BWW Interview: Philip Fortenberry of GIVE MY REGARDS at Myron's Cabaret Jazz At The Smith Center For The Performing Arts
After his triumphant tour in China, pianist Philip Fortenberry will bring his salute to Broadway to Las Vegas. Give My Regards, a one-night-only solo concert, will be performed in Myron's Cabaret Jazz showroom at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts on Oct. 22.
Audiences will delight in his masterful piano playing, exciting storytelling, beautiful music, and southern charm. Fortenberry returned last month from his 14-city, three-week national concert tour of China where he played music from Broadway. He spoke with BroadwayWorld.com about his journey and what audiences in Las Vegas can expect.
BroadwayWorld: What was it like to tour in China instead of the United States?
Philip Fortenberry: First of all, the travel was the biggest challenge. It was 14 cities in 19 days- trains, planes, and automobiles were the order of business pretty much every single day. Secondly, several comforts we enjoy (and often take for granted here in the US), like air conditioning, hot water, ice-they were welcome amenities when we found them, but these aren't the norm. I've toured the US many times, and so having a tour manager in China was an easy thing. However, being dependent on a translator was difficult. Chinese is a language like no other I've experienced, so clear communication between us all was a real effort.
What are some of your most memorable experiences?
Philip Fortenberry: The first city we arrived in, Mudanjiang, was one of my favorites of the entire tour. The evening we arrived, we took a walk along a river, and there were hundreds of people along the riverbank enjoying the beautiful summer evening. I loved listening to street musicians, watching families play together, an older group of ladies dancing some local dance everyone seemed to know, doing yoga poses with a mass of local folk who were enjoying the amazing evening just like me. It was a magical evening I'll never forget. Also, the experiences of playing a variety of beautiful pianos in simply gorgeous concert halls in breath-taking arts centers throughout my tour were a thrill every single day. Perhaps my favorite experience was meeting so many children who were so very attentive during the concerts and who seemed so eager to have a picture with me afterward!
Why do you think Chinese audiences love your music and Broadway, which is so American?
Philip Fortenberry: The arts and education are so very important in Chinese culture. As an American pianist with a career in theater, and much of it from the Broadway world specifically, the audiences in China seemed intrigued by every element of that. The fact that, as a Westerner, I looked completely different than their fellow Chinese citizens and that I was introducing music they were, for the most part, only slightly familiar with gave these audiences an educational experience with an artistic, musical insight they possibly had never had the opportunity to witness firsthand. The music of Broadway always has some kind of story, a context, in which it is to be shared. The repertoire I performed in China was precisely that, and as a pianist, I could allow the power of "music as the universal language" to share those perspectives.
You have returned to perform in The Smith Center. How has your experience in China changed you and your music?
Philip Fortenberry: Cultivating a clear message that could be communicated through each musical moment, phrase by phrase, while discovering a true love for the music I chose to play is something I have always wanted to experience inside myself. I think it's the thing we strive for in any form of artistic expression. That I had at least a few moments when I felt this during certain performances and being consciously aware of those special connections was something that I know better now. I think that having the chance to play 14 concerts in 14 cities gave me an arena where I could do the performance practice required to anchor this inside me. My whole experience in China changed how I look at that world while recognizing great respect for so much that is different from anything I had known or experienced before. I feel I'm not only a better musician, but I hope I am becoming a better artist because of it.
Give My Regards is presented and produced by PK Music with musical director and composer Keith Thompson (who was also the musical director during the China Tour but stayed in the US), as well as co-producer of their hit musical show The Cocktail Cabaret. The one night only newest solo concert Give My Regards will be performed at The Smith Center's 244-seat Myron's Cabaret Jazz showroom on Oct. 22. Showtime is 7 p.m. and tickets range from $25 to $45 and can be purchased at The Smith Center Box Office, by phone 702-749-2000, or online at www.thesmithcenter.com.