Will Gartshore in concert, Joseph’s Amazing Kids, Sarah Brightman’s Symphony and Christopher Imbrosciano
by Joel Markowitz
Two-time Helen Hayes Award winner (Urinetown and Assassins) Will Gartshore – the man with that gorgeous voice – reappeared in a cabaret at Round House Theatre’s Silver Spring stage called Perfect/Finite – A Cabaret For a Limited Time-Flaws And All. On Monday, November 10th, I was in heaven, as Will sang songs by Sondheim, LaChuisa, Gershwin, Lippa, and Guettel – all composers I love and whose works I listen to on a regular basis. Will also introduced the audience to songs written by many new young musical theatre composers and lyricists – Thalken, Barer, Heggie, Campbell, Miller, Kleinbort, Brown, Gallagher and Waldrop. I had heard Rebecca Luker sing many of these new composers’ works at the Kennedy Center two nights earlier in Songs For The Theater – The Next Generation. Here, many of those same songs were given new meaning by Will’s interpretations, beautifully and passionately accompanied on piano by Gabriel Mangiante.
The highlights for me? Rita Dottor gorgeously accompanying Will on the violin as he sang “Speak Low,” and then Will singing a Sondheim medley that consisted of “A Woman’s Touch” from Passion, “Pretty Women”, my favorite Sondheim song of all time “Johanna,” both from Sweeney Todd, and “Pretty Lady” from Pacific Overtures. Rarely has such beauty permeated a medley of songs.
There is one song that still leaves me an emotional wreck, and that’s Adam Guettel’s “How Glory Goes,” from his musical Floyd Collin., Hearing Will Gartshore sing it in that small, cave-like Silver Spring space, brought back memories of Will and Rich Affannato in Signature Theatre’s mesmerizing Floyd Collins, my all-time favorite Signature production. I remembered back to memories of Rich and Will singing “The Riddle Song” from Floyd Collins at the Library of Congress Concert for Stephen Sondheim’s 70th Birthday, on May 22, 2000, at the Coolidge Auditorium. It had ended the first half of the celebration, and Mr. Sondheim stood up, as did the audience, and cheered wildly.
That night, Broadway stars Brian Stokes Mitchell, Nathan Lane, Marin Mazzie, and Audra MacDonald honored Mr. Sondheim with their glorious renditions of his works, and a series of works entitled, “Songs I Wished I’d Written… In Part.” After the celebration, Mr. Sondheim was asked what was the highlight of the evening for him, and he responded (and I was there to hear it) that it was Rich and Will’s singing “The Riddle Song,” and that it made him cry. And here, eight years later, after Will Gartshore sang “How Glory Goes,” I cried. That song always gets me. Oh! That Voice!
Young, Talented Dreamers
People forget that Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was first presented as a fifteen minute pop cantata at Cole Court School in London on March 1, 1968, and was not a vehicle written exclusively to resurrect the career of Donny Osmond.
Being a fan of the show, I accepted an invitation from DCTS’s own Ted Ying and his wife Barbara to attend the Sunday, November 16th performance of Joseph at MAD, the theatre troupe at Goddard Space Center. I’ve always enjoyed the show because the score is vintage Webber and Rice, full of hummable melodies and roll-off-your-tongue lyrics, and, best of all – the show is short – under 90 minutes.
This production was very close to the hearts of the Ying family because Ted was playing Joseph and Barbara was directing. After seeing a sweet production of Carousel at MAD last Fall, I was looking forward to returning to this wonderful space (no pun intended), where families and actors gathered to serve a meal, participate in the show, by being in the cast, working backstage, serving drinks to the attendees, and running lights and sound. It’s truly a family affair, and watching children, parents, brothers and sisters and grandparents beaming – well- that’s what theatre is all about.
But what brought the most smiles and applause that Sunday afternoon was the exceptional children’s choir. I’m not kidding – these young kids were great! It‘s rare that you can gather seven talented kids in a non-professional production, and mold them into a fabulous singing unit, but Ted and Barbara did!
I wish you could have watched the faces of these kids which you can see in the picture, when they were singing, “Any Dream Will Do,” Close Every Door.” “Go Go Go Joseph,” and “Benjamin Calypso.” And a special kudo to the bubbly and ultra-confident Sophia Santiago – whose beautiful voice and boundless energy – stole my heart. So, here are the names of the talented children’s choir – and the color of their shirts – who I had the honor of watching and listening to: Sophia Santiago (green), Ben Schulman (blue), Montana Monardes (blue with the fluffy hair), Max Condell (red), Sammy Santiago (yellow), Milan Monardes (purple), and Julia Sharapi (white). Great job kids!
And special kudos to Director Ying for managing such a large group of actors on and off the stage and for inserting a Les Miz parody. C’est dommage!
To learn more about MAD, click here.
