BROADWAY! Songwriters, composers, actors and singers think this is where you can say you’ve really made it. Scott Siegel hosted an evening of songs and artists that proved that while the Great White Way is just a dream; dreams and success can be realized on other New York streets or even at the Papermill Playhouse.
Mr. Siegel’s new version of Broadway by the Year was a misnomer this time, as it celebrated songs and shows that spanned multiple years and locations, but not Broadway; but, “Almost Broadway.”
He selected a wonderfully varied collection of songs from decades of shows that almost went to Broadway and they were performed by some of the original singers of those big numbers. These days, the lifespan of a Broadway musical can be as short as one; but some of the shows that were spotlighted on Monday, June 27e at City Hall have been flourishing for decades. The Fantastic, Forbidden Broadway (in its many incarnations) and Newsical, Musical (with its long list of songs inspired by the titles) are examples of musicals from these shows. And hello songwriters! Just because you’ve been on Broadway, don’t poop on the Off Broadway circuit. Stephen Schwartz, this guy who had a lot of success with one-word titles: Godspell, Pippin and Nasty didn’t do as well when naming his shows with more than this: The baker’s wife and Children of Eden; both represented in Mr. Siegel’s selection of songs.
Anyway, keep the show going and let me say the singers did well with the songs that were featured. Christine Andreas started the evening with the classic try to remember from The Fantastics where she found the perfect notes and tone for the evening. She then returned to the stage to sing welcome to the house from the musical adaptation of the film Johnny Guitar, written by her husband Martin Silvestre. The songs of Mr Schwartz; both beautifully sung by Kelli Rabke were Meadowlark and stranger to the rain. Pedro Copetti, one of Mr. Siegel’s “Broadway’s Rising Stars” veterans, showed why he earned a spot on this list with If I didn’t believe in you from Jason Robert Brown’s incredibly successful musical The last five years and The low of The Hunchback of Notre Dame which he performed as Quasimodo in his native Brazil.
Brian Charles Rooney, who was supposed to be in the 2017 revival of when pigs fly (which originally ran for 840 performances from 1996) sang the timely number laugh matters with the right pathos and meaning we need after a pandemic and the social unrest we have currently experienced. He remembered before he started the songs of his 14 Bob Mackie-designed costumes that never made it to the stage because the rerun was canceled at the last minute.
Crystal Joy who recently played the role of Nina Simone in little blue girl showed off her range with the song If we only had love of Jacques Brel is alive and well and the optimist My boyfriend’s back of Hive where she danced with the Broadway by the Year (BBYT) dance troupe.
But the evening was certainly not all ballads and love songs. One of the great things about Off Broadway musicals is their sheer joy and humor and both were evident when Michael West and Gina Kreiezmar brought to life the wonderful songs of Forbidden Broadway and their parodies of Liza, Robert Goulet , Ethel Merman and the Phantom of the Opera. Their singing skills and comedic moves had the audience laughing out loud, as did the Newsical quartet, the musical singing. Denial: Kristen Alderton, Taylor Crousore, Carly Sakolove and still Michael West.
Bradley Dean, Adam Gruper and Cheryl Stern re-enacted a very comedic scene/song from No way to treat a woman called I need a life and their deliveries of dialogue and lyrics showcased all of their excellent comedic timing. And speaking of timing, Danny Gardner taps and sings Don’t give in of A new brain was just one of the numbers he choreographed for the evening.
Jason Graae did double duty during the evening, first as a young camper writing to his parents in Hello Muddah, hello Faddah (the name of the song and the show) then aging into a high school student in the quartet of Plaid forever. Unfortunately, one of the quartets fell ill on Monday morning and the four became three as they sang This or that/undecided. Much of the talk over the past year has focused on the invaluable efforts of stunt doubles and swing sets on Broadway. This sentiment was no better represented than when the three: Jason, Larry Raben and Leo Daignault sang the accompaniment to the song. Shangri La/Rags to Riches which would have been the big number for the missing David Engel. Although it was done to great comedic effect, it showed what happens when there’s no understudy to take the place of a headliner.
Scott Siegel, once again showed his talent for picking out terrific numbers and a wonderful group of singers who were accompanied by Eric Halvorson’s formidable band on drums; Don Falzone on bass and musical director Ross Patterson on piano.
The final number that had the audience walking out of the theater with a smile on their face was New York, New York from Kander and Ebb magazine And the world turns sung by Brian Charles Rooney, accompanied by the BBTY dance troupe.
I look forward to the next Broadway of the Year show to see what other surprises Mr. Siegel has in store for us.
Main photo by Geneviève Rafter Keddy. To see all the photos from the event, click here.