Lions, tigers, and Bears, oh my! These were a small handful among the sea of characters we saw at The Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus’ (CGMC) Under The Big Top. The word “chorus” doesn’t even begin to describe the exhibition of entertainment displayed on the Athenaeum Theatre stage. For their 2018 spring season, the CGMC adapted a carnival-themed piece featuring all the classic circus characters – and more!
The Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus boasts over 150 members in addition to special guests to enrich the theme of this fun-filled night. We were serenaded by the likes of Siamese twins (Michael McGraw and Christian Castillo), a Bearded Lady (Reggie Owens), a Lion Tamer (Terry Wittenberg), even a Flea Circus Director ( Brandon Davidson). What stood out for this nostalgic circus-dweller were the accompanying circus acts taking stage in front of the chorus.
Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus Joins the Circus
Body contortionists and tightrope walkers (both performed by special guest Molly Plunk), aerial artists (Andrew Holst), and hula hoop artists (Aerial Emery) accompanied the large chorus.
A performance that particularly caused a funny feeling in this reporter’s throat was a sword-swallowing act by special guest Sally Marvel. The chosen songs were appropriate giveaways to what circus acts would take the stage as we nodded and clapped to “She’s Always A Woman to Me” by Billy Joel, “Bend Me, Shape Me” by Lawrence “Larry” Weiss, The Wiz’s “Mean Ole Lion”, and “Mack the Knife” from Threepenny Opera.
As if we didn’t have enough visual stimulation to match the music to our ears, dancers moved across (and sometimes off) the stage choreographed by David Spoor-Harvey, Shawn Hunt, and Nico Joshua Nepomuceno.
The mission of CGMC includes having the ability to entertain while enlightening, inspire change, and build community. In the near-end piece “This is Me” from The Greatest Showman, one could experience the reflection of those values through the heartfelt performance. Aerial hoop artist Andrew Holst delivered impressive postures as soloist Alexis Rangel delivered just as impressive notes. Holst finished strong while presenting a flowing rainbow flag.
Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus’ “Under The Big Top” is Recommended for the light-hearted seeker of pure entertainment with a heavy dose of puns. Lovers of the cabaret, musical theatre, and show choir, step right up! “Capital A” Art-seekers and those looking for original composition ensembles need not apply.
To learn more, please visit the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus website.
About the Author:
Brittany Harlin is the founding artistic director of Chicago Urban Dance Collective and 2017 recipient of the Chicago Dancemakers Forum Lab Artist Award. Her influences are Hip Hop and Modern Dance Pioneers. In addition to company work, her dancing and choreography has been featured at Ragdale Foundation, Links Hall, Elastic Arts, Aragon Ballroom, DRAMA Duo Music Productions, Black Ensemble Theatre, and Hip Hop International.
Brittany’s focus is Hip Hop, Modern, Funk Styles, Waacking, and House, combined with growing knowledge of somatics and kinesiology, all through the concert dance lens. Her goal is to bring dance education to a place of complete body awareness, spiritual expression, and connection. Brittany hopes to establish her practice in expressive therapy, creating opportunities, and inclusiveness.
Her teaching artist pedagogy & philosophy are weighted in respecting the integrity of the vernacular movement, by sharing what she’s been taught from respected community members - and stopping exactly there. She relates those concepts to personal natural movement, and the energy of the dancers she’s working with. Her goal is to create solidarity between diverse backgrounds, conducive to the essence and intention of The Hip Hop Socio-Political Movement. Harlin’s passion in dance extends to her community as she has launched her most recent endeavor of teaching professionalism and industry standards to aspiring professional dancers.
When Brittany isn’t dancing, she is supplementing her work with her passions for poetry and songwriting. She’s been referred to as a fawn and a hippie on multiple, separate occasions.