Courtesy of Boston Gay Men’s Chorus
Looking for a sure thing during Boston Pride Week? Then check out Smile, Boston Gay Men’s Chorus’s uplifting program of Broadway favorites and contemporary pop tunes. With special guest Laura Benanti―Tony Award-winner, Nashville star, and the show-stealing Baroness Elsa Schrader in the Sound of Music Live! telecast―BGMC is poised to blow the lid off Symphony Hall. With tunes from Cabaret, Into the Woods, Kinky Boots, the latest from Imagine Dragons and Madonna herself; and a suite of inspirational songs from a little known Seventies-era feminist musical, there’s a little something to satisfy everyone. Smile takes place Sunday, June 14 at 3 pm at Symphony Hall in Boston.
“The whole concert will be a different experience than our audience has ever had,” says BGMC Music Director Reuben Reynolds, III. “It’s going to be set up for a cabaret so there will be tables on the floor. There will be waiters and waitresses and food and drink will be available. And it’s going to be great fun, which is what people expect from us. Trust me, no one is going to want to miss this!”
Read on for more from Reynolds on what’s in store with Smile.
Q: Your upcoming concert is called Smile. I take it you won’t be performing songs from Sweeney Todd or Parade. What is the concept behind Smile?
A: Music transforms us emotionally and when you turn yourself over to music, you see just how powerful it can be. It can unleash so many emotions. And in this case, Smile is all about the things that make us feel good, and make us smile.
Q: So what will the Chorus do to put smiles on the faces of audience members at
A: We open with a piece from How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying called “Brotherhood of Man.” It’s one of those pieces that is simply joyous. We’re also doing a group of pieces by Harold Arlen, who’s probably best known for writing a little musical called The Wizard of Oz. Arlen was a fabulous songwriter who is masterful at writing songs about the human condition. We’re doing one called “I Love to Sing-a,” which is about how much fun it is to sing and the joy it brings you. Chad Weirick, our assistant musical director, primary arranger, and accompanist, has created this incredibly virtuosic arrangement of the song. The chorus will be scat singing, a type of singing that was made popular by Ella Fitzgerald and Cab Calloway, and it’s absolutely thrilling. One of Arlen’s other big numbers everyone knows is “I Love a Parade.” Considering it’ll take place during Boston’s Pride Week, think of it as a big old LGBT Pride parade at Symphony Hall.
Q: You also have a very special guest in Laura Benanti, who seems to be everywhere these days: Nashville, Nurse Jackie, Radio City Music Hall, and hosting the 2015 Drama Desk Awards—
A: Laura is huge in the world of theatre and musical theatre. She just finished starring in the New York Spring Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall with the Rockettes. She won a Tony for her turn in the 2008 revival of Gypsy. In fact, she’s going back to Broadway next year as the lead in “She Loves Me,” but she’s probably best known for playing Baroness Elsa Schrader in the Sound of Music Live, NBC’s telecast, the year before last.
Laura is a gem to work with. She first started singing with the Gay Men’s Chorus in Washington, DC which was founded by her uncle. She’s going to sing a lot with us, and she closes out the entire concert with us singing “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” from The Sound of Music, which is one of those pieces that will just give you goose bumps at this concert. Laura’s voice is glorious. And think about it—in Symphony Hall of all places, with her incredible voice and 175 men backing her up. It’s going to be thrilling.
Q: You’re also doing songs from the feminist musical I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road, which ran in the ’70s and ’80s. Why did you decide to include music from this little-known show?
A: I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road was written by Nancy Ford, who has the distinction of being not only the first woman to write a Broadway musical, but the first lesbian to write a Broadway musical.
Q: That’s a good enough reason right there.
A: She and Gretchen Cryer wrote it during the 1970s, when feminism was just coming to fruition. It’s this incredible musical about a woman who was a successful musician but she quit it all and she repackaged herself. She had this sex kitten image that she and her boyfriend had created for her, but then she got sick of it and she said, “No, that’s not the person I am. I’m tired of being packaged. I’m tired of being painted up and marketed this way. I’m coming back and creating a new career and being the person I am.” It was such a revolutionary thing when it hit back then because feminism was just sweeping the nation.
When you take the lyrics to these feminist songs and you have them sung by gay men, they take on a whole other meaning and we see how much we’re fighting for the same things Ford and Cryer were writing about. You can translate word for word into a gay man’s life exactly the same meaning about not being the person that everyone says you’re supposed to be, but finding the person inside of you.
Q: This sounds pretty radical for the 1970s. How was the musical received at the time?
A: It was huge! The Wednesday night performances of I’m Getting My Act Together were the hottest tickets around because Ford and Cryer and the cast would do talk-back sessions after the show and the whole audience would stay afterwards and talk about what it was like for them to hear these songs about women finding the power within them to be the person they want to be. It was like a musical consciousness-raising group!
Q: Which songs will you perform from the show?
A: We’ll do “Natural High” which has some of my favorite lyrics: “Music is my one salvation, singing is my celebration, and playin’ with a rock and roll band is a natural high.” We’ll also do “Old Friend,” which I have loved since the first time I heard it 20 years ago. It’s a song the lead character, Heather, sings to her manager, who was once her partner. She’s telling him we can’t be in love anymore but we can be friends, and we’ll go through life and we’ll take care of each other. And when we’re 62, if we haven’t found anybody else, we’ll meet up like old friends do and we’ll travel the world together and we’ll talk about what we’ve been through.
The Boston’s Gay Men’s Chorus presents Smile, featuring Broadway favorites and Madonna’s latest hits with special guest Tony Award winner Laura Benanti on Sunday, June 14, 2015 at 3 p.m. at Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Ave., Boston. Tickets $27-$77 and are available at BGMC.org or by calling 888.266.1200.
[From a News Release]