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BWW News: Some of the Many Reasons why the ALAN MENKEN AND BROADWAY STARS Concert took us to A Whole New World

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The newly opened REACH at Kennedy Center continues the institution's promise set forth by President John F. Kennedy of arts for all.

The REACH Opening Festival continues through September 22nd and has plenty of free events for every age and artistic taste.

Many of us attend events at the Kennedy Center that are musical theatre oriented and on September 11th as part of this festival the Kennedy Center put on an event that showed all of us why they are one of the leading arts organizations in the country.

Here are a few thoughts on why The Alan Menken and Broadway Stars concert took us to "A Whole New World".

BWW News: Some of the Many Reasons why the ALAN MENKEN AND BROADWAY STARS Concert took us to A Whole New World
Maestro Steven Reineke and the National Symphony Orchestra.
Photo by Scott Suchman.

Things started off with an overture of multi- award winning composer Alan Menken's biggest hit songs from many of his films. The mighty National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Maestro Steven Reineke playing Matt Podd's lush orchestration started this evening off on a high note to be sure. Things just went up from there.

If you only know Tony Award winning actress Patina Miller from her role on CBS' hit show Madame Secretary then you know half the story of this multi talented performer. She actually shot to fame starring in London and on Broadway in Menken and Glenn Slater's stage adaptation of Sister Act. The crowd was treated to one of her Sister Act show stoppers called "Fabulous Baby" which was just that. Doug Besterman's original orchestration added plenty to this stellar performance. Miller also went serious with a heartfelt and emotional performance of "God Help the Outcasts" (Stephen Schwartz's lyrics) from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Michael Starobin's original film orchestration was used in this instance.

Adam Jacobs originated the role of Aladdin on Broadway so his first number was fittingly from that show. The song originally was written for the animated feature of Aladdin and then dropped. Using Danny Troob's orchestration from Broadway (enlarged for a symphony orchestra) "Proud of Your Boy" is a prime example of why lyricist Howard Ashman is so sorely missed. Jacobs' vocal was tender and put the song over with just the right amount of emotion. Jacobs also went for the brass ring with a knockout performance of Go the Distance (David Zippel lyrics) from Hercules. The orchestration in this case was by Greg Prechel.

Star of stage and TV Megan Hilty took us "Fathoms Below" with a performance of "Part of Your World" from The Little Mermaid that was filled with want and heart. This Ashman/Menken collaboration was what started The Disney Renaissance and basically saved the company. Ah, the power of musical theatre! Thomas Pasatieri's original orchestration was enlarged for symphony by Gregory Smith.

Hilty recently performed the role of Audrey in the Kennedy Center Broadway Center Stage production of Ashman and Menken's Little Shop of Horrors so it was made perfect sense for Adam Jacobs to join Hilty for "Suddenly Seymour". The song was scored for symphony by Sam Shoup.

Broadway's Norm Lewis just has to open his mouth to grab an audience. Just ask my wife. I only hope you get to witness him perform "Poor Unfortunate Souls" from The Little Mermaid. You might remember him playing King Triton in the Broadway production. I also think that somewhere there is a production of Beauty and the Beast just waiting for him to perform in it so audiences can hear his "If I Can't Love Her" (Tim Rice lyrics). In both cases Danny Troob's original orchestrations were used to enhance Lewis' performances. Yeah, like they needed any help.

You say you wanted more from the evening? Will Alan Menken himself performing a medley of his songs satisfy that for you? It isn't always a good thing to hear composers sing their own work but Menken has a good voice so it was a treat.

Because this concert took place on September 11th the events of that day eighteen years ago were commemorated in two ways during the evening. The first were remarks from Senator Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts and the second was a song performed by Menken with lyrics by Glenn Slater. It was entitled "Will the Sun Ever Shine Again". With the current political climate I think many of us are still asking that question.

The Alan Menken and Broadway Stars concert on the plaza of the REACH was a show stopping event to be sure and kudos and congratulations to all involved on this superb evening of entertainment.

Note: The arrangers were not credited within this piece to keep the flow. They do however deserve mention. The arrangers (different from the orchestrators) were Michael Kosarin, Bruce Healy, and Mr. Menken.



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