Brandi Amara Skyy reviews the Turtle Creek Chorale’s “Topsy Turvy” concert, continuing tonight and Saturday night, March 24-25, at City Performance Hall. (Photos courtesy Turtle Creek Chorale)
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
Call me a bad gay, but I had never been to a Turtle Creek Chorale concert before last night.
Not knowing what I was getting myself into, I texted a few of my closest friends who are devoted fans (and season ticket holders) to get a feel for what to expect. My good friend Dana said, “You’re in for a nice surprise. They always combine serious with comedic moments.”
He was right.
The evening was filled with … surprises — something that in this day and age of the internet is not necessarily what we expect. It’s far too easy to Google the happenings of the latest episode of our favorite shows prior to even the show airing the first time, let alone us watching it. Or to attend a show and be moved by the visuals, but not by the message.
So when I received the email with the set list being performed last evening (the names are not supposed to be known to the audience until after the show has ended), I made the decision not to open it. Because if Sean Baugh, the artistic director, wanted me to ride the wave and be surprised, I wasn’t about to deny him — or myself — the pleasure of this rarity.
And in this arena — the element of surprise — Topsy Turvy is a massive win. From song inclusion to talent to flow, Topsy Turvy does what it sets out to do — not just tell a story, but create and share an experience.
The Chorale promises “one of the most energetic and full-force arrays of musical selections our audience has ever experienced,” and I can feel, based on the audience’s energy and attention (minus the blonde wine-gulping girl sitting two seats to my left who completely ignores Rule No. 2 (Don’t Sing Along) when the finale hits) that this particular show and evening is in fact, different from all the rest.
I feel it too, even though I have no prior knowledge to compare it to.
But I’m not going to lie, this is probably the hardest review I’ve ever had to write because I refuse to spoil the experience by referring to the songs in the show by their name. So I will only reference them by the number in which they appear in the show.
The Topsy Turvy experience is billed as songs you thought you knew, and they drove that artistic theme home by reshaping pop, musical and LGBTQ classics into arrangements and styles we’ve never heard before (I’m thinking about songs 14 and 18 in particular). The visuals, the big top and all the dancers are stunning. And B.J. Cleveland is not only excellent and captivating as our ringleader, he is right there to help usher us through the two-hour experience (although I did miss him in the beginning of the second half).
The Thursday audience, teased for being the least vocal of the three-day bunch, rose to their feet for a song (hint: No. 5) and I rose for one as well (you’ll know it when you experience it). My personal favorites? Numbers 4, 5, 9,14, 17, 19, 21 (and a certain “whistler” in No. 3). These seven pieces were elegantly thought out, choreographed, and fully realized — and executed.
And while the soloists were spectacular, every single chorale member stole my heart that evening because they were so full of love for what they do. You could see it. But more importantly you could feel it.
Were some pieces in Topsy Turvy more successful than others? Yes. Were some pieces more polished? Yes. Is there room for improvement? Always.
But did the TCC deliver on their promises? Hell, yea — and then some.
What I love most about attending events, shows, and art in our community is just that. WE are a community. And both Bruce Jaster and Sean Baugh made sure to drive that point home to the audience every chance they got. And with all the talk about arts funding being cut and walls waiting to be built, we — I — needed to hear that as a community we are more inclusive now than ever.
Whether you are a devoted fan who has season tickets or you’re like me and new to the whole TCC experience, this show is a bright light in dark uncertain times, with just the right amount of camp, adult humor, laugher, nostalgia, and seriousness to keep me thoroughly invested — and entertained.
Topsy Turvy runs tonight and Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. at Dallas City Performance Hall.
Brandi Amara Skyy is a drag artist who writes and plays in magic. You can find out more about her and many projects at brandiamaraskyy.com.