Someplace near the four-hour mark in “Bark of Millions,” the polychromatic cavalcade of splendor that’s Taylor Mac and Matt Ray’s new rock opera, I lastly realized why the lady in entrance of me had been studying on her telephone all through the efficiency. And why she had checked out me like I used to be approach out of line once I couldn’t bear the glowing display any longer, leaned ahead and implored her to cease.
If “Bark of Thousands and thousands” had been aiming to succeed on aural gorgeousness and visible spectacle alone, there could be no trigger to quibble. These are plentiful in Ray’s genre-hopping music, richly interpreted by the band he directs, and in Machine Dazzle’s ingeniously odd costumes, such because the sparkly pastel quantity during which Mac begins the night, trying like Bizarre Barbie as an acid-tinged sprite, dressed for Versailles by the use of ’60s Vegas.
However Mac’s vivid, typically poetic lyrics are usually not incidental. Within the creation of the rating, they had been the place to begin, every of the 55 songs impressed by a determine in queer historical past. It’s a mosaic of a present, inherently political in its affirmation of queer heritage and neighborhood, although as Mac tells the viewers, it’s not a historical past lesson: “We beg you to not Google in your seats.”
Nonetheless, there are levels of thriller, and I don’t imagine that “Bark of Thousands and thousands” — which Mac, its principal director, describes aptly in a program word as “an opera-concert-song-cycle-musical-performance-art-piece-play” — means to depart us a lot at nighttime.
When it lets the sunshine in, when the vocals are allowed to succeed in us unimpeded, this intermissionless present turns into superb. Not in the way in which that “A 24-Decade Historical past of Widespread Music” was, as a result of it doesn’t place Mac at its middle and requires no viewers participation, however extra in the way in which that Mac and Ray’s “The Dangle” was a few years in the past: a crowded forged sharing the stage, taking turns strutting their appreciable stuff, ceaselessly sitting again to look at each other.
Mac nonetheless will break your coronary heart at the very least a few occasions, significantly with the wistful, elegiac “Patterson’s Lovers,” a portrait of a Manhattan age that AIDS erased, and make you snort with the silly-sweet “Margaret Cho,” an ode to the comic tucked inside an anecdote about Cowgirl, a West Village establishment.
Machine Dazzle is the one who blindsides, although. Greatest generally known as a designer, however a performer as properly, he sings the devastatingly desolate “Greta Garbo,” with silent-movie expressiveness, from one of many Harvey’s peeled-paint higher containers. Of the quite a few different standouts, here’s a sampling: Thornetta Davis within the bluesy “BDB Ladies”; Ray within the spare, piano-bar type “Stormé DeLarverie”; Wes Olivier within the rafter-shaking “Audre Lorde”; Le Gateau Chocolat in every part.
Co-directed by Niegel Smith and Faye Driscoll, who can also be the choreographer, “Bark of Thousands and thousands” ends gently, with Mac and Ray in tender duet. However the present as a complete just isn’t completed but. Mac writes in a program word that it began with 54 songs, “one for yearly because the world’s first Pleasure Parade.” Movingly, elegantly, the concept is that the piece will develop every year.
Simply please, within the subsequent stage iteration, better sonic readability?
Bark of Thousands and thousands
Via Feb. 10 on the BAM Robust Harvey Theater, Brooklyn; bam.org. Working time: 4 hours and quarter-hour.