REVIEW: Overtures and Encores by Actually Gay Men’s Chorus

Brian Butler June 22, 2024

Samuel Cousins has led Actually Gay Men’s Chorus for eight years and under his tenure they have matured, grown more adventurous and achieved a balanced quality of sound that would be hard to equal.

Their latest offering- Overtures and Encores – proves the point in spades. It’s a polished gemstone of a choral evening, concentrating on the transformative nature of musical theatre and giving us hit after hit in a heart-warming and joyful antidote to crappy politics and mundane football.

The range of soloists has markedly increased and Samuel is clever to back up solo sections of songs with a choral ensemble to bolster the singers highlighted. This coupled with outstanding accompaniment from the trio of Simon Gray, Sam Mileberg and Huw Jones.

The show, at St Mary’s Kemptown, kicked off with an electrifying Wilkommen, with a scary, smiling Emcee brilliantly delivered by Tom Slater-Hyndman. Two more Kander and Ebb classics followed with Alan Baser and Nick Paget singing I Don’t Remember You and Sometimes A Day Goes By – a belter of a rendition but with bitter undertones.

Photo Credit Nick Paget

Til I Hear You Sing, from Lloyd Webber’s underrated Love Never Dies showed Samuel’s total control of the chorus’ light and shade, and Sondheim’s Being Alive was brave and triumphant in the hands of Raymond Bate. Back to Kander and Ebb, and the terrifying minor chords of Kiss Of The Spiderwoman led us to  a medley from the problematic musical Dear Evan Hansen.

No problems here though, with Nick Paget and Tom Slater-Hyndman giving us the haunting You Will Be Found, and the enigmatic Waving Through a Window. Barbershop seems to be largely ignored by choirs but here we got a delightful mash up of I Got Rhythm, Steppin’ Out and Top Hat – maybe a bit of dancing next time fellas?

Luck be A Lady, energetically tossed our way by Chris Phipps led to the Act One finale of a gender-swapped same sex marriage in Sondheim’s Not Getting Married Today, where Andrew Whitlaw shone as the crazy bride-now-groom.

Act Two gave us more highlights than I have space to detail in full, but the ensemble shook us to the core with Bui Doi and This Is The Hour from Miss Saigon, and a sub-set of the choir were frighteningly convincing as Mormons in Hello.

Philip Lloyd Davies and Andrew Whitlaw tackled the fiendishly tricky Agony with some dexterity and Ian Hollands and Alan Kite charged forward in the battle-like Into The Fire from Scarlet Pimpernel.

Patrick Bullock was delightfully wicked as King George in the wonderful Hamilton song You’ll Be Back and mention has to be made of the marvellous top notes from Thomas Price in Nessun Dorma.

Just a stupendous five-star start to summer music in Brighton.

More info on the Actually Gay Men’s Chorus here, via their website.