The North Coast Men’s Chorus celebrated Broadway past and present in On With the Show!, the second show of its current season, taking place Saturday night and yesterday at Cleveland State’s Waetjen Auditorium.
The 70-some-voice chorus opened with “Anything Can Happen,” from the stage version of Mary Poppins, an apt scene-setter for what followed. The ensemble journeyed from Oklahoma! to South Pacific to Jersey (Boys) to Oz (selections from Wicked). Full-chorus numbers were set off by soloist and contributions from the chorus’ seven-voice Coastliners ensemble, who deftly handled a lengthy, intricate medley of Four Seasons tunes (from Jersey Boys), complete with falsetto vocals. Outstanding soloists included Ralph DiLudovico, who offered a heartbreaking rendition of “Raining in My Heart,” from Dames at Sea, and Brandon Bowman who brought Big River’s “Waitin’ for the Light to Shine” to a soaring gospel climax, and then was joined by Ludovico on “Worlds Apart,” from the same musical.
As usual, the chorus employed costumes and choreography to liven up many tunes. “Greased Lightnin’” from Grease featured a gang of singers in greaser costumes, toting hubcaps, while “One Night Only” from Dreamgirls featured soloists Mark Fant, Gamaliel Eguia and Virgilio “Bhong” Fajardo, dressed in the slinky gowns and wigs of the Supremes-like trio. And as usual, the numbers ranged from raucous and hilarious (South Pacific’s “There Is Nothing Like a Dame” and “Honey Bun,” with more dancing and mugging from the guys dressed as a horny sailors and sexy “dames’ of the tunes) to moving and heartwarming (a Broadway Wedding medley with tunes ranging from Fiddler on the Roof’s "Sunrise, Sunset” to “I’m Getting Married in the Morning” from My Fair Lady).
Throughout, the chorus was accompanied by a trio of musicians: pianist, bassist and drummer. A small horn/woodwind ensemble augmented “The Ballad of Sweeney Rodd” and the Wicked medley, and a clarinetist added a solo to the chorus’ beautifully reinvented version of the over-performed “Send in the Clowns.”
The NCMC always throws something new into every show. For this one, it used female solo vocalists. Mary Prucha lent her powerful pipes to “One Night Only” and a duet with Clint Condon on “I’d Give It All for You” from Songs for a New World. An elaborately costumed Stephanie Newport was operatic as Glinda in the Wicked medley which introduced another surprise element: two American Sign Language signers came out dressed to echo the shows two central characters (the Oz-ian witches Glinda and Elphaba) and “performed” the song along with the singers. It concluded the show with an encore during which the rows of tuxedo’d singers performed a flirtatious kickline. —Anastasia Pantsios