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BWW Review: BROADWAY IN THE PARK at Wolf Trap

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Collaborations like this one between Signature Theatre and Wolf Trap were and are very much needed.

BWW Review: BROADWAY IN THE PARK at Wolf Trap
The company of Broadway in the Park.
Photo by Scott Suchman.

While Labor Day weekend marked the unofficial end of summer it also marked Signature Theatre's return to presenting LIVE entertainment. In this case, it was not in the cozy confines of their home in Shirlington but at the Filene Center at Wolf Trap. The concert entitled Broadway in the Park marked the first of what we hope to be many collaborations between these two giants of the arts organizations.

The evening started off in grand style with Maestro Jon Kalbfleisch conducting a 25-piece orchestra with the overture from Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim's Gypsy. It felt really good after all this time to hear the Sid Ramin and Robert Ginzler orchestration in all of its full audibly delightful glory.

After that, our ensemble of Signature Theatre singers featuring Christian Douglas, Rayshun LaMarr, Katie Mariko Murray, Tracy Lynn Olivera, Nova Y. Payton, and Bobby Smith took to the stage with Stephen Sondheim's "Back to Business".

The ensemble also had many solos and duets throughout the evening. A few of the No stand outs for me included the always spectacular Tracy Lynn Olivera's powerhouse rendition of "I Can Cook Too" from On the Town, and Katie Mariko Murray's killer soprano on "I Could Have Danced All Night" from My Fair Lady.

A few seasons ago, Bobby Smith gave the performance of his career as Albin/Zaza in La Cage Aux Folles to have him recreate his act one closer "I Am What I Am" truly reminded me why I love musical theater as much as I do.

As far as I'm concerned, Ryshun LaMarr passed his audition for the next production of Jesus Christ Superstar singing the title song from the show as Judas.

Of all of the solos Nova Y. Payton had, and she had a bunch of them, my favorite would have to have been her rendition of "Summertime" from Porgy & Bess. I am well aware that song did not show off Ms. Payton's belty signature (no pun intended) sound and that's why I enjoyed it. It showed off her versatility and that she can sing more than one way.

As this were not enough entertainment for the night with a couple thousand of your masked friends, Broadway headliners Renée Elise Goldsberry and Brian Stokes Mitchell added fuel to what was already a hot performance.

BWW Review: BROADWAY IN THE PARK at Wolf Trap
Renée Elise Goldsberry.
Photo by Scott Suchman.

Goldsberry, as backed by Crystal Monee Hall, Kristina Nicole Miller & Anastasia Talley, blew the roof off of the Filene Center with a medley of songs from Rent and of course "The Schuyler Sisters" from her current Broadway "gig" called Hamilton. Maybe you've heard of it?

BWW Review: BROADWAY IN THE PARK at Wolf Trap
Brian Stokes Mitchell.
Photo by Scott Suchman.


Brian Stokes Mitchell has been called the last of Broadway's true leading men. His performances take us back to the days of Alfred Drake and others from Broadway's golden age. His performance this night proved all of that again and more.

His jazzy take on Irving Berlin's "There's No Business Like Show Business" shows how a new take on a Broadway classic can make it sound as fresh as it did when it premiered. His "Something Good" from The Roar of the Greasepaint- The Smell of the Crowd was just that as was his "The Impossible Dream" from Man of La Mancha. You might remember that Stokes Mitchell performed this song on his NYC balcony nightly for a while drawing quite the crowd.

The whole evening wound up with as perfect a finish as you could get with the full ensemble joined by Stokes Mitchell and Goldsberry for Sondheim's "Sunday" from Sunday in the Park with George.

All in all, Broadway in the Park bought Signature Theatre roaring back. Here's hoping that the company's newly appointed (rightfully deserved) Artistic Director Matthew Gardiner keeps on doing what he is doing because collaborations like this one between Signature Theatre and Wolf Trap were and are very much needed.

Running Time: One Hour and 40 minutes with no intermission.

Broadway in the Park was a one night only engagement at the Filene Center at Wolf Trap on September 3, 2021. For upcoming events at Signature Theatre, click here. For upcoming events at Wolf Trap, click here.


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