So gay. Dear God, that was so gay. I've seen Liberace descend from a Lucite trapeze dressed in an ermine robe, covered in glitter and that was less gay than this show. But that's precisely what the new artistic director, Jimmy Morehead, was going for and, luckily for the audience, he pokes fun at himself and all the glorious camp that this show delivers. Morehead is making his debut as the new artistic director of the Chicago Gay Men's Chorus ( CGMC ). Everyone knew he had some very large shoes to fill, but he did just that and in spades. Morehead and the CGMC deliver with this "Mamma Mia-esque" love story set to the music of Stephen Sondheim. I was a bit nervous when I heard the undertaking that Morehead determined for his opening show. Well, nervous is an understatement. "Catastrophid" was more like it. Sondheim's music is deep, and to intersect that with some ridiculous May-December gay romance set in Boystown seemed like lunacy. I was proven wrong—very wrong. Morehead's show is smart. I think this is what struck me first. Morehead has a grandiose sense of humor. In other words, even the densest of people will find the show hilarious ( i.e., there are fart jokes ). But he also has a wonderful subtlety to his humor that is, in a word, delightful. It both pokes fun at the camp of the gay community while at the same time churning up deeper jokes that do not insult anyone's sensibilities. I spent my time after the show mingling with the cast in the lobby and was struck by how many of them thought how much they "sucked" or how unprepared they were. I'm sure if I watched the show over and over again, I'd find a handful of chorus members who, in fact, sucked, but when you're in the business of herding cats, chances are you're going to get those four or five guys who think it uncool to practice. But Morehead obviously worked the CGMC hard for this show. The chorus sounded superb. Actually, to be honest, I think this is the best the group's ever sounded.
I do not want to give away too much of the show, as it is fun, but I have to make a few remarks since I'm supposed to be criticizing the show and I can't very well do that without mentioning some specifics. There are a few standout performances from the chorus that bear mention. First, there's the marvelously choreographed "A Night Out in Boystown." Set to the overture of Into the Woods, this presented the entirety of the story of Into the Woods as set in Boystown on a Saturday night. I am not an enormous fan of Into the Woods, but this number impressed me. The entire show done in five minutes? Perfect! Like in shows past, the lovely ladies of the chorus seemed to steal the show. Of course, I mean the drag queens. ( I'm sorry, actual ladies of the chorus, but if you throw on six-inch heels and dance with a tuba on stage, I'll mention you next time. ) Their first number was "Ladies Who Lunch" and this was an ode to all of us who brunch at any time of the day. So well done! Morehead ended the first act with a really fantastic tableau that any Chicagoan would be proud. I won't give that away, as it really was perfect for this show. The second act started with "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd." Now, at first, when the chorus started the song, I, as well as a number of those around me had an overall feeling of "WTF?" This song has nothing to do with the show at all. Two things: First, the song was technically the chorus' best. There was not a hair out of place. From lighting, to stage direction, to singing and acting this could have been in any professional theater. Second, it isn't supposed to be a part of the show. Morehead just likes this song and wanted it in there. He's the king so in it went, but with some very large tongue-in-cheek bit of humor. The show-stopper, and certainly the performance that seemed to be the most talked-about of the night, was once again from the ladies of the chorus. "Gotta Get A Gimmick" was the kind of drag I wish was actually done in clubs. If you don't find Ambrosia D'Jour funny and remarkably entertaining, you have no taste and I hear there is a place just for you: Miami. In all seriousness, I died. I died and went to heaven. Lana Louise, Honey Hoover and Ambrosia were absolutely brilliant. I'm not sure if any of them ever considered a live show like this, but they should. These ladies deserve all the applause they got. This is a critique, and I do have one criticism. This was Morehead's debut as artistic director. One false move and the donors and theater queens would have him castrated and thrown to packs of wild rejected chorus boys for lunch. I think Morehead was nervous and some of that certainly comes out in the show—not so much in performances, but in the occasional pandemonium that took place. There are certain points in the show where it is clear that Morehead is just stretching too much, and he really does not have to. An example: During the performance of "Move On," he had the lead wandering through the chorus getting pats on the back and hugs. I get he needed comfort, but he didn't even need to be on stage at all. It was … distracting. This came up a few other times when Morehead felt like he needed to do more. I liken it to a first-time wedding planner who, despite his talent, goes from what was a simple balloon release and turns it into a fiasco involving flamingos and a flyover by the Blue Angels. Morehead's strengths are in the love of his chorus has for him, his fantastic sense of humor and his very deep love for his craft. This is what should shine through the most. On the whole, it does, but there are those moments when it gets lost to nothing more than a new director's nerves. I have no doubt that as Morehead gains his full confidence, we can expect to see even greater work from the CGMC. There are still more shows to see. We're Still Here will be playing May 23 at the Harris Theater and May 24 at Wentz Concert Hall in Naperville. Visit Article Link Here .