“Literally 48 hours before opening, we had to cancel,” recalls Thea Kano of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington. “In fact, the cast was on its way to the theater for a dress rehearsal. That’s how down to the wire it was.” A full year of pandemic life later, the chorus is finally ready to premiere its bold, all-new cabaret revue Genderosity, restaged as a virtual production.
“Celebrating the phenomenal spectrum of gender expression” through song, Genderosity includes renditions of musical numbers from La Cage Aux Folles (“A Little More Mascara”), The Wiz (“Home”), and Aida (“My Strongest Suit”), as well as pop songs by David Bowie, India.Arie, Lake Street Dive, and a mash-up of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” and Madonna’s “Vogue.”
“Another one that really touches me is a song by Dar Williams called ‘When I Was A Boy,'” Kano says. The song makes the point “that you don’t notice your gender when you’re a kid, and you don’t notice other people’s gender, you’re just all in it together…. There’s the innocence about hearing this story about when I was a boy — and then the same singer [switches to] when I was a girl.”
The program also features the GenOUT Youth Chorus and members of 17th Street Dance performing choreography by Craig Cipollini and James Ellzy. At approximately 65 minutes, the virtual show sticks closely to the original 2020 script, the main change being in how it’s produced.
“In the Zoom process, singers can only hear themselves. And in fact, as I sit at my piano teaching each song, I can’t hear them, [but] they can hear me. It’s such a bizarre feeling,” says Kano, whose role morphed from traditional conductor to video editor and producer. “Once they’ve sent their videos in, I put the audio together [and] weeks later hear the harmonies altogether. The singers don’t get to hear what any of it sounds like until the show actually goes up.”
Kano fully anticipates continuing to offer streamed performances even after the chorus is able to fully return to live, in-person productions, hopefully by this time next year. “Now that we’ve been doing it so much this year, we’re kind of getting comfortable with video footage. And that gives a nice, added dimension to the theater experience [while also] getting our message out there even farther.” It’s all only possible, Kano adds, because of “our dedicated members, singers, and dancers. They’ve really been doing the extra work and showing up.”
Genderosity runs from Saturday, March 13 through Sunday, March 28. Tickets are $25 for an ASL-interpreted, 72-hour stream. Visit www.gmcw.org.
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