Heartland Men's Chorus goes from serious and sublime to outrageous and nutty in "Fruitcake"
The Heartland Men's Chorus served up plenty of seasonal cheer this weekend at the Folly Theater in the group's holiday concert, "Fruitcake".
Under the skilled, sure-handed baton of Joseph Nadeau, HMC's artistic director, the veteran Kansas City musical group began with traditional classics, including "Sing We Now of Christmas," "The Holly and the Ivy," and three traditional Hanukkah pieces, two of which were sung in Hebrew.
These pieces all displayed the trademark warmth, precision and balance of Nadeau and the chorus, complemented by the Folly's outstanding acoustics. But the final numbers of this first segment pointed toward nuttier things to come. Mark T. Riggs provided a standout solo for "Christmas is Delicious," and Ron Williams, gamely channeling Julia Child, proceeded to "assemble" a fruitcake onstage while providing a cocktail-soaked narrative.
Things really got going in the second segment, titled "A Very Special Christmas." Highlighting music from TV network specials of decades past, the segment features a narrator, here played by Tom Lancaster, describing his favorite holiday specials past while campy reenactments of these specials are trotted out onstage and performed. "A Very Special Christmas" was commissioned jointly by HMC and a nationwide group of men's choruses, including those of Seattle and Dallas, and simultaneously premiering in those and four other cities.
The conception here displays a bit of genius, transporting the audience smoothly through such holiday classics as Bing Crosby's "Christmas in Killarney", Johnny Mathis' "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year," and John Denver and the Muppets' wacky version of "The 12 Days of Christmas."
But a special mention has to be made of Kevin Briggs' reading of Andy Williams' "Moonlight in Vermont." Briggs not only captured the smooth Williams style perfectly, but background lighting and snow effects completed a picture of sublime, almost haunting winter beauty.
Campy numbers featuring the Partridge Family, and a complement of Star Wars characters (yes, apparently they had a network Christmas special too), rounded out a thoroughly enjoyable evening of music and cheer.