Zoot suit cabaret in Oakland
on June 21, 2009
Oakland residents dusted off their zoot suits, feathered hats and shiny, sequined dresses Saturday night for the third annual cabaret benefit performance of the Oakland-East Bay Gay Men’s Chorus at the First Christian church in Oakland.
Decked out in black pants, white collared shirts and a bright array of ties, the 35-man chorus, performing on a small stage in front of a sparkling black curtain, sang varied numbers that included Seize The Day – a stirring, powerful choice that called forth thoughts of civil rights struggles – Mr. Right Now, and Jump, Jive an’ Wail.
The packed house was made up of mostly older Oakland residents, some in full swing regalia. Complimentary wine flowed throughout the evening and guests chatted at the cozy round tables or showed off their swing moves to numbers by Swing Fever, an excellent San Rafael-based jazz band.
A silent auction, an eight-member ensemble and a number of soloists rounded out the evening. Dody S. Garcia, wearing a pink tie and sparkly black leather vest, gave a heartfelt rendition of The Nearness of You. Though some of the other soloists seemed a bit timid, the audience didn’t seem to mind.
When a few of the chorus members performed some swing dance steps towards the end of the program, they were met with enthusiastic applause and whooping from the audience. “White men can’t dance,” one man remarked to his fellow guests but this didn’t seem to bother anyone in particular.
Michael Patch, 28, a Kansas native, has been the chorus artistic director for a year and a half. Patch said that the event was going better than they had anticipated and estimated that 200 people were in attendance. “The audience is just eating it up,” he said.
Rick Marshall and his husband Paul Boisvert are chorus members who commute from Napa for weekly rehearsals. “The concert is really the payoff,” he said of his choice to commute and spoke enthusiastically about the camaraderie within the group.
The Zoot suit cabaret event runs through today; the chorus will be performing at 5:00 p.m. in the same location. Tickets range from $30-50 with special senior and group discounts and can be purchased online or at the door. The chorus will be performing again for their Pride season tour September 10-13 in Napa, Sacramento and other cities in Northern California.
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