Regional Reviews: Seattle
Romping Under the Mistletoe with
Of all the holiday entertainment traditions Seattle has to offer - and they are many - the annual Seattle Men's Chorus holiday concerts are a particular favorite around our house. This year's event, Under the Mistletoe, is a warm-hearted, humorous and, of course, musically sumptuous one. In my 14 years of seeing these, it ranks at or near the top of the heap.
SMC's mainstay artistic director/conductor Dennis Coleman leads the large and accomplished group with eloquent assurance, and assistant artistic director, composer/lyricist/arranger Eric Lane Barnes, furnishes zany special material and puts the comic sub-group "Captain Smartypants" through their merry paces. This year they are joined by Eric Banks, conductor of the new chorus sub-group "Aedonis" which specializes in tight harmonies and more mellow vocals. With cracker jack accompanist Evan Stults and the always inspiring sign language interpreting by Kevin Gallagher on hand, the SMC always delivers but this year it just seems extra special.
Perhaps it is the focus remaining on the SMC themselves, and not having too many other special guest groups to overload the holiday table. Indeed, the Seattle Women's Chorus (the lesbian counterpart of the primarily gay male SMC), which once took part in the SMC events, held its own holiday concert at Meany Hall this season. Aside from gorgeous turns on certain numbers by the NW Harp ensemble and a short but sweet first-weekend-only special guest gig by Melissa Manchester (in a welcome return to stage and recording work after a decade off raising her kids), the boys are on their own and doing very nicely, thank you. And, though there are reflective and somber patches, the SMC focuses on what they do best, camping and vamping and singing out (Louise!) to a diverse and appreciative audience of all ages, nationalities and persuasions.
A special tip of Santa's cap to the cherubic and comic Dan Woolcot, as a Santa who keeps being roused from a long winter's nap by the chorus' performance of some twisted classical music contorted into carols, and later returning as a radio deejay with an eye for his co-host, as they play holiday hits of yore, enacted by chorus members impersonating the likes of Andy Williams and Bing Crosby. The big finale of the show, with everyone appropriately garbed for a riff on "Dance of the Flowers," ends the evening with a guffaw.
Under the Mistletoe is a great gift to give a friend, family member, or just treat yourself to one of the most wonderful show-going times of the year.
Underneath the Mistletoe at Benaroya Hall, 200 University Street in downtown Seattle, continues at 8pm December 14, and 2pm and 8pm December 20. For more information, go online at www.seattlemenschorus.com.- David-Edward Hughes