project presented a refreshing evening of song entitled: Torch: Songs from the Gay Life!  Based on an idea by Rainbow’s Artistic Director H. Lee Gable,– and Directed with informal, extremely relaxed flair by John Moletress,– an engaging group of five main performers of many myriad styles, performed for an appreciative crowd with a set of songs ranging from more well-known standards to more obscure yet intriguing works.

The cast. Photo by Penny Nail.
The cast. Photo by  Penny Nail-Hoelting.

Performing from a small corner stage and backed-up by an impressive three-piece combo , this group of talented performers each “strutted their stuff” with varying degrees of confidence and professionalism, but always with enthusiasm, sass, and an obvious eagerness to captivate a crowd. Indeed, enthusiasm was the key to the success of this group of local talent. John Moletress (who performed as well as directed). Ms. Aaren Keith, Lady Dane (Diva of Divas), Chris Griffin (alias the hilarious drag persona of Lucrezia Blozia) and Augustin Beall all worked with their own iconoclastic styles with such conviction that the seventy-five minutes of this show flew by quite swiftly.

As just mentioned, the three-piece instrumental combo of Christopher Wingert on Piano, Jarrett Murray on Bass and Karen Piper on Drums, added immeasurably to the musical texture of the individual performers. One of the highlights of this set of songs was Ms. Aaren Keith as she sang the lively and sharply-etched “Shape of Things.” This witty song about utilizing different shapes to mirror the paradigms of life was enhanced by Keith’s precise and extremely theatrical phrasing.

Director John Moletress doubled as an enigmatic and sensitive performer with a commanding stage presence as he sang the haunting “Creep” with just the right mixture of edginess and ambiguity.

The song “Four-Page Letter” was sung engagingly and rhythmically by the slender and appealing Augustin Beall as he was backed –up by a trio of three wonderful singers. (The song was almost akin to a Barbershop Quartet sound but much more relaxed and captivating in presentation). An exciting Bass groove (compliments of Mr. Murray) continued to add resonance to Beall’s next number “Slippery People.” Beall possesses a voice that glides effortlessly from note to note with a silvery ease and dramatic heft.

“Zombie” was an intriguing number sung to great theatrical effect by Ms. Keith .

“Turning Japanese” was sung with great enthusiasm and animation by Chris Griffin as the hysterically funny and exciting drag persona of Lucrezia Blozia.

Wearing a cutting-edge black outfit, Director and performer John Moletress, launched into two successive songs that captured a nice feeling for sexual angst and ambiguity-namely, the more meditative “Icicle” and the decidedly up-tempo and riveting, raucous “Origins of Love.”

The lustrous tones of Mr. Augustin Beall once again pervaded this intimate space with an extremely moving and heartrending rendition of the standard “I Can’t Make You Love Me.”

Next up, Ms. Keith wowed the crowd one again with her clear, clarion tones as she sang the intertwining melodic strands and assayed all the verbal intricacy of the song “Riverbend.”

Lucrezia Blozia returned for a rocking cover of the cult standard “Don’t Dream It-Be It” from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Blozia even cajoled the audience into several rounds of zany and fun audience interaction.

The eclectic and “chameleon –like” Lady Dane concluded the evening’s festivities with a very enthusiastic, joyful, and upbeat rendering of the song “Love on Top.” This fiery Diva captivated the crowd with disarming banter and very animated, heightened body movements.

The Rainbow Theatre Project should be commended for continuing to “push the envelope” in order to celebrate the LGBTQ community in new and innovative ways. Kudos to all involved as this group works to tighten its presentation and confidence from one exciting, challenging project to the next. Aside from the LGBTQ community, this bold and provocative Theatre group deserves the wide support of the whole DC/MD/VA artistic and theatre-going community at–large.

Running Time: 75 minutes with no intermission.

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Torch: Songs from the Gay Life was peformed on March 8, 2015 at Bier Baron Tavern – 1523 22nd Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For more information on this exciting Theatre Group and a look at upcoming events go to their website.

RATING: FOUR-AND-A-HALF-STARS10.gif

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David Friscic
David has always had a passionate interest in the arts from acting in professional dinner theatre and community theatre to reviewing film and local theatre in college to making numerous treks to New York City to indulge his interest in live theatre. An enthusiastic interest in writing has shown itself in a BA in English/Education and an MA in English Literature. Taken together, these two interests have culminated in the logical conclusion of writing for an arts blog. David moved up and down the East Coast due to his father's job at General Electric and this has helped him to perceive the world in a very open way. After his schooling, David taught in Catholic school systems for awhile and, then, spent three years in the seminary with two years at Catholic University studying Theology and one year in a practicuum working at a church in New York State. David currently works at the National Science Foundation as a Technical Information Specialist for the Office of Polar Programs and has had the great opportunity to go to Antarctica twice and Greenland once in support of the research community. He enjoys living in Bethesda and has taken courses at the Writer's Center. David enjoys swimming, traveling, reading, and working on committees at his condo. His major interest, however, is the arts and all it encompasses---from symphony, to film, to museum treks to live theatre. He counts having lunch with Lillian Gish and meeting Lily Tomlin, Geraldine Page, Maureen Stapleton, Liza Minnelli and Sandy Dennis as some of the more exciting encounters of his life.