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Saturday 10 October 2009

Review: GALS' recession-busting fun

Posted in: Performance
By Jay Bennie - 28th June 2009

Review: Always Look on the Bright Side of Life
Gay and Lesbian Singers
Centennial Theatre, Auckland Grammar.
June 28, 2009

From the moment the audience trooped into the auditorium and saw the vividly lit yellow smiley faces shining out of a clear blue sky we knew that GALS were going to go all out to provide us with an evening of recession-busting fun. And by and large they did just that.

Gay and Lesbian Singers, GALS for short, is a non-auditioned choir so there are bound to be a few moments which a stringently screened outfit would avoid, but the emphasis in their
Always Look On The Bright Side of Life concert was on relaxed fun, things risked, beautiful moments and an easy rapport with their audience.

Their opening number, a gently sweet Herbs arrangement of E papa waiari settled us down nicely. GALS is at its best when the whole choir is singing, only slightly less so when the women take the stage and rather less so when it's just the men alone. More of that later. It was the women's crisp diction and strong delivery that got the choir through Orpheus in the Underground, a tour of the London Underground sung to the tune of the Can Can. The women-only Accentuate the Positive was lilting rather than inspiring but quite lovely.

Guest act In Cahoots, specialising in Broadway showstoppers, tried too hard in their first appearance, too much grimacing and Pointing Every Word and Phrase and Note and Pushing It Right Out There. But later, in the second half, they returned more relaxed and hit the spot, especially with the sassy and knowing Dance 10, Looks 3 from A Chorus Line.

Highlights of the evening included The Rhythm of Life, which started well and just got better and better with every note;  The Quest Unending showed what cohesion and nuanced delivery GALS can acheive; and the closing sotto voce moments of Soneto de la Noche were just magnificent.

But the pinnacle of the evening was You'll Never Walk Alone. Perhaps this was the best-rehearsed piece of the show but it stood head and shoulders above the rest of the programme. Musical Director Stephen Bowness drew a tight, soulful and uplifting performance from every singer from start to finish.

Full praise too to pianist Craig Blockley who accompanied most of the evening. This man is a treasure with the rare skill of being able to complement and enhance the choir through every song.

And it was good to see the gloriously corny David Steemson back in the MC role. The biggest risk of the show was to take this man, whose primary skills encompass the spoken rather than the musical, and have him front the choir's Always Look On The Bright Side of Life. He's not quite an Eric Idle, or a Rex Harrison, but Steemson's confident mix of spoken and sung lyrics overlaid with a heap of bravado constituted a winning performance.

GALS problem is that there are too few men. Numbers can hide a multitude of tiny little vocal sins in this type of group and GALS needs more chaps, especially bases. Standing them all at the traditional rear of the choir and placing the choir so far back on the stage that too much of the sound inevitably drifts up into the fly tower rather than out into the auditorium only compounded this problem.

More Men Please! Contact GALS at to get involved with this dedicated group which clearly loves what they do: tackling a wide variety of songs with verve and enthusiasm, and entertaining with gusto.

- Jay Bennie

Jay Bennie - 28th June 2009

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