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Review: BROADWAY IN THE PARK at Wolf Trap

New York stars enliven event co-presented by Signature Theatre.

By: Jul. 02, 2024
Review: BROADWAY IN THE PARK at Wolf Trap  Image
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The intent of Wolf Trap’s annual “Broadway in the Park” event is to blend the star power of the Great White Way (if it’s still called that) with the rising stars of the local co-presenter, Signature Theatre.

For the fourth annual edition of the show, well-attended on a steamy Saturday night, the star attractions were Laura Benanti, a musical pro with a knack for comedy, and Jordan Fisher, a singer currently appearing in “Hadestown” whose been in “Hamilton” and the revival of “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.” 

And though the two only performed a scant few songs each at the end of the concert, they managed to lift the evening from what might have been one of dutiful local support to something much more entertaining. 

After a somewhat plodding overture of songs from “Mame” from the orchestra conducted by musical director Jon Kalbfleisch (an overture of songs that wouldn’t be performed later), Felicia Curry, a kind of Simone Biles of the musical theater, in a glittering dress, led on “Magic to Do” from “Pippin.” 

She’d continue through the evening as a host, appearing in a couple of different splashy outfits.

Katie Mariko Murray followed with “Life of the Party” from “Wild Party,” demonstrating that success in musical theater is powered by pipes and personality. 

Rayanne Gonzales’ song, “Paciencia Y Fe” from “In the Heights,” was the most accurate selection of the night, meteorologically speaking, as it began, “Ay mamá, the summer’s hottest day!” 

Tobias A. Young’s reading of “There’s a Boat That’s Leaving Soon” from “Porgy and Bess” stood out for his long-held final note. 

Matthew Scott’s approach to “Cabaret” seemed at first too slow. But never mind, he soon shifted to “I Miss the Music” from “First You Dream.”

Kevin McAllister kept things strident with his “Stars” from “Les Misérables” before Tracy Lynn Olivera got the crowd going with a song that non-Broadway types knew too, ABBA’s “The Winner Takes It All,” portending the jukebox musical era when it was included in 1999's “Mamma Mia!” 

Kalbfleisch had another unnecessary instrumental interlude (more “Cabaret”) before things shifted to the imported stars.

Fisher had an appealing approach. Rather than resort to belting everything, he’d draw listeners by singing more naturally and softly. Skipping his first listed number (“Shiksa Goddess” from “The Last Five Years”) he went right into “I’m Not Afraid of Anything” from “Songs for a New World” before teasing his way into his “Hamilton” number “Wait for It.” 

Benanti was nothing short of delightful in her set, starting by explaining how important Wolf Trap had been for her family — her mother grew up in McLean, she said; her father in Falls Church. And she recalled convincingly how seeing a matinee of “A Chorus Line” there helped lead her to what she wanted to do. 

Then it was time for what she called “‘My Fair Lady’ in 15 Minutes or Less,” taking care to set up the numbers from the beloved musical (and their various accents). It served as reminder that musicals are stories with songs, not just the latter. 

She followed with something the audience might have been craving, “Vanilla Ice Cream” (from “She Loves Me”) and topped the set with a song of her own amusing ditty about the plight of women in musical theater, “Recovering Ingenue.” 

Benanti did it all with the kind of comedy chops that’s made her Melania Trump impersonation on “Late Night with Stephen Colbert” such a hoot, and a voice that’s really lovely.

Her job done, Fisher returned to do his song from “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Waving Through a Window” flanked  by young singers from Signature’s Overtures Students, who unfortunately remained in shadows.

A bigger crowd gathered under better lighting for the full cast finale -- of Sondheim’s “Our Time” from “Merrily We Roll Along.” 

Running time: About 90 minutes.

Photo credit: Laura Benanti with music director Jon Kalbfleisch. Photo by Traci Medlock. 

“Broadway in the Park” was presented by Signature Theatre at Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, Vienna, Va, on June 29. Information about the Wolf Trap season can be found online


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