Regional Reviews: San Francisco
Elton: The Sing-Along
Also see Eddie's reviews of Freedomland, Arcadia and Black Virgins Are Not for Hipsters, Patrick's reviews of Cymbeline and Jarrod Spector: A Little Help from My Friends, and Richard's review of Detroit
The San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus was founded in 1978 and is the group most often credited with creating the LGBT choral movement. Today the membership is over 300 voices. During the weekend of Gay Pride they presented a dazzling program of Elton John songs, many coming from The Lion King and Aida the musical.
On June 26 gays and straights packed the Nourse Theater to hear this outstanding choral group sing the songs of Elton John. The evening also included a singalong on some of the songs, with lyrics projected on a large screen behind the 300-plus singers. There was electricity in the air, since this was the day the United States Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage; the audience was ready to sing the songs with new meaning.
At the beginning of the show Dr. Timothy Seelig, SFGMC Artistic Director and conductor, gave a little speech about the Supreme Court ruling, and the entire audience rose from their seats, cheering and clapping enthusiastically.
The program opened with a "bitching" arrangement of "The Bitch Is Back," the audience joining in on the chorus. This was followed by a poignant "Sad Songs Say So Much" and "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues." A group of energy driven dancers called The Lollipop Guild rocked during "Saturday Night's Alright (for Fighting)." Joe Bissell, Vance Jason, Dale Becherer and the choir led the crowd in a stimulating rendition of "Rocket Man."
Igor Chudak, Bob Connett, Frank Federico, and Joshua Castro took center stage with the choir behind them to do a moving arrangement of "Philadelphia Freedom." Following this upbeat song were "Your Song," "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me," "American Triangle," and "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road." The first act ended with two songs from Aida. Breanna Sinclaire, who recently graduated from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music's Master of Music in vocal performance program, and the first transwoman of color to graduate from the academy, participated in a duet with Carl Pantle on "Elaborate Lives," and both were pitch perfect. With a melodious voice, Sherman Blow sang "My Strongest Suit." The Gay Men's Choir beautifully backed them up.
Act two opened with members of the SFGMC, The Lollipop Guild, SWAG, and Vocal Minority doing an affecting rendition of "Someone Saved My Life Tonight." This was followed by Philip Calvin and Brian Abascal stunningly singing the touching "Candle in the Wind."
The full chorus then came back on stage with Michael J. Founquette appearing as a character from The Lion King powerfully singing "Circle of Life," as additional members of the choir came down the aisles onto the stage.
Breanna Sinclaire returned center stage to sing with her dynamic voice "Shadowland" from The Lion King which was quickly followed by "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?"and you could definitely feel the love coming from the audience and the chorus.
Vocal Minority was harmoniously energizing in their arrangement of "Daniel" and the chorus rocked with "Crocodile Rock" along with the sold out crowd. Paul Hovannes, Young Kang, and Dave Caldwell did a crowd pleasing arrangement of "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word" and this was quickly followed by "The One" which segued into "The Last Song." Joshua Keels, Phillip Whitely, and Russ Bono back by the choir had great thematic resonance in "I'm Still Standing" and, as their last song, the whole choir sang "Don't Go Breaking My Heart."
The superb San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus made this a night to remember.
The San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus presented Elton: The Sing-Along on June 26 and 27, 2015, at the Nourse Theater. Coming up for the SFGMC will be "Hearth and Home" December 11 - 12, 2015. Season subscriptions will be on sale August 1. Visit www.sfgmc.org.