BWW Review: AN EVENING WITH JASON ROBERT BROWN at Philadelphia Theatre Co.
Imagine rehearsing a show with a Tony Award-winning score for months, only to learn you'd have the opportunity to sing the part for the man who made it. This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity became reality for Sarah Gliko and Greg Goodbrod, who play Francesca and Robert in Philadelphia Theatre Company's upcoming production of The Bridges of Madison County.
Jason Robert Brown, who wrote the score for the musical, gave a one-night-only concert at the Suzanne Roberts Theater in Philadelphia on Saturday, and invited Gliko and Goodbrod onstage to sing their versions of his songs with him on keys.
Gliko and Goodbrod exceeded expectations with their renditions of "To Build a Home" and "It All Fades Away," both extremely vocally demanding songs. Their teaser of Philadelphia Theatre Company's production, which opens in February, was surely enough on its own to entice the audience to buy tickets to the full production.
Brown played most of the set on his own, giving performances of well-known songs like "I Love Betsy" from Honeymoon and Vegas and "Old Red Hills of Home" from Parade, as well as lesser-known tunes like "Invisible," which he wrote for an 11-year-old girl he met at the Ronald McDonald House. Brown became his own metronome with constant toe tapping, and compelled audience members to do the same with his signature funky beats.
Between songs, Brown sprinkled in anecdotes you only hear at this sort of intimate concert. The audience heard stories of Brown's relationship with Hal Prince and his daughter, who Brown met while playing at a piano bar. He talked about his family, especially his young daughter who followed in his footsteps and enrolled at camp French Woods -- where Brown himself played parts like Che in Evita and Pirelli in Sweeney Todd as a teenager. He also talked about how he was reluctant to write The Bridges of Madison County because he was afraid his English-teacher mother would scorn the idea of adapting what he believes is a sub-par novel. "But the feeling of separateness and wanting a home really resonated," he said and went on to write the musical. Brown's stories were heartfelt and funny, and gave an insight to what his life is like when he's not in the spotlight.
When the concert came to a close, Brown received a standing ovation from an audience filled with Philly's theater crowd, young musical theatre fankids, and Rob McClure, a Philadelphia actor who went on to star in Brown's Honeymoon in Vegas on Broadway.
If you missed this unique event, don't worry, because tickets to Theatre Company's The Bridges of Madison County are still available through Mar. 3. Tickets can be purchased HERE.