Last Saturday night, Dec. 17, at the holiday concert of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, Broadway and screen star Ellen Greene had what she called “a blond moment.” she forgot the opening lines to the showtune hit — her signature — “Suddenly Seymour.”
But Greene handled the flub with aplomb, blaming the blond wig she had put on specifically to re-create for a couple songs the look by which so many know her best: as Audrey from the musical Little Shop of Horrors. And as soon as a concertgoer helped her out by shouting the line that was escaping her memory, she was instantly back in character and proceeded to pour out her heart singing the ballad as if it were her love letter to the chorus — and also the packed Lisner Auditorium crowd — for their “sweet understanding.”
From start to finish, the chorus’s “Red & Greene” program, which ran for five shows last weekend, was as delightful and as festive as could be. But it was also more sophisticated than a standard tribute to the season, full of induced merriment and childish joy.
Oh sure, the performers offered a few instances of bawdy and naughty lyrics and sight gags — chiefly from eight drag “Nuns” and 19 dancers in tights and other skimpy costumes. it was a gay show, after all. a medley toward the end of the show even included a performance of “Born This way,” in which the dancers re-created Lady Gaga’s choreography.
But it was the serious and somber songs that really stood out, and particularly those that Greene performed, accompanied by her musical director, the pianist Christian Klikovits, and cellist Stephen Erdody. toward the end of the first act Greene offered a tender cover of Annie Lennox’s “Universal Child,” which she dedicated to those pursuing the causes of stopping anti-gay bullying and advancing marriage equality.
The full chorus accompanied her to close the concert on a rousing note, with an achingly beautiful rendition of Gordon Lightfoot’s “Song for Winter’s Night.” Greene dedicated the song to all those who are no longer around, many lost to HIV/AIDS. The performance was yet even more powerful given the way Erdody responded to the song’s heavy lyrics with his skillful cello playing, tugging at the heartstrings.
“If I could only have you near, to breathe a sigh or two,” Greene sang, “I would be happy just to hold the hands I love, on this winter’s night with you.”
Ellen Greene photographed for Metro Weekly by Todd Franson.
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