Before Orlando, this show meant something different. Before that tragedy, a mere two weeks ago – just two days after Rainbow Theatre Project opened Get Used To It! – it would have been easy to think of this 20-song revue as a quaint history lesson, a peek back at the political fights and personal communities of gay men in 1993 when AIDS was raging, Ellen was not yet out, and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was freshly instituted.
Now, however, the view into the past is fractured. Tom Wilson Weinberg’s Cole Porter/Stephen Schwartz-esque song cycle, written in the early 90s, is being presented to us right here, right now by three singers and a pianist. Do we take it as a review of how far we’ve come, or a reminder that the battles of last century are far from done? Is the church-and-state satire of “Hymn” outdated because the terms it puts its conflict in are outdated, or is it painfully relevant because the conflict itself continues? Is the out-and-proud tenderness of “Three-Letter Word” made bittersweet because its innocence is lost, or is it made bold because it testifies to what is universal across time?
The tunes are gentle and unadorned, in storytelling-cabaret style, and putting a modern newsworthy spin on their resonance is an uneasy task – the grounds on which the past is reinterpreted are ever-shifting. It is good, then, that H. Lee Gable’s direction is apparently unaltered from how it was before the nightclub shooting – no one here is making any attempt to force meaning into this show, and we are free to take away from it what we may. (Occasional, distracting projections on some TV screens above the space suggest a political intent, but they’re of a generic pride-and-solidarity nature and make no direct reference to what happened at Pulse.) If we choose, we may purely enjoy the show as nothing more than some clever ditties sung by committed performers.
Of these, Mickey Daniel DaGuiso, possessed of a smooth and expressive falsetto, gets the most emotionally wrenching and unhappily topical solo of the evening with “Bat Boy,” his heartbreak and rage over a vicious homophobic attack barely contained by the song’s simple form. Charismatic baritone Patrick Murphy Doneghy gets a subtler highlight with the wryly defiant “My Leviticus,” sung in response to a direct reading from the Bible by bartender/emcee Derek Mulhern. On the cheerier side, Aaron Jackson employs his plainspoken tenor and charmingly awkward demeanor to great effect as he roams into the audience during “Colorblind Blues.”
Get Used to It! A Musical Revue
closes July 20, 2016
Details and tickets
The best moments, however, are when the trio comes together, backing each other up with unabashed affection and solidarity, as when the slightly more technically skilled Doneghy and DaGuiso take a slight moment to catch the enthusiastic Jackson up on the rhythm in a group piece, or as when the whole group laughs at themselves during a willfully cheesy bit of Robert Mintz’s otherwise straightforward choreography. The mutually supportive nature of their collaboration stands out clearest on “Who Did Langston Love?”, as each singer gets their turn in the spotlight before they all come together to drive the song home.
That song’s lyric – about the achievements and challenges of gay activists and artists past, and the love that animated them – may help us find a way to understand this little revue. In the world of Get Used To It!, hearing men of the 60s, 40s, and 20s sung about in the words of a songwriter of the 90s by performers from 2016 is not so strange – rather, it’s kind of obvious. As much as these various times are very different, there is something that’s always the same – a love and spirit that can animate anyone, LGBT or ally or otherwise, who walks across Greg Stevens’ extrafabulous gay bar set, and sits under one of its many, many rainbow flags.
Get Used To It! A Musical Revue by Tom Wilson Weinberg . Directed by H. Lee Gable . Musical Direction by Mickey Daniel DaGuiso . Featuring Mickey Daniel DaGuiso, Patrick Murphy Doneghy, Aaron Jackson, Derek Mulhern . Associate Musical Director/Pianist: Alex Tang . Choreographer: Robert Mintz . Set & Costume Design: Greg Stevens . Lighting & Projection Design: Angelo Merenda. Stage Manager: Alan Eisen . Produced by Rainbow Theatre Project . Reviewed by Brett Steven Abelman.