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ARTS NOTES

Chorus adds television to its repertoire

March 30, 2003|Diane Haithman

Does reality television have anything to do with reality? Let's see, "American Idol," "The Bachelor," "Survivor" ... shall we continue?

But one Los Angeles arts organization is enjoying its own little boom of real reality television: The Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles, whose members have recently turned up playing themselves on HBO's "Six Feet Under" and NBC's "Will & Grace."

Yes, some of the group's real singers, not actors, have been appearing on recent episodes of HBO's mortuary drama "Six Feet Under," as part of an ongoing story arc in which the mortuary's David Fisher (Michael C. Hall) decides to join the group. Chorus singers also made an appearance in a "Will & Grace" episode last year titled "A Chorus Lie," with guest star Matt Damon, and appeared in a "Mad TV" skit.

It's too early to tell whether the singers' "Six Feet Under" appearances -- which continue at least through early May episode -- will translate into increased ticket sales or new singers auditioning for the chorus, says Bruce Mayhall, artistic director of the Gay Men's Chorus. But hits to the group's Web site, www.gmcla.org, have increased tenfold since a nervous David auditioned, then was asked to join the chorus.

David's continual warbling in bed, shower or car -- deeply annoying to his partner -- is not unlike the lives of real chorus members: "It's somewhat of an obsession for them," Mayhall says, adding that while "there is a certain amount of stereotyping and limited perspective on what the chorus does" in the scripts, "it's a great opportunity for us. We're willing to accept the downside."

There was a big upside to the downside for chorus member David Peterson, a first tenor who got to sing an aria in a bizarre funeral scene in the March 23 episode. The fictional deceased, Robert Lamar Griffin, was a scenic designer for the also fictional Los Angeles Lyric Opera, and his memorial service was a lavishly staged mini-version of Puccini's "Turandot." More reality TV? Or is it just a coincidence that the real Los Angeles Opera presented "Turandot" last season?

-- Diane Haithman

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