FIRST NIGHT: THE TONY CONCERT singers ready to take the stage

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Tony Awards excitement comes to a head in Nashville this week, as the Broadway theater awards presentation gets the full Music City USA treatment with two events designed to involve the local theater community in the celebration.

First up is First Night: The Tony Concert, presented by Keeping Scores Concerts at Franklin's Boiler Room Theatre on Monday, June 6, at 7:30 p.m. Featuring some of Nashville's biggest and brightest theater stars performing songs from Tony Award-winning musicals, the concert is the kick-off of the 2011 First Night Season, culminating with First Night, The Nashville Theatre Honors, which will be presented at Belmont University's Troutt Theatre on Sunday, September 4.

On Sunday, June 12, while the 2011 Tonys are being handed out in New York City, Nashville's theaterati will gather at The Keeton Theatre in Donelson for First Night: The Tony Party. The red carpet event will welcome party-goers beginning at 6:30 p.m. (CDT) who'll celebrate the night while watching the CBS telecast of The Tony Awards and indulging in fun and frivolity of a Music City variety.

Tickets for First Night: The Tony Concert and for First Night: The Tony Party are $15 each. For more information about First Night Events, call (615) 530-6178 and to learn more about First Night, The Nashville Theatre Honors, visit the website at www.FirstNightNashville.com.

Among the performers taking part in First Night: The Tony Concert, along with some insight into their performances, are...

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Annette de la Torre

What song are you singing and what show is it from? I am singing "Broadway Baby" from Follies and a duet with Jama Bowen "The Grass Is Greener" from Woman of the Year.

How does this song or this show speak to you personally? "Broadway Baby" reminds me of my life years ago, before we started a family, when my husband and I were both performers, auditioning and pounding the pavement in Chicago. I worked in Equity Theatre then switched gears and landed in Nashville doing studio singing. I spend a lot of time in NYC, seeing shows and visiting our friends who have been in Broadway shows the past 20 years. I guess that fits my second song as well. We get together and compare lives: I think about what it must be like to be in a show on Broadway and they wonder what it's like to be married for 25 years, raise two kids who are now in college, but setting my singing in the background for a time. It's true, we often think the grass is greener in someone else's life, yet look at how blessed each one of us is in our own way.

What's your favorite Tony Award telecast memory? Lots of Tony memories that pop into my head......LOVED the first exposure to In The Heights and the completely new way rap and hip-hop mixed with salsa and traditional Broadway music and dance. Amazing voices, innovative dance moves, comedy, heart, and the Latino community...."96,000" was really special and I was so happy to see Lin Manuel Miranda receive such recognition. My husband's family is Cuban and we all enjoyed the Spanish references and slang. The energy was contagious and the writing was genius.

What show will win the Tony this year for Best Musical? Sadly, I haven't seen most of them yet.....they all look strong to me. I think for shear entertainment I'd like to see Catch Me If You Can do well. I love Norbert Leo Butz, Aaron Tveit and Tom Wopat in past shows. It does seem like there's a lot of buzz around The Book of Mormon, but I think The Scottsboro Boys will be the big surprise of the night. We shall see.....

  

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Jama Bowen

What song are you singing in the concert and what show is it from? I'm singing "The Bus From Amarillo" from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. I'm also performing a duet, "The Grass Is Always Greener," from Woman of the Year.  

How does this song or this show speak to you personally? "The Bus From Amarillo" is quite a poignant song that laments life's missed opportunities. It's a great illustration of why we should not let misplaced fear stop us from trying new things. Regret is a tough thing to live with. In its own humorous and ironic way, "The Grass Is Always Greener" hits on that common human condition to always want what you don't have, and to believe that another person's life is better than your own. Of course the lesson is to embrace what we have and live in the moment.

I just realized that both of my songs deal with very basic choices that can lead to happiness in life, or sadness and longing. I'll take the positive path any day!

What's your favorite Tony Award telecast memory? A few years ago on what would have been Richard Rodgers' 100th birthday, there was a wonderful tribute to him. Seeing just a tiny bit of his body of work really drove home his amazing contribution to classic theatre. For me, Richard Rodgers is timeless.

What show will win the Tony this year for Best Musical? I think the "South Park" creators will be taking home the award for The Book Of Mormon.


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Brandy Rogers

What song are you singing in the concert? "At The Ballet" from A Chorus Line.

How does this song or this show speak to you personally? This song is a deep reflection of the sadness in the heart of the women who sing it and how they found solace in the ballet atudio, This is a part of my story because I am dancer and I always found peace and connection at the dance studio. "I was happy, at the ballet."

What's your favorite Tony Award telecast memory? Anything Wicked-related!

What show will win the Tony this year for Best Musical? Sister Act!

 


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Laura Thomas Sonn

What song are you singing? "I  Love A Cop" from Fiorello!

How does this song or this show speak to you personally? It's a song about a girl being in love with, well, a cop. Clearly I'm not married to a cop, but I have definitely been in love before with someone whom I am afraid to introduce to friends or family...it's this sort of "I love him but I'm not supposed to love him but boy oh boy do I love him" seesaw kind of song. And it's pretty witty, so that's fun.

What's your favorite Tony Award telecast memory? I guess my favorite memory would have to be the year I won my first Tony for the revival of Legally Blonde...oh wait, I think I misunderstood the assignment...

What show will win the Tony this year for Best Musical? The Book of Mormon, of course. And I'm pulling for Jerusalem for Best Play. 

 

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Jeffrey Ellis Jeffrey Ellis is a Nashville-based writer, editor and critic, who's been covering the performing arts in Tennessee for more than 25 years. He is the recipient of the Tennessee Theatre Association's Distinguished Service Award for his coverage of theatre in the Volunteer State and was the founding editor/publisher of Stages, the Tennessee Onstage Monthly. He is a past fellow of the National Critics Institute at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center and is the founder/executive producer of The First Night Honors, held during Labor Day Weekend, which honor oustanding theater artists in Tennessee in recognition of their lifetime achievements and includes The First Night Star Awards and the Most Promising Actors. Midwinter's First Night, held the first Sunday in January after New Year's Day, honors outstanding productions and performances throughout the state. Further, Ellis directed the Nashville premiere of La Cage Aux Folles, The Last Night of Ballyhoo and An American Daughter, as well as award-winning productions of Damn Yankees, Company, Gypsy and The Rocky Horror Show, with Ellis honored by The Tennessean as best director of a musical for both Company and Rocky Horror.


 
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