Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp Feature
Scott Siegel's Broadway Unplugged Concerts
By Elyse Sommer
Broadway Unplugged-- 2009
Ethel Merman is no longer the one name that usually pops up when there's talk of singers who can deliver a song without the miking. Not to take anything away from Merman's ability to belt out a song so it could be heard in the upper balcony, there's another name synonymous with melodies sung with God's own amplification system, the human voice. That name is Scott Siegel. Though not himself a singer, miked or not, Siegel has made his Broadway Unplugged concerts as popular an event as the popular Broadway by the Year series.
The sixth and latest in this wonderful series was directed by Scott Coulter and had a stellar lineup of vocalists who obviously love this opportunity to make beautiful music without the miking (alas, often excessively over done) that's become derigueur even at fairly small Off-Broadway theaters. The venue was, as usual, The Town Hall and Siegel was at the podium to provide informative background. Besides favorites of both this and the Broadway by the year favorites-- like Emily Skinner, Bill Daugherty and Mark Kudisch-- writer and narrator Siegel pulled several delightful surprises out of his producers hat. For starters, young Kelsey Fowler from Mary Poppins making even those who swore they never wanted to hear the anthem from Annie again cheer and applaud. Another coup was the appearance of John Easterlin, just before his next gig at the Metropolitan Opera. A truly thrilling operatic voice! Since BBTY fans have become accustomed to dancing as well as singing, Jeffrey Denham was on hand to provide a bit of footwork.
For the record, a list of the evening's entire reperoire below.
Man of La Mancha (Bill Daugherty & William Michals) from MAN OF LA MANCHA
The Impossible Dream (William Michals) from MAN OF LA MANCHA
Something's Coming (Daniel Reichard) from WEST SIDE STORY
The Other Side of the Tracks (Lisa Howard) from LITTLE ME
Joey, Joey Joey: (Manu Narayan) from THE MOST HAPPY FELLA
Tell Me on a Sunday (Janet Metz) from SONG AND DANCE
What Kind of Fool Am I? (David Brian Colbert) from STOP THE WORLD, I WANT TO GET OFF
Not a Day Goes By (Jill Paice) from MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG
Distant Melody (Emily Skinner) from PETER PAN
My Heart is so Full of You (Marc Kudisch & Sarab Jane McMahon) from THE MOST HAPPY FELLA
Dein is Mein Ganzes Herz (John Easterlin) from YOURS IN MY HEART
Tomorrow (Kelsey Fowler) from ANNIE
Have Yourself a Merry Little Xmas (Marc Kudisch & Jeffry Denman) from MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS
The Light in the Piazza (Sarah Jane McMahon) from THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA
When You're Good to Mama (Emily Skinner) from CHICAGO
Come to Me, Bend to Me (Daniel Reichard) from BRIGADOON
Let Things Be Like They Always Was (Marc Kudisch) from STREET SCENE
Could You Use Me?/Shall We Dance (Jill Paice & Jeffry Denman – choreographed by Denman) from CRAZY FOR YOU
Brother, Can You Spare a Dime (Bill Daugherty) from AMERICANA
Mama, A Rainbow (Terri White) from MINNIE’S BOYS
Deep in My Heart Dear (Sarah Jane McMahon & John Easterlin) from THE STUDENT PRINCE
What I Did For Love (Janet Metz & Full Company) – from A CHORUS LINE
Broadway Unplugged-- 2006
All good things may come in threes, but this third edition of Broadway Unplugged is not likely to be the last of this welcome event. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend this year's concert but from reports sent by readers and devotees of everything Scott Siegel on behalf of show tunes and their history. In lieu of a more detailed report, here is a line-up of what ou —and, unfortunately I— missed:
I've Got Rhythm: Norm Lewis
Cornet Man: Liz McCartney
Not While I'm Around: Euan Morton
I Dreamed A Dream: Lisa Howard
Pack Up Your Sins: Daugherty & Pachl
When You're Good to Mama: Barb Jungr Down With Love: Mary Bond Davis
The First Time: Marc Kudisch
Surabaya Santa: Beth Leavel Impossible Dream: William Michals
All I Care About is Love: Chuck Cooper
Naughty Marietta: Nancy Anderson
You'll Never Walk Alone: Douglas Ladnier
Love in a New Tempo: Eddie Korbich
Somebody Somewhere: Sarah Uriarte Berry
Never Will I Marry: John Lloyd Young
Muddy Water: Roosevelt Andre Credit & Bruce Alan Johnson
Softly as in a Morning Sunrise: Marc Kudisch
Yankee Doodle Dandy (with tap dance): Jeffry Denman
For Good: Scott Coulter
Goodnight My Someone: Lisa Howard & Company
Broadway Unplugged-- 2005
My closing prediction about last year's first Broadway Unplugged concert really was a pretty sure fire prediction. I therefore won't claim bragging rights for my willingness to wager that the first all unplugged concert would become Broadway By the Years s version of The Jeffersons. Instead, a simple hurrah for the September 19th event and giving this new series its own page.
So how was Unplugged #2? To quote from the beloved Rodgers & Hammerstein show aria sung by that splendid bass baritone William Michals, it was an "Enchanted Evening" in which they did it again. "They" being Scott Siegel, that inveterate booster of the greatest instruments of all-- the natural voice-- and the more than two dozen singers who joined him Monday, September 19th at Town Hall to give proof positive that there's nothing quite like a song amplified by God-given talent rather than a sound board operator.
Impeccably directed by Dan Foster, and smoothly but never slickly introduced by Siegel, the performers -- a veritable