The Seattle Mens Chorus plus the music of ABBA is a recipe for fun, flash and, of course, camp.
The videos that ABBA did are unintentionally hilarious, said the chorus assistant artistic director Eric Lane Barnes, whos conducting the show. The costumes were outlandish, and neither of the women in the group was really comfortable in front of the camera.
But at the heart of ABBA are really great songs and really great songwriting.
The chorus returns to Olympia on Sunday to perform Dancing Queen, a production complete with dancers, props, costumes and stories by comedian Leslie Jordan, who was a guest at the chorus Seattle concerts last weekend.
Barnes said the chorus is having a wonderful time with the music, which includes Fernando, The Winner Takes It All, Super Trouper and, of course, Dancing Queen, which he called about the gayest title for a song you can imagine.
Being in front of the chorus and watching them throw themselves into it is really fun, he said. You can tell by the expressions on their faces.
The chorus previous ABBA concert, in 2002, drew one of the largest audiences the chorus had attracted at that time. Tickets for the Olympia show were scarce this week.
There are certain singers and bands that seem to have really resonated with a lot of gay men in their coming out experience, and ABBA is one of those bands, Barnes said. Theres just something about the songs. Gay men have this unending fascination with ABBA.
But theyre not alone, to judge by the groups continued pop-culture presence in shows such as The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Muriels Wedding and Mamma Mia.
The choral arrangements stay close to the familiar tunes that you might already be singing in your head. Since the singers are all men, expect to hear falsettos.
Its a really joyous show, Barnes said. The audience will probably want to sing and dance along, and we have no problem with that.
But while the concert is light-hearted, the musicianship is as polished as the showmanship.
Thats what chorus member Philip Paroian of Olympia noticed when he first saw the group perform at choral conventions.
I was blown away, Paroian said. In terms of balance and combining musical excellence and a beautiful vocal blend with a sense of fun and a sense of entertaining and connecting with the audience, I have never seen a group that does it better than the Seattle Mens Chorus.
At the time, Paroian was living in Toronto. When he moved to Olympia five years ago, he wasnt sure whether he wanted to drive to Seattle for rehearsals.
At first I thought, I cant do it with the commute and especially with the traffic in Fort Lewis and Tacoma. And then I thought, I cant not do it. Paroian is not singing in this concert because he had to miss several rehearsals. However, the show will include two local singers, Clair Stevenson and Michael Krake, both of Lacey.
Paroian did see the show in Seattle. Its just a blast, he said.