Digging the ‘Dancing Queen’

Contributing writerApril 19, 2013 

The Seattle Men’s 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, who’s 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.

“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. “There’s just something about the songs. … Gay men have this unending fascination with ABBA.”

But they’re not alone, to judge by the group’s continued pop-culture presence in shows such as “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” “Muriel’s 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.

“It’s 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.

That’s 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 Men’s Chorus.”

At the time, Paroian was living in Toronto. When he moved to Olympia five years ago, he wasn’t sure whether he wanted to drive to Seattle for rehearsals.

“At first I thought, ‘I can’t do it with the commute and especially with the traffic in Fort Lewis and Tacoma.’ And then I thought, ‘I can’t 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. “It’s just a blast,” he said. ‘Dancing Queen: The Music of ABBA’

What: The Seattle Men’s Chorus returns to Olympia with a tribute to the Swedish quartet ABBA.

When: 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia

Tickets: $18-$26 for adults; $16-$23 for seniors, students and military; $9-$13 for youth

More information: 360-753-8586 or washingtoncenter.org or flyinghouse.org/smc or facebook.com/seattlemenschorus

Also: See the chorus do “Dancing Queen” during a past ABBA-themed show at youtube.com/watch?v=yxEhorwVSJ0.

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