Last night I was invited by my friends John and Mitch to the free concert given by The Air Force Academy Band. I wasn’t really sure what to expect- probably a lot of marches and rousing patriotic songs, but what the hell, it got me out of the house, and what they did they would probably do well.
The first half of the show began with Leonard Bernstein’s “Slava”, and initiated a melting pot theme, where songs from various cultural traditions and influences (French, Armenian, Italian, Polish, Spanish, Japanese) were featured, all beautifully done. Then, perhaps in a tantalizing taste of things to come, Ragtime’s “Wheels of a Dream” was performed nicely by two vocalists (in appropriate costume) and the band.
The intermission came, and, not having access to a program, I had no idea what was coming up next.
Shostakovich’s “Festive Overture” began the second act, a particularly festive, bubbly and perhaps ironic choice to lead into “Men of Ohio!” which was enhanced with the presence of a handsome (dare I say regal?) Drum Major in full regalia of sash, equestrian gloves, epaulets and, most notably, the oversized baton- who began facing the band with his left hand parked smartly on his hip and his (sparkling) baton raised in a manner that would make any Glinda impersonator proud.
It just got better.
This led us into a tribute to “the Dames of Broadway”, in which the emcee paid tribute to the many leading ladies of the theater, naming specifically Carol Channing, Barbra Streisand, Liza Minnelli and Judy Garland (does The Palace count as Broadway?). I was stunned. Delighted but stunned. What followed was a Show-tune Gay’s dream, notably: The Trolley Song; West Side Story’s “America”; Nothing Like a Dame; Sisters (with two men in drag); Victor/Victoria’s Lady of Seville-also featuring drag; Some Enchanted Evening; Don’t Rain on My Parade and Send in the Clowns.
Goodness. If they had sung Over The Rainbow, I wouldn’t have been surprised.
The final two numbers, “America the Beautiful” and a spirited medley of the Armed Forces Fight Songs seemed designed to refocus the show, and the encore, Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” did leave me with a bit of a patriotic tingle.
I don’t want to suggest that only gay people enjoy Broadway Show-tunes, pageantry and sparkling dramatic effect, and I certainly don’t want to negate the positive experience of a military band embracing ethnic and musical diversity, but… still, I couldn’t help but wonder who put the whole program together.
Don’t ask, Greg. Don’t ask.