Ira Lee Collings
Naked… From the Neck Up!

Cabaret is an art form built around intimate story telling. And when you have lived as full a life as, the now 83 yo, Ira Lee Collings has, you have a lot of stories to tell. Luckily, for his audience, Collings is as adept a singer, as he is a story teller, which made this particular evening of song very special.

Using the convention of “Chapters” in his life, Collings led us through his early life as a young performer in NYC, and the important teachers and mentors in his life. He details accounts of first loves and youthful indiscretions (to say the least), and meeting his long time partner Owen. There are loving recounts of his Mother, and chilling stories of being attacked/gay-bashed in the 70’s. But most importantly, this is a story of survival, and not just surviving, but thriving!

The song pairings were as courageous as Colling’s life, Who Am I? (Tony Hatch, Jackie Trent) exemplified a great use of the original lyric to tell his story, as did On The Other Side of the Tracks (Cy Coleman, Carolyn Leigh). Strangers in The Night (Charles Singleton, Eddie Snyder, and Bert Kaempfert) and Do You Want To Dance (Robert Freeman), revealed a genuine depth of both feeling and lyric connection, juxtaposing the aforementioned “pre-app” youthful assignations, versus falling in love at first sight with his partner. And when Ira Lee pulls Owen to the stage, for what is reported to be their first dance in public, there is not a dry eye in the house.

Ira Lee Collings

Somewhere along the way you realize you are watching history unfold. As a gay man who has enjoyed the benefits of Marriage (and divorce) and has raised children in an era that finds my life to be perfectly normal, Collings life, and his sacrifices, are a poignant reminder of just exactly how I got, and how we all got, where we are today.

To say that this show was moving is an absolute understatement. Collings’ journey, and his lyric phrasing, need to be experienced by the younger generation (both Gay and Straight). As an artist, still performing wonderfully for his age, he is an example of perseverance, personal courage, unconditional love, and grace.

Beautifully directed by Sally Darling, and with sensitive Music Direction by John M. Cook, this show could (and should) easily play in any number of gay festivals and or pride celebrations. This 2017 MAC Hanson Award winner, and self-proclaimed “Gay-Geezer,” deserves to be seen “Naked… From the Neck Up.”

Ira Lee Collings
Naked… From The Neck Up!
Don’t Tell Mama
January 19, 2019