After Setbacks, Gay Men’s Chorus Shines! The Parker Playhouse is a perfect venue for the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus. It’s spacious and sturdy enough to warrant wearing your trendiest collar for a visit but there is also just enough tarnish on the handrails to make you feel at home. On Friday night, the playhouse came to life with an outstanding performance by the chorus. The idea that this year’s “Home Is Where the Heart Is” could have been the FTLGMC’s best holiday concert in a long time had not even occurred to most of us who are familiar with the trials and shakeups that the chorus has endured recently. I must say that I was deeply moved by the loyalty and excitement of so many patrons who came out to be a part of an institution which has seen Fort Lauderdale’s gay community through sunshine and storms.
To be honest, I was a little bit worried for the FTLGMC’s annual holiday show. I suspected that the pressure of losing their familiar venue at the Sunshine Cathedral, losing many of their fine singers in a subsequent mutiny and losing access to even their own website would present too many challenges and this might be the end of an era.
My suspicions were unfounded. This winter concert looked great and sounded even better. The acoustics of the Parker Playhouse are brilliant. In just a few short weeks, the rusty but sincere “I Am That Man” went from being another Johnny-come-lately addition to the “It Gets Better Project” to a robust declaration of compassion and loyalty to the next generation.
“There were a lot more funerals thirty and twenty years ago,” says Brian Garrett, President of the FTLGMC. “What people did was they formed choruses to sing at someone’s funeral who had maybe died of AIDS and what we’ve now found is that some people just continue to enjoy singing, even when it’s not at a funeral. So these people stayed and found a way to create a community.”
“And that’s really what it’s all about,” he says, “…a sense of community, people coming out to support each other and getting their message out. It’s the universal language.”
Debra Hampton, who did a naughty and nice turn singing “Santa Baby”, is rumored to have become connected with the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus when her mother was ill. “I think it may have been an inspiration for her,” says David Littlefield, “because I remember really meeting her when we were performing at that nursing home around four years ago.” Hampton’s much hooted about and whistled-at performance was described by more than one person as “Marilyn Monroe meets Bette Midler”.
Now, should a patron be deaf to the crisp new sound of the chorus, the Speaking Hands Ministries lent themselves to the visual excitement this year by taking center stage in a Gospel “Hallelujah To The New Born King” that brought the audience to their feet and put hands in the air. The Speaking Hands are already familiar to chorus patrons but it was this year, it seemed, that the Gospel was felt, in a moment, like a chord struck within the heart.
“That’s all part of the vision of the chorus,” says Garrett, “yes, we are gay men and we are proud to represent our humanity but we’re also members of a much larger community as well. It’s what we all want to do – reach out with our music.” He notes the cooperation and support of the South Florida Pride Wind Ensemble and the Women’s Chorus.
On their 25th Anniversary, the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus reminded us of why we need to survive… not just because it gets better, but because it’s sometimes already better than we know. With a wink and bump of the hips, the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus takes its place in the front row of this little city we call home
By Jarrett Terrill, Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Miami ArtZine ~ “On Monday I attended a different kind of concert, the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus and Broadway legend Barbara Cook at Broward Center.”
By Mary Damiano Thursday, October 25, 2007
“Celebration of Gay Culture in Ft. Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus Season Ender”
The last five years have been a turbulent, yet important moment in the gay rights fight. We watched as a president used America’s fear of gays to win an election. We watched the first same sex couple get married. And we even watched Rosie O’Donnell go toe to toe with a conservative Christian girl, all for the name of equality. Although the fight may not be over, there have been so many strides made that the “closet” is becoming such a tiny, evaporating space occupied only by the few.
The Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus’ production “Time to Take Our Place” understands this peculiar position where the gay rights movement now stands. The show starts with the lyrics, “We’ve come a long, long way now,” and then, in its chorus, demands, “It’s time to take our place, among the human race.” The rest of the production and amalgamation of musical numbers seems to echo this theme. The swift moving production numbers all showcase the various facets that make up gay culture: the drag queens, the camp, the fascination with musical theatre, the leather world, and, of course, the Village People. It’s like they’re saying, “America, this is gay culture, and we’re ready to be at one with all the other wonderful cultures that make this country so great.”
Act I moved from the title song to a string of Latin songs, including a Ricky Martin look-a-like’s (Gustavo Torres’) take on “Cup of Life”, the 1999 Grammy performance that put Mr. Martin on the map. Here, that performance is emulated, in which towards the end performers milled about in the audience banging bongo drums, a drag queen dressed in a mermaid dress danced on stilts, and the entire chorus section was bouncing around in all types of commotion. It was a rather electrifying moment.
