Oceanaires “Sweet Sixteen” Scintillating Summer Solstice sparked
In a program fitting for a “scintillating
summer solstice” (thank you twins) Oceanaires Sweet Sixteen offered selections for every taste from Wagner to Lerner & Lowe.
Opening with a raucous “God Save the Queen”, everyone was exhorted to sing along to special lyrics inserted into the program “Gorgeous and Glorious, O’er All Victorious, Vaguely Notorious, God Save the Queen!”. Sherri Rase, part of the ensemble, issued forth a stunning soprano note but was not heard from again in the program. What a tease!
We then learned from a
variety of stand-ins that the traditional emcee Philomena couldn’t make
it for a variety of reasons: tied up in a contract dispute with APCG and/or
arrested for giving out tickets in the Meat Rack.
First stand-in was Homecoming
Queen Whore D’Oeuvre who admonished the crowd to unwrap everything from candies
to condoms before the show began.
Nick Calvano, on the
euphonium, accompanied by music director Isaac Vaughan on piano, opened
with Guilmant’s Morceau Symphonique, Op.88 after which he uttered a
visible “whew” to the stomps and whistles of approval from the crowd.
Jim Crapotta, who leads the
Opera Discussion Group on Wednesdays at the Community House, enlightened us
that the next selection was from the Mozart’s first opera Idomeneo, written
when he was 24, in 1781, and revealed the emotional backstory of the
Isaac returned with tenor Adam
Carman who literally blew the crowd away with a stirring aria “Fuor del Mar”,
exhibiting impressive confidence and professionalism. It took me moments
before I realized that Adam is indeed popular drag queen Renee Flaming! A chat
afterward revealed that, at 31, Adam is at last “finding his voice”.
Let’s hope he soon finds a legit stage for it.
Multi talented Nunzio Sisto,
who also plays the flute, bassoon, French horn and violin (“he likes to put his
fingers in lots of things” quipped hostess Gusty Winds) introduced us to the
world premier of his “Impromptu on a Personal Note” on piano. Dressed in
a suit jacket, Bermuda shorts and sneakers, the very youthful Sisto’s
performance was clear, concise and crisp.
The Freedner Twins, Susan and
Ruth or Ruth and Susan
The Freedner twins, now even
more identical since both have had laser surgery and no longer wear glasses,
introduced themselves as “Prima” and “Donna”.
On a more serious note they
noted that the Community House was placed on the National Registry of Historic
Places thanks to the efforts of Carl Luss and others and was awarded a plaque
personally presented by US Senator Kristen Gillibrand last summer, offering the
rare opportunity to document the entire LGBT community in the pre-Stonewall era
“If these walls could talk…well
ours are about to sing”
And they introduced a
newly arranged solo version of a song specially written for the occasion by S.
Bedford “We Built Our House”.
David Auxier preceded his
performance with an emotional reference to the recent devastating fire at
Hernando’s Hideaway and how the town and the Fire Department came together “to
save our fragile community” adding “we built ourselves from the ground up and
now we will rebuild, revise and renew”.
It was then that he delivered
“We Built Our House”, a touching and poignant rendition that filled the
house to the rafters with the song which now had another dimension.
Intermission was timed to
coincide with dazzling Gay Pride fireworks display funded by contributions of
APCG and local businesses.
The fireworks were but a
fitting presage of the vocal pyrotechnics to follow.
The Many Moods of Shirley
Dramatic soprano Shirley
Ritenour made her Carnegie Hall debut last year to great acclaim. Together with
conductor, pianist and composer Brian Holman she took over the second
half of the evening which could have been titled “The Many Moods of Shirley”.
And indeed she made an
astounding entrance from the wings with the famous Wagnerian Due Walkure battle
cry! Then put the audience at ease with a humorous “Art is Calling for
Me” by Victor Herbert, accompanied by Lee Sharmat on tuba and Brian Holman on
Shirley reminisced about when
she first arrived on these shores 20 years ago with her partner on a nasty
Labor Day weekend “The minute I got off the boat I knew it was home”.
Back to Wagner with “Mild und
leise” from Tristan und Isolde, topped off with Puccini’s In questa
reggua from Turandot.
Brian performed a piano solo
which enraptured, held and soothed the crowd with a gorgeous, gentle “Claire de
And Shirley jumped back in with
a lively “I Could Have Danced All Night” from Lerner & Lowe’s My Fair
Lady and An American Byron by L. Holdridge (East of Eden) which turned
into an ode to Cherry Grove “…I am home”.
She closed with a brilliant,
hopeful interpretation of Harold Arlen’s iconic “Over The Rainbow” dedicated to
“all the Oceanaires of the past and present and the ones to come”.
Production credits: Dan Alita,
APCG liason, Matt Burney, technical director, Alison Brackman asst, Arthur
Cohen & Michael Romanelli lights, Mary DiFede house manager, Thom Hansen
APCG president, Dennis McConkey sets