Dancers Mark Stuart and Mindy Wallace, host
Scott Siegel and singer Cheryl Freeman at the
After Party for The Broadway Musicals of 1990-2014
(All photos by Genevieve Rafter Keddy)
“It was the rise of the West End, Disney, juke box and a wide variety of styles…,” began writer, creator and host Scott Siegel at the fourth and concluding edition of the 14th annual concert series Broadway By The Year, which this season surveyed a century of shows from 1915 to the present. The conceit is that one song from one show from each year has been selected to be performed by 100 stars.
This chapter was an eclectic, heady mix of traditional and unconventional material performed in many instances by original cast members from the shows. Perhaps because it was the final installment Mr. Siegel was even more delightfully involved in expansively commenting and interacting with performers before, after and even during numbers than in the past.
Morgan James as she sang “Love Changes
Everything” from Aspects of Love (1990)
The evening got off to a rousing start with lovely young blonde Morgan James and her stirring soaring voice on “Love Changes Everything” from Aspects of Love which demonstrated composer Andrew Lloyd Webber’s talent for bombastically effective melodies. “Did you ever hear a song that you just can’t get out of your head? Even if you didn’t like it,” cracked Mr. Siegel. Webber’s professional rival Stephen Sondheim was represented by “Unworthy of Your Love” from Assassins performed on Broadway in 2004. Plaintive and uncharacteristically simple it was solos and a duet between would-be presidential assassins John Hinckley Jr. and Squeaky Fromme and performed wonderfully by Barrett Foa and Jillian Louis.
Barrett Foa and Jillian Louis sing “Unworthy
of Your Love” from Assassins (2004)
Two sensational sequences were dances from Forever Tango and Swing! Mark Stuart and Mindy Wallace breathtakingly did a super sensual “Libertango,” climaxing with him tossing and catching her a few times. “Don’t try that at home,” joked Siegel. “Sing, Sing, Sing” appeared in Swing! and Fosse, both in 1999, and was aggressively and euphorically tapped and choreographed by charismatic Jimmy Sutherland.
Marva Hicks as she recreated “The Circle
of Life” from The Lion King (1997)
Also spectacular was The Lion King cast member Marva Hicks vibrantly recreating “The Circle of Life.” “I think I just saw a stampede of zebras,” observed Siegel. From the longest running Broadway revue, Smokey Joe’s Café was the song “Fools Fall in Love.” The audience was palpably thrilled by Jeannette Bayardelle’s voice which impressively hit big notes and incredibly held them.
There were a number of awesome showstoppers. From offstage the familiar lyrics, “See me. Feel me. Touch me,” from The Who’s Tommy were simply sung and then emerged original cast performer Cheryl Freeman in an afro wig, high black shoes and skimpy black fetish-type wear and who really took the stage to recreate her role of “The Acid Queen.” Pulsating and gyrating all over the space, she was dazzling.
NaTasha Yvette Williams singing “Stops the Show”
from Martin Short:
Fame Becomes Me (2006)
From the short running Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me, NaTasha Yvette Williams was hilarious in the sarcastic “Stops the Show” about the penchant for having large African-American women appearing in Broadway musicals. Lean, tall and wiry Oakley Boycott with a Marlene Dietrich-like presence in a slinky black beaded dress carrying and tossing around a fur jacket raucously landed every double entendre of Mel Brook’s raunchy comic gem, “He Vas My Boyfriend” from Young Frankenstein.
Oakley Boycott as she sang “He Vas My Boyfriend”
from Young Frankenstein (2007)
Another very funny standout was Rory O’Malley expertly performing “I’m Not That Smart” from The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee with assistance from Siegel who declared he had to spell carrobera.
There was the enjoyable novelty of seeing the never-gone-on Hugh Jackman-standby in The Boy from Oz, Kevin Spirtas, finally getting to spiritedly perform “Once Before I Go” from the show and that was the finale of the first act.
Adam Jacobs singing “Why, God, Why?”
from Miss Saigon (1991)
Other dramatic highlights were Aladdin star Adam Jacobs’ mournful “Why, God, Why?” from Miss Saigon and Bobby Steggert’s emotional “What More Can I Say?” from Falsettos. From the “flop hit” Sunset Boulevard, Natalie Toro with her expressive face looking like a silent movie star and perfectly rendered “With One Look.” Though not gender specific, ABBA’s “The Winner Takes It All” from Mamma Mia! is usually performed by a woman, but here male Lucas Steele was tremendous. Recreating his role from 2002’s Sweet Smell of Success, sunny voiced Jack Noseworthy was lively on a “One Track Mind.” From the critically admired and short-running Lysistrata Jones, Bob Stillman was compelling doing his rendition of the wistful “When She Smiles.” The Full Monty was admired but overshadowed during its run by The Producers, and here Jenn Gambatese very finely performed “You Walk with Me.” Soprano Sarah Jane McMahon superbly sang “The Light in The Piazza” from the show of the same name. Christina Aranda’s yearning “Paciencia y Fe” from In the Heights was quite moving.
Chad Kimball recreating “Memphis
Lives in Me” from Memphis (2009)
Very recent shows were illustratively represented. Original cast member Chad Kimball marvelously performed the country tune “Memphis Lives in Me” from Memphis. William Blake’s sly take on “Fever” from Million Dollar Quartet was so enjoyably fresh. Soon to close after two years, Newsies was included with Jeremy Morse’s terrific “Sana Fe. ” Eminent veteran Terri White’s understated “Stormy Weather” from After Midnight was powerful.
Terri White as she sang “Stormy Weather”
from After Midnight (2013)
All evening it was evident that the musical talents of Ross Patterson on piano, Tom Hubbard on bass and Jared Schonig on percussion were being dynamically flexed as they performed in numerous and far ranging styles, often completely different from one number to the next.
“Rent defined its time,” said Siegel of that popular landmark show that ran 12 years. The diverse youthful Broadway By The Year Chorus soulfully performed its notable “Seasons of Love.” For the finale, they returned to join the show’s vocally compelling director Scott Coulter for the haunting “You’ve Got a Friend” from the Carole King bio show Beautiful. The stars of the evening soon assembled as well and Scott Siegel concluded the event by delightedly announcing that this series would return and start over again next year with 100 new songs covering 100 years.
Broadway by the Year: The Broadway Musicals of 1990 – 2014 (June 23rd, 2014)
The Town Hall, 123 West 43rd Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 800-982-2787 or visit http://www.ticketmaster.com
Running time: two hours and 45 minutes with one intermission