Music of the Light – Sarah Brightman’s Symphony Concert
Lorreane Treanor and I saw Sarah Brightman’s Symphony concert at The Verizon Center on Wednesday, November 19th, and it was a night of lush colorful dresses, Sarah singing her heart out – moving up and down the scales with ease, singing opera, Italian and Spanish love songs, duets, and pop songs.
Visually stunning, audiences were whisked off to gorgeous gardens and under the sea, as schools of fish swam around the Verizon Center, and plants took root below and above the stage, while Sarah sang songs like “Dust In The Wind.”
You should have seen her 3,800 fans go crazy when she sang “The Phantom of The Opera.” I was at the Majestic Theatre, the week Phantom opened on Broadway, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that Sarah Brightman, (who played Christine opposite Michael Crawford’s Phantom), on this night at The Verizon Center, hit all those high notes with the same ease she did when I heard her sing the very same song at the Majestic Theatre on January 27, 1988.
There wer spine tingling moments when Sarah and Argentinian counter-tenor Fernando Lima sang a Spanish version of “Ave Maria,” and a duet called “Pasion.” Greek tenor Mario Frangoulis hit some unbelievable high notes when he and Sarah sang “Carpe Diem.” There was a very funny synchronized splashing swimming routine which was Busby Berkeley-like, with eight gorgeous sirens kicking and making waves as Sarah sang “La Luna.” May I make one suggestion Sarah? Because many of your songs are not in English, could you put subtitles up so we can understand what you are singing, and perhaps allow us to sing along?
The most gorgeous moment of the night was when the stage was transformed into a snow-filled winter wonderland. I watched as a Christmas Tree grew bigger and bigger, and then toy soldiers marched on both sides of the stage, while the orchestra, also on both sides of the stage, filled the auditorium with sounds of joy and peace and love. A great way to welcome the holiday season!
You can watch a video on the Symphony Tour here.
Let’s Hear It for “The Boy”!
I was in Philadelphia last weekend to interview Faith Prince and Richard Thomas, who were appearing in Terrence McNally’s new play Unusual Acts of Devotion and Amy Toporek and Michael Walker, who were starring in Walnut Street Theatre’s production of Hairspray (that podcast is coming soon.)
I also had the chance to see Amaryllis Theatre’s Rock Doves. Like DC’s Open Circle Theatre Company,The Amaryllis Theatre Company “is the professional producing arm of VSA Arts of Pennsylvania, an affiliate through VSA Arts of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. whose inclusive mission is to produce new forms of theatre and to encourage a richer sense of community by bringing together artists and audiences from the most diverse community spectrum, providing complete accessibility for audiences and artists with disabilities.”
On June 28, 2008 – 5 months ago – I attended Ping Chong Company’s production of Inside/Out at the Kennedy Center’s Family Theatre, and for 90 minutes, I was moved by the stories of disabled young actors and how they had overcame their physical hardships, and found solace and hope in the theatre.
One of those young actors whose story inspired me, was Christopher Imbrosciano.
Christopher’s story is a profile in courage. Briefly, Christopher was given a 5% chance of living through his first year, because he had respiratory distress syndrome, a massive brain hemorrhage, and hydrocephalus, and other illnesses – a strong and courageous kid who endured numerous surgeries, only to become a teacher and a fine actor.
I was invited to see Rock Doves by Amaryllis’s press representative, Saige Robb, and here is how her press release described the play, “By turns comic and tragic, Rock Doves, a riveting drama by the acclaimed author of Stones in His Pockets, Rock Doves looks at life on the streets of post “Troubles,” contemporary Belfast, where four misfits–a self-styled loony, a prostitute, a transvestite, and a young, would-be hero– unravel a mystery of surprising connections among patriots, informers, and the innocent caught in their violent world…”
You can only imagine how I elated I was when I walked into The Amaryllis Theatre, opened my program, and found out that Christopher Imbrosciano was playing “The Boy.” And Christopher didn’t disappoint! His performance of a young, angry boy in Belfast, who has set a massive bonfire and who is left to hide in an abandoned building with a very crazy old man, was scintillating, full of fire, and pity, and fear and hope. You cheered for this boy who created so much trouble, and who regretted turning in his own father to the authorities. It was a performance of many layers and emotions, and Christopher had the audience eating out of his hands. I saw audience members wipe away tears at the end of the play, when “The Boy” and his hopes and dreams were extinguished.
Christopher and veteran actor Michael Toner, who played Knacker, were a joy to watch. I’ll never forget sitting in that small theatre and marveling at that young actor who, once again, had moved me with his passion.
Rock Doves plays through December 7th at Amaryllis Theatre Company’s home in The Playground at the Adrienne, 2030 Sansom Street, in Philadelphia, PA. For tickets call 215-564-2431 x. 93, or go to their website.