A 70’s medley included leisure suit swingers dancing all of the campy dance moves of the era, moving into a medley of Village People songs, in which the performers donned white-tank tops and tight-jeans, eliciting a few “woos” from the audience. This moved into a medley of Queen songs, hampered by microphone glitches. During Sean McCoy and Danny Lange’s solos, the microphones they were using were not on, and the audience grumbled, unhappy that any bit of this sparkling production should be messed up from technical woes.
Act II was decidedly more poignant. It began with Rodgers and Hammerstein numbers that moved into a sampling of Miss Saigon numbers. Here, the lone female in the performance (billed only as Jessy) had a nice number, yet I kept thinking it would be more in line with the theme if they used a feminine man, dressed as an Asian whore instead.
The real showstopper came towards the end with Kurt Litzenberger’s rendition of the classic Andrew Lloyd Weber song “Music of the Night.” His voice was strong, as powerful as the original Michael Crawford version, causing some members of the audience to give a standing ovation during the final, soft notes.
Before the closing song, the director Todd Wiley came on stage and explained that this song, “Moon Rider” was written by an astronaut, looking down at earth, and seeing the world free of problems, fighting, and fear. The entire cast of characters came back in costume for this number: the drag queens, the Elton John look-a-like, the 70’s dancers, and the leather daddies. The Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus statement is made: here we are, and let this wonderful culture live free of problems, fighting, and fear. We’re ready to take our place.
by Patrick Berkeley EDGE Ft. Lauderdale Contributor Wednesday Jun 20, 2007
It just doesn’t feel like June to me unless I spend a few hours in a darkened theatre listening to gay men singing their hearts out. That’s where I was Sunday June 17, sitting in Broward Center watching the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus and their annual June show, this year called “Time to Take Our Place”. It was an interesting concert, combining the best of pop, rock, and Broadway. The first act featured the music of the 1970s and included a disco medley which transformed the stage into a miniature Studio 54, while a mirrored disco ball twirled above the audience. The Village People medley was also a hit, as was the Queen medley, in which Sean McCoy and James Perkowski donned some killer brocade duds. The second act focused on Broadway with selections from Oklahoma!, Miss Saigon, Carousel, and Jesus Christ Superstar. The highlight of the evening for me was Kurt Litzenberger, who nailed his solo of “Music of the Night” from Phantom of the Opera. (To see more photos of the evening, visit the photo gallery page in this issue.) The Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus is planning something extra special for their October 22 concert: they’ll be at the big theatre at Broward Center, singing with their special guest, Broadway star Barbara Cook. That’s a show you won’t want to miss.
Mary Damiano’s Arts Scene MiamiArtZine Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus
Time To Take Our Place
You have to hand it to him, Todd Wiley has not been afraid to try new things with the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus. The recent concert at the Amaturo Theatre was an exuberant production called “Time To Take Our Place.” The evening was a celebration of the music of the last forty years or so with a couple of offerings from the 1950’s thrown in for good measure. The evening also saw some of the chorus’s more recent new members being given more to do.
The first half included a wide variety of music from “Listen To My Heart,” first made popular by the wonderful late Nancy LaMott, to a 70’s Boogie medley, and three hits from the Village People. The half closed with six songs from the pop group Queen which were given a terrific theatrical, over-the-top treatment totally in keeping with the pop group. James Perkowski obviously had a lot of fun singing the Freddy Mercury numbers. When I got home from the concert I noted that Freddy Mercury, were he alive today, would be 61 this year. How time flies.
This year the choreography was performed by members of the chorus itself rather than, as has happened in past years, outside dancers being brought in. The chorus members did a great job. No choreographer was credited in the program but word has it that much of the sharp work was down to Derek Mann.
With such a strong first half one wondered what the Chorus could do in the second half to top it. The answer was a visit to musical theater with songs from “Oklahoma!” “Miss Saigon,” and three songs from the Lloyd Webber canon, amongst others.
The surprise, if there was one, was the last piece of the evening, “Moon Rider.” Todd Wiley, the chorus’s artistic director, took the opportunity to introduce it to the audience, the vast majority of whom had not heard it before. The thoughtful, poetic song, beautifully sung by James Perkowski, relates the feelings of an astronaut looking down on Earth and the feelings that he has.
The song came about as a result of the collaboration of the Apollo astronaut Eugene Cernan who was the last man to walk on the moon, and the pop group Up With People. The result was “Moon Rider.”
As the song was nearing its end the globe of Planet Earth slowly descended from above the stage. A perfect ending to a really enjoyable concert.