Here’s something to tickle your funny bone: the Seattle Men’s Chorus interpretations of some of the funniest musical works that were (not so coincidentally) either written, directed or performed by some this country’s most hilarious gay men. On June 21st, the Seattle Men’s Chorus will treat Bremerton to Comedy Tonight – a concert of familiar works adapted from the likes of The Marx Brothers, Stephen Sondheim, Monty Python, Mel Brooks, Carol Burnett, and Noel Coward.
Comedy Tonight features Captain Smartypants (aka the Pants), the Seattle Men’s Chorus’ nine-man vocal comedy ensemble. Captain Smartypants was formed in 2000 by Seattle Men’s Chorus Assistant Artistic Director Eric Lane Barnes. They have but one goal: to make you laugh while creating exquisite harmony.
With baritones, bass-baritones and tenors in the group, “sometimes we’re a unit of nine guys, but about half the time the guys are performing as individuals,” Barnes said. “What I like is throwing new thoughts at Smartypants. As of yet, we haven’t found anything we can’t do.
Barnes spent 15 years in Chicago working in musical theater, directing and writing shows, and with ensembles for the Windy City Gay Chorus before Dennis Coleman, the artistic director of the Seattle Men’s Chorus, hired him to run Captain Smartypants After a few tries at a name, Barnes fixed on Captain Smartypants, based on the childhood taunt, which has inevitably provoked laughs. “We do some serious things, but we’re primarily about the comedy and the theater,” Barnes said. “My style is to get the audience on your side with comedy. We don’t do anything serious in the show until we’ve got the audience laughing for a long time.”
Captain Smartypants has gained a reputation for telling it like it is, telling it like it isn’t, and telling it like it probably never will be. Part improv-comedy troupe, part a capella showcase, part vaudeville extravaganza, these boys sing and dance like the lovechild of ‘N Sync and Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
Tom Carlisle, a “Pants” member, had been a member of Seattle Men’s Chorus on and off since 1982. To be accepted into one of the largest choral groups of its kind in the U.S. “was a huge milestone,” he said. “The chorus became my surrogate family, and that’s true with a lot of guys that join,” Carlisle said. “It not only provides a musical outlet, it provides a spiritual, emotional and social outlet.”
Comedy Tonight marks the 11th anniversary of Seattle Men’s and Women’s Chorus concerts in Bremerton, sponsored over the years by the Kitsap Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (KUUF) and other community groups.
Ann Lovell, of KUUF’s Board of Trustees, remembers “When we first started, we had to have police back stage. For several years, we would call the police to let them know we had had some threatening phone calls so they would patrol while the chorus was here.”
“This doesn’t happen anymore. This community is not the same because of these concerts. Bremerton and Kitsap County are better places for gay and lesbian folks and their families. Some of that directly relates to having the choruses come and entertain everyone.”
KUUF is making special arrangements so that important parts of the community can attend Comedy Tonight. Complimentary tickets are being distributed to peninsula Gay Straight Alliance high school groups and to the Kitsap County HIV/AIDS Foundation for clients and families infected or affected by HIV/AIDS.
About the Seattle Men’s Chorus/Seattle Women’s Chorus
Founded in 1979, the internationally renowned Seattle Men’s Chorus, along with Seattle Women’s Chorus (founded in 2002), are the largest community choruses in America; and the largest gay choruses in the world. Flying House Productions, home of Seattle Men’s Chorus and Seattle Women’s Chorus, ranks third among the state’s music organizations with over 300 members of SMC and over 200 members of SWC. Their mission is to entertain, enlighten, unify and heal our audience and members, using the power of words and music to recognize the value of gay and straight people and their relationships.