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Theater Review: “Nathan Gunn Flying Solo”

“Nathan Gunn Flying Solo” plays through June 10, 2018, at San Diego Repertory Theatre Lyceum Stage, 79 Horton Plaza, Downtown.
Photo credit:
Ed Krieger

Don’t go to see baritone Nathan Gunn just because he’s a “barihunk” (or, as he prefers, “hunkiton”), though let’s face it: it’s great to listen to somebody who’s also easy on the eyes.

See “Nathan Gunn Flying Solo” at San Diego Repertory Theatre because he will thrill you with what is probably the best baritone voice singing today.

This show, the latest in Hershey Felder’s series of one-man shows about musicians, plays through June 10 at San Diego Rep. Felder wrote the script and directed.

“Flying Solo” is a singing biography of this South Bend, Indiana native who notes that his dad wanted to play the violin, but had to settle for a ukulele, on which he learned one song: “Has Anybody Seen My Gal?”

Pleasing his dad is the main dramatic thrust here. Gunn’s father was a taciturn Scot who was apparently less demonstrative than the young boy might have wished.

I have something in common with Gunn. Alas, it is not voice quality, but the fact that my dad, too, was a Scot. Get prepared for a kilt scene here.

Felder’s script doesn’t offer a lot of dramatic tension, but it’s easy to forgive that when Gunn starts to sing and gives us evidence that his singing career might have been more inevitable than “completely unexpected.”

He has some funny comments about his various voice teachers (they’re an easy target), but reports that when one of them put “The Magic Flute” on the record player, “it was like the world went from black and white to color.”

Speaking of that opera, Gunn started his singing career out playing Papageno in a high school production in which a piano stood in for the orchestra and Gunn used a kazoo for that well-known whistle glissando. =

When he got into the Metropolitan Opera’s Young Artist Program (“Met YAP”), his teacher was famed soprano Renata Scotto, who didn’t let him get away with a funny novelty song, but made him sing Rossini’s devilishly difficult “Largo al Factotum” with all those “Figaros.”

Gunn has an enormously likable stage presence, and  tells his story with humor, punctuating it with actions like pretending to shave his excellent accompanist Michael Bagby while singing a number from “The Marriage of Figaro.”

Gunn’s career has largely been in opera, but his voice moves easily from an ineffably sad aria from Benjamin Britten’s “Billy Budd” to Rodgers and Hammerstein favorites from “Oklahoma!” and “Carousel.”

My favorite piece is a cocksure version of “C’est Moi” from Lerner and Loewe’s “Camelot.” Self-effacing this Lancelot is not.

Brian McMullen and Richard Norwood team for some fine projections and lighting, and Erik Carstensen’s sound design is fine throughout.

Gunn’s is a voice to savor. See him here while you can.

The details

“Nathan Gunn Flying Solo” plays through June 10, 2018, at San Diego Repertory Theatre Lyceum Stage, 79 Horton Plaza, Downtown.

Wednesday at 7 p.m.; Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m.; Sunday at 2 p.m.

Tickets: (619) 544-1000 or www.sdrep.org