all photos: Nick Balleza
At one point during Saturday Night’s performance of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington’s “Red & Greene” holiday spectacular, my (straight) friend turned to me and said, “I wish you could see your face right now.” I’m not sure what I was expecting going in, despite having heard about it from my friends, but it wasn’t what I saw.
First, let me tell you this: the chorus is HUGE. As in 200 guys huge. And they were all lined up in matching blazers with color-coordinated (obviously) t-shirts underneath on risers reminiscent of your high school choir. And they were joined on stage by a live orchestra and the lovely Miss Ellen Greene, famous for her role as battered ditz Audrey in the musical Little Shop of Horrors, itself famous for starring a massive carnivorous plant puppet that just happens to sing some Motown jams. But I digress.
The show opened with the chorus arrayed on the stage, where they moved through a variety of holiday-themed music. The chorus itself took on “Red & Green,” “Ave Maria,” “In the Bleak Midwinter,” “Go! Go! Rudy!,” and a token song about Hanukkah.
Ellen Greene, who generally hammed it up for the crowd in a series of awesome cocktail dresses and just-slightly-too-fake wigs, made decent attempts at “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “Santa Baby,” and “Universal Child” (I guess that was for the Lesbians). They closed out the first act together performing Silent Night, and everyone rushed to the bar.
Four vodka sodas later, we returned and the show immediately heated up. The second act opened with a group of hilarious drag nuns on stage performing “A Nuncrackers’ Christmas,” featuring an excellent solo by Jared Harrison.
These are some salty nuns, let me tell you. We got a couple more songs from Ellen Greene and the full Chorus, and then were treated to the highlight of the show, a performance by a cappella group Potomac Fever of a holiday song medley as well as “The First Noel.” These guys could SING – they reminded me of what the a cappella groups at my college would look and sound like twenty years on.
Greene returned to the stage to give the fans what they wanted: her singing songs from the show that made her famous. First up, “Somewhere That’s Green,” followed by fan favorite “Suddenly Seymour.” I’ve got to be honest: it was not the best performance of those songs I’ve ever seen. I knew it, the audience knew it, and Ellen knew it too; as she said, she’d had a long week, and “at least [she’s] real.” And that’s, really, what the fans wanted: a little time with a kitschy star who will still travel to our nation’s capital and perform with 200 or so gay men on risers.
Oh, did I say kitsch? Because this is about the moment where kitsch EXPLODED all over the audience in what should have been the show’s grand finale. This is the moment where my face melted off. This is the moment where they rolled a feather egg into center stage and sang Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” choir-style, as 15 sparkling, snow-decked Gaga-inspired dancers (some in classic drag) worked the front of the stage like it was Saturday night at Town Danceboutique. I thought I had seen it all, but the glitter and rhinestone-encrusted white leather harness really took the cake.
I’m not even going to talk about the last number, because as far as I’m concerned the show was over after Lady Christmas hatched out of that egg. As it should have been.
I’ve seen a lot of theater. I’ve seen drag. I’ve seen choirs and Christmas pageants and everything in between. But I’ve never seen something like this show. And that, dear readers, is well worth the price of admission.