Monday, November 10, 2014

concert review SEASONS OF BROADWAY, Nov. 7

To read my review at Talkin' Broadway, click here

Four powerhouse Broadway vocalists, led by original Rent star Adam Pascal, came together recently for Seasons of Broadway, a concert of mostly Broadway hits which celebrated the "diversity of Broadway." The foursome toured three West Coast arts centers last weekend, including the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

Pascal was joined by two-time Tony nominee Robin De Jesus, Mandy Gonzalez, and Marcus Paul James to perform many songs they originated on Broadway and others they personally identify with. While Pascal is the biggest "name" amongst the four, it was nice to see that it was a balanced ensemble concert, with Pascal getting equal time alongside his lesser known co-stars. All four performers have had professional relationships with each other. Pascal, De Jesus and James have all been in productions of Rent together, while Pascal and Gonzalez were in Aida, and Gonzalez and De Jesus were in the original cast of In the Heights. The bonds formed by those experiences came across in the concert.

There were many highlights in the evening. Gonzalez has been in her share of hits and flops on Broadway and she sang songs from every Broadway show she's been in. She has one of the clearest voices I've heard, able to provide both perfect diction and pitch and a soaring belt, and she put her excellent voice to exceptional use. First, recreating her role as Nina in the smash hit In the Heights, she delivered an emotional version of "Breathe" and, with De Jesus's vocal accompaniment, sang "Total Eclipse of the Heart" from her first starring show on Broadway, the mega-flop Dance of the Vampires. Gonzalez was one of the replacement Elphabas in the Broadway cast of Wicked and she sang a rousing and raw "Defying Gravity" as well as a beautiful, heartfelt version of "Imagine" from the flop showLennon.

A trio of Rent songs early in the evening proved very meaningful, with Pascal singing an introspective "One Song Glory" that had a different arrangement from the original Broadway version but was just as effective; De Jesus and James were a charming couple on the show's "I'll Cover You"; and James and Pascal sang a fun and upbeat "What You Own."

A few funny behind the scenes stories accompanied the songs, including one Pascal told about how he is often confused with his original costar Anthony Rapp and how being chosen to narrate a documentary on hippopotamuses had a connection to his being confused for Rapp.

James, who is currently in Motown the Musical on Broadway, displayed his sleek dance moves and winning vocals on that show's "My Girl" followed by his upbeat, and quite good, original song "Meant to Be" that was reminiscent of the songs of Stevie Wonder. James also spoke of his inspirations and, after saying he has always been influenced by John Legend, he sang Legend's hit "All of Me." James' voice gave the song's lyrics an earthy, gritty feeling that resonated.

Gonzalez also spoke about her inspirations and mentioned that when she was seven she sang Tina Turner's "Proud Mary" at a talent show. She then delivered a rip-roaring version of Turner's "River Deep, Mountain High" complete with high pitched "rocker" wales. Gonzalez then joined Pascal onAida's "Elaborate Lives" which showed Pascal is still able to hit that song's soaring high notes. He also performed a moving and touching "Memphis Lives in Me" from Memphis.

While De Jesus only had two solos, they were both expertly delivered. A direct and pure "Proud of Your Boy" from Aladdin was a winner and "I Am What I Am" from La Cage aux Folles received a measured, driving delivery that exploded toward the end and got one of the biggest ovations of the evening. The concert ended on another high note with the four singing Rent's "Seasons of Love" in perfect harmony.

Jesse Vargas' musical direction was excellent, achieving rich harmonies from the foursome as well as a full, striking sound from the small band. While the show ran just shy of 90 minutes, it featured plenty of chances for the four performers to show their skills and covered many genres of songs. I only wish De Jesus had gotten another solo to sing and that both Pascal and De Jesus had a chance to, like Gonzalez and James, pay homage to someone who inspired them. But the excellent arrangements, the full, soaring vocals from the four singers, and Vargas' superb musical direction were huge assets. Another asset is that the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts features perfect sound and clear site lines, so it doesn't seem like there is a bad seat in the house.

I'm not sure if there are any plans to present this concert in other cities across the country, but if they do tour again, Seasons of Broadway should be a must-see for anyone who loves Broadway.

Seasons of Broadway played the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts on Friday November 7th 2014. Information for upcoming concerts at the SCPA can be found

No comments:

Post a Comment