BWW Review: BROADWAY DREAMS 2019 at MDM Theatre
Spring for Russian performers and musical theatre lovers is a special season - Broadway actors, directors and composers have been coming to Moscow to make a show every year since 2016. Three years later, we have Tyler Hanes, Nicholas Rodriguez and Matthew Scott as American stars shining together with Russian ones.
The whole show is a result of a 10-day workshop held by Broadway Dreams: they chose actors through the audition and then picked a few musical numbers to be performed on stage. This time, a concept for the performance was movie musicals - 12 musicals were performed in the form of a musical number or a tap dance. From A Chorus Line to Tarzan, from Once to Anastasia - Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens were special guests.
The event took place in the hall of the theatre - in a cabaret form with tables, drinks and actors sometimes running in the middle. Creators used screens to project scenes from famous movie musicals (Mamma Mia!, Sweeney Todd, etc. ) at the beginning of the whole show. What's strange is that they weren't performed. Sometimes they would present the next piece with some extract from the movie and it worked great with Fiddler On The Roof where an actor who played Tevye spoke "Prologue" words together with Topol from the screen adaptation. For other musical numbers, it didn't work that well - like when they presented Mary Poppins with an eponymous character but there was no Mary Poppins on stage. And sometimes the screen wasn't engaged at all.
The show started with A Chorus Line's "I Hope I Get It" which not only fit perfectly in the atmosphere of the beginning, creating an illusion that actors are being selected at this moment, but returned them to their recent experience of auditioning. It also showed everyone's talents - a great way to start a show. Smiling, super-confident, extraordinary - that's how I saw young performers.
The logic of the sequence of songs is unknown to me. Personally, I did not see any, apart from the already mentioned beginning and the end - a moving "Someday" from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. It moves from Fiddler On The Roof to Piaf's "Non Je Ne Regrette Rien", from "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" directly to Jesus Christ Superstar's "The Temple". Sexy "Be Italian" was followed by not one, but three animated features: Disney's Jungle Book and Tarzan and Fox's Anastasia.
Constant switches between languages in the same productions felt weird and unnatural, particularly in case of Anastasia (where one song could be sung in both Russian and English and it was rather distracting). Another issue is that if you've never seen these movie musicals - you'll never get the context. It worked well with Fiddler On The Roof because they began with its opening numbers, explaining everything that's going on. But it didn't with, for example, American in Paris - songs were taken from the middle of the movie, and while it was well-performed by both American and Russian actors, it was hard to concentrate on it and fully understand because, again, there was no context.
All in all, Broadway Dreams is all about collaboration between countries, friendship, creativity and success and that's more important than anything.
Broadway Dreams Founder and President, Annette Tanner: "As political tensions continue to escalate, we are honored that the U.S. and Russian governments consider our partnership to be one of the few successful collaborations between our two nations and, therefore, continue to provide the funding to make it possible. This speaks so deeply to the undeniable power and unifying nature of the performing arts".
Two people were selected to go to New York to perform on Broadway: Marina Vishnevskaya and Ruslan Ivakin. They both shared their thoughts on being a part of a program.
Marina Vishnevskaya: "It's an incredible feeling when you dive into the project's atmosphere, into the music which starts to transform you from inside out. There is outstanding energy of the team. All the group numbers where I have participated today are some kind of crazy and overwhelming form of energy. It's a euphoria and excitement!".
Ruslan Ivakin: "To be honest, I've never had any luck on other projects. Perhaps, it's because sometimes I compromised with myself. But here a team listened to me and we have done an unbelievable thing - we integrated Khakas vocal technique into the "You Will Be In My Heart" (Tarzan). It worked out as an amazing combination of beautiful music, English and ancient Khakas language"
Photo Credit: Yuri Bogomaz