Review - Broadway's Rising Stars: Welcome To The Theatre
Although that bountiful cornucopia of high praise, John "I Loved It!" Simon, chose to heap lavish compliments on those he saw as standouts with his usual critical generosity, I'd rather not review the performances showcased by Scott and Barbara Siegel in their second annual concert of new talent, Broadway's Rising Stars. Oh, if I did, words like dazzling, beautiful and heartfelt would certainly come to mind, but I'd rather see last Monday night's show as a celebration of all the new faces without comparing their abilities at this early stage of their careers.
As they did last year, the Siegel pair, this time accompanied by co-directors Scott Coulter and Emily Skinner, hand selected a 20 member company from the recent graduating classes of schools such as NYU, Julliard, The New School, AMDA and Marymount Manhattan College. With choreographer Vibecka Dahle entering the picture and music director John Fisher (who provided most of the arrangements) leading a four-piece band, Broadway's Rising Stars once again offered an extremely entertaining look at fledgling performers joyously giving their all to a loud and appreciative audience.
Though the singers might all have been young, the material they sang stretched through many decades of our musical theatre heritage. Mark Cajigao performed Carnival's "Her Face" in a classic Broadway leading man style while Greg Kenna and Jenna Dallacco exemplified the more neurotic side of romance; he with "A Miracle Would Happen" from The Last 5 Years and she with "I Think I May Want To Remember Today" from Starting Here, Starting Now. Jennifer LaMonica contributed a classic anthem from nearly 50 years ago (The Sound of Music's "Climb Every Mountain") and Sara Sheperd gave us a more contemporary one with Little Women's "Astonishing."
There were strong, passionate belters like Shanyn Trammell (Scott Allen's "I'm A Star"), F. Michael Haynie (Violet's "Let It Sing"), Jon Fletcher (A Man of No Importance's "The Streets of Dublin"), Malia Tippets (Bravo, Giovanni's "I'm All I've Got) and Elena Mindlina (Edith Piaf and Marguerite Monnot's "If You Love Me"), as well as those who tackled demanding acting challenges like Karen Myatt (Happy End's "Surabaya Johnny") and Joshua Isaacs (Parade's "It's Hard To Speak My Heart"). A dramatic pairing from Andrew Lippa's version of The Wild Party matched Kyu-Jeong Han's "What Is It About Her?" with Dawn Cantwell's "Maybe I Like It This Way."
Naughty ladies were well represented by Danielle Simone Roundtree (Fats Waller & Clarence Williams' "Squeeze Me") and Stephanie Torns (Nine's "A Call From The Vatican"), but purer thoughts were emoted with sincerity by Lucy Horton (The Secret Garden's "How Would I Ever Know?"), Ryan Scoble (Jason Robert Brown's "Someone To Fall Back On") and Seth Peterson ("What You'd Call A Dream" from Diamonds).
Lucy Horton, Jennifer LaMonica and Joshua Isaacs took advantage of Town Hall's fine acoustics by presenting their solos unamplified.
Smaller ensembles were teamed up for songs like The Full Monty's "Big Ass Rock, Avenue Q's "I Wish I Could Go Back To College" and the title song from Songs For A New World, while Dahle's dancers sizzled with Copacabana's "Just Arrived." The full company blended gorgeously for a finale of Candide's "Make Our Garden Grow."
"What is it that we're living for? / Applause! Applause!," were the first sung lyrics of the evening. I wouldn't be surprised if the fresh faces of this year's Broadway's Rising Stars will be hearing that sound for many years to come.