Tonight, I was privileged enough to be invited to attend a one-night-only oratorio (or, as last-minute guest Whoopi Goldberg called it, “oratio”) I Am Harvey Milk, with words and music by Andrew Lippa and starring Lippa as Milk, Noah Marlowe as Young Milk and angel-voiced Kristin Chenoweth as a soprano muse who stands in for several different women in Milk's life.
They were accompanied by the Joel Fram-conducted Orchestra of St. Luke's and The All-Star Broadway Men's Chorus.
Following Goldberg's intro (she referred to us as “family”...) and a more impassioned intro by Milk protégé Cleve Jones, the 60-minute presentation was thoroughly impressive, especially considering how well-mined the subject matter is. It was especially exciting to see and hear on the day the Supreme Court declined to review some lower court decisions, bringing marriage equality to five states immediately and another six in the long run, but this piece would be exciting to see and hear any day or night of the week, at any point in history.
The reason I Am Harvey Milk has a timelessness is that it's about the overall struggle for equality and fairness, even as it uses Milk's personal political odyssey to get at that larger theme.
I was lulled to light sleep at times by the beauty and sonic purity, but there were plenty of attention-getting highlights, most notably the jumpin' “Enough Is Enough”-inspired “Friday Night in the Castro” (complete with clapping hands and gay boogie), the triumphant “Lavender Pen” (recounting Mayor Moscone's signing of a non-discrimination proclamation) and the searing “Tired of the Silence”, in which the assembled singers exhort every gay person in the world to come out, come out, come out. (Using images that included reluctant, quasi-out Jodie Foster was perhaps a misstep, but damned if they weren't up-to-the-minute enough to include headlines from earlier today!)
Fantastic evening, surrounded by a lot of civic-minded gay people and our supporters, lovers of the arts and some glitterati; but the snazzy ensembles and relentless fitness of the crowd was just fashion, and the music and words were a reminder than being loud and demanding respect never goes out of style.