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Music – the great universal language – both unites and divides seven gay farmers in the world premiere musical “Harmony, Kansas,” playing through July 22 at Diversionary Theatre.
And by the way, harmony is the best thing about this show.
Heath (Jacob Caltrider) is your typical rugged, born-to-the-life farmer. He likes to keep to himself and dreams of adding 500 acres to the Kansas spread he owns.
His partner, transplanted big-city boy Julian (Tom Zohar), has a more expansive personality and a greater need for connection to a community.
Friction arises when Julian rushes in with news of a group of gay farmers in the area who get together on Monday night to sing just for the fun and fellowship. Leading the group is Wiley (John Whitley). Also among the singers are the bearlike Fuzz (Bill Nolte), prissy Darrell (Tony Houck); short-time resident Kent (Anthony Methvin) and jittery teenager DJ (Dylan Hoffinger).
Non-joiner Heath has to be dragged there, but it works out well – until someone suggests they sing in public, thereby declaring themselves (Heath contends that “around here, guys singing together is gay”) and perhaps endangering their livelihoods.
Darrell, by the way, is involved in a subplot with Kent (Anthony Methvin). The two are mutually attracted while Darrell’s partner Pete (never seen) is off selling horses. They offer more fodder for the angst mill.
Though there’s nothing surprising about the plot, “Harmony, Kansas” is a human story with well-written and brilliantly acted characters. But what sells the show is the choral writing by Anna K. Jacobs and the boffo execution by these men, ably coached by Adam Wachter (who also wrote the orchestrations and conducts from the piano).
The show’s first act would benefit from some judicious cuts, but it also contains Darrell’s declaration of responsibility “I Bring The Snacks,” so hilariously performed by Houck that it brings down the house.
The second act has an equivalent showstopper in DJ’s song “Homo Kid From Kansas Blues,” sung with great panache and hilarious histrionics by 17-year-old Hoffinger, who gets better every time I see him.
Sean Fanning’s appropriately rustic set and barn are lit by Michelle Caron with a blazing August sun. Shirley Pierson’s costumes are appropriate; sound is well handled by Kevin Anthenill and director Vasquez.
The plot of “Harmony, Kansas” may not be surprising, but spot-on casting, James Vasquez’s brilliant direction and the sound of these seven fine voices blending in glee club/1950s jazz harmonies make the show a must-see.
“Harmony, Kansas” plays through July 22 at 4545 Park Blvd., No. 101.
Thursday through Saturday at 8 pm; matinee Sunday at 2 pm.
For tickets, call 619-220-0097 or visit HERE.
To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.