BWW Reviews: Eric Schaeffer's 50th Birthday Concert at the Kennedy Center


I have been acquainted with Eric Schaeffer ever since I attended OVER AND OVER in the Signature Theatre initial home known as the Garage many years ago.

Since then, the new home of the Signature Theatre has been built and Schaeffer and the theater have even received a Tony Award for Best Regional Theater.

So when I heard he was to be honored at the Kennedy Center, I knew I would have to attend and report on how the theater community would celebrate his 50th Birthday.

I have only one criticism.  This two hour show should have been video-taped so theater-lovers everywhere could have witnessed this amazing epic of pure enjoyment.

As you entered the Eisenhower Theatre, the Signature Theatre Orchestra comprised of 24 pieces was ensconced on stage.  For the first time, patrons could watch Music Director and Conductor Jon Kalbfleisch perform since normally he and his orchestra are hidden somewhere backstage.  It was also a treat to watch pianist Gabriel Mangiante show his passion for the music all night long.

I couldn't think of a better way to begin the evening than playing "Overture" from Stephen Sondheim's MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG.

Managing Director Maggie Boland introduced the evening by stating that one could expect to see Eric's favorite singers perform his favorite numbers.  This was followed by a lovely video about Schaeffer.

The first number was an octet singing "Someone, Something, Somewhere" from Matt Connor's CROSSING.

One of the area's finest performers Natascia Diaz then performed "Happy Birthday, Darling" from BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY.

There were new lyrics (by John Dempsey) to "You're the Top" from ANYTHING GOES sung by Kirsten and Matt Scott.

Florence Lacy then belted out "Buenos Aires" from EVITA.

One of the true highlights of the evening was Heidi Blickenstaff who mentioned she traveled down from New York with no chance of not missing this event.  I remember seeing her in the Off-Broadway production of {title of show} and will see any show she is in. She sang "I'm Your Man" from MEET JOHN DOE which she was in at Ford's Theatre directed by Schaeffer.

The incredible Tracy Lynn Olivera sang one of Schaeffer's favorite songs, "Something Wonderful" from THE KING AND I and it was certainly something wonderful.

It was tear-making time next with "Move On/No One Is Alone" from Sondheim's SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE and INTO THE WOODS, arranged by Gabriel Mangiante brilliantly performed by the quartet of Olivera,  James GardinerMadeline Botteri, and Chris Mueller.

Eleasha Gamble then did a sensitive rendition of "Anytime" from ELEGIES: A SONG CYCLE.

Karma Camp and Matt Gardiner then told a few war stories about their relationships with Schaeffer.

Next came Carolyn Cole and Steven Walker did a lovely melody.

Guitarist Gerry Kunkel then accompanied Nova Y. Payton (who opens in the Signature production of long-awaited DREAMGIRLS tonight) sing a song made famous by Cher "Superstar".

Neil Bartram and Brian Hills's moving song "Click" from their musical SPIN was sung beautifully by James Gardiner.

It was mentioned that Signature Theatre has presented 38 world premiere musicals. One of them GIANT is about to make its debut at Joseph Papp's Public Theatre.  One of my favorite of these new musicals was BROTHER RUSSIA and Diaz sang the anthem "Siberia".

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Charles Shubow Originally from Boston, Charles' first college show was "Barefoot in the Park," he played the role of the telephone repairman. Next came "How to Succeed..." in which he played in the ensemble and then Chairman of the Board. He appeared in "Fiddler on the Roof" at the White Marsh Dinner Theatre as Lazar Wolf. Charles' daughter Britt played one of Tevye's younger daughters. Britt later completed a five year stint in Broadway's "Mamma Mia!" as the Sophie understudy. Charles conducts theatre trips to Broadway shows as the "Shubow Shuttle."

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