The Seattle Men's Chorus, known for balancing comedy and poignancy, performs its holiday concert, "Fruitcake," starting this weekend. It's the chorus' 10th at Benaroya Hall and a perennial favorite.
“There’s more depth to this concert than in the last few years,” says Dennis Coleman, artistic director of the Seattle Men’s Chorus. “This show as a whole is slightly more serious.”
Hmm. A holiday show by the ever-popular, 30-year-old chorus with less mischief than usual?
Hardly. Known for balancing comedy and poignancy, SMC’s December concert — its 10th at Benaroya Hall and a perennial favorite — is certainly not without its sillier edge this year.
Start with the show’s title, “Fruitcake,” and Scott Warrander’s accompanying song, a tribute to the seasonal confection many appreciate but few actually eat.
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As always, there are production numbers tinkering with familiar, festive tunes. “We Three Kings,” for example, has been transformed into “We Nine Kings,” featuring an array of impersonators ushering in Billie Jean King, Stephen King, the Burger King king and — king of kings — Elvis.
Remember “Stomp”? The hit stage show featuring percussion numbers banged out with brooms and garbage cans? Get ready for “Stomp the Halls,” in which the cheerful carol gets a similarly noisy makeover.
But Coleman promises a touching and dramatic side to the show, too.
The chorus offers a special performance of “New Words,” a song from Maury Yeston’s musical “In the Beginning.”
“It’s a tribute to fathers and father-son relationships,” Coleman says. “We have a lot of fathers in the chorus. Everyone will sign the song in perfect unison, which we’re known for doing.”
Coleman says the concert’s highlight is “The Promise,” a World War II-era story about a young soldier making his way home for Christmas. With nine songs by Robert Seeley, “The Promise” features three soloists, chamber orchestra and text by Robert Espindola.
“It will resonate with a lot of folks whose loved ones are in the service overseas,” he says.
Upholding its own tradition, the chorus’ holiday show will largely be about music, including such classics as “Ave Maria” and “Silver Bells.” Another convention, the guest chanteuse (a role filled last year by Judy Collins), will spotlight Jennifer Holliday, the Tony- and Grammy Award-winning singer who will perform this Sunday and Monday only.
“Fruitcake” marks a decadelong stand for the chorus at Benaroya. Previous holiday shows were held at Meany Theater, the 5th Avenue Theatre and the old Seattle Opera House.
“We helped to open Benaroya,” says Coleman. “We were the first community group to have a presence there. The stage is big, the sound is gorgeous, perfect for a cappella pieces.”
Seattle Men’s Chorus was formed three decades ago, shortly after the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus gave its first performance on the steps of the San Francisco City Hall following the murders of Mayor George Moscone and City Supervisor Harvey Milk.
“The chorus was formed to give support to Seattle’s gay community,” says Coleman. “We now have 300 members, attracting all ages. Our mission is to reach out to people, get to know them, sing in churches. A little understanding goes a long way. But even after gay people are 100 percent accepted, there will still be a need for gay culture and a gay chorus.”
Tom Keogh: firstname.lastname@example.org