Out on Broadway 2000

By Scott Miller (New Line Theatre)

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Out on Broadway 2000, Scott Miller's beguiling assemblage of show tunes, looks like a lot of fun to do. This sequel to 1996's Out on Broadway takes material from various well-known musicals and presents it cabaret-style -- just singer and pianist (also Miller). The concept is simple: A quintet of talented and varied male singers croon romantic tunes and standards, imbuing them with a "gay perspective." There's no need to change pronouns, although the occasional lyrical embellishment emerges when you have a man singing songs intended for a female voice. The net effect ranged from glorious high camp to what-difference-does-it make?, depending on the material.

Of course, one can make the argument that -- on Broadway and beyond -- plenty of early- to midcentury composers had male muses in mind all along, and having real baritones and tenors warble ostensibly hetero love songs imbues the material with another dimension of lust, longing, yearned-for inclusion and bittersweet regret. And -- in keeping with the "outsider" perspective -- plenty of songs are from shows that were, well, somewhat less than blockbusters. These discoveries, by archivist/ author Miller, are for the most part quite welcome. "Surabaya Santa," from Songs for a New World by Jason Robert Brown, was a brilliant sendup in a Brechtian vein of Mrs. Claus' point of view (sung with scathing comic appeal by Chris Brenner), but "Stars and the Moon," from the same show, was, alas, bland. And the infomercial for the all-inclusive Metropolitan Community Church that came fused with Godspell's "All Good Gifts" near the close was an ungraceful bit of proselytizing that might have been a not-so-subtle comment on the St. Marcus' forthcoming shutdown after season 2000.

Enough politics, though. This show makes you want to dish about the wise and witty performances of each singer. In no particular order, then: Eddie Webb brought new pathos to "Maybe This Time," Sally Bowles' stately, self-celebrating dirge from Cabaret, and showed dynamic diva-dolatry in the ensemble number "The Where Has My Hubby Gone Blues," from No, No Nanette. Keith Thompson had the most impressive projection and made a fine foil for Tracy Collins in "The Grass Is Always Greener" (from Woman of the Year), but oh, for just another verse -- con brio, please -- of "The Boy Next Door." Robb Kennedy found dignity and exhilaration in "My Coloring Book," from the lesser-known Kander-Ebb project And the World Goes 'Round, and Brenner, whose mien is impish, handled his comic numbers best. But -- at the risk of fomenting disgruntlement in the ranks -- I definitely could have had Collins do lots of numbers that weren't on the menu. His crisp enunciation and prim disdain made Sondheim's double-entendre-strewn "I Never Do Anything Twice" (from The Seven Percent Solution) deliciously malicious, and I waited (in vain) to hear him do songs from the maitre who wasn't represented on the bill. What Collins and Miller could do with Noel Coward's "Mad About the Boy," or even that old saw "Don't Let's Be Beastly to the Germans," must evidently wait for Out on Broadway: 21st Century.

Out on Broadway 2000 continues through April 1.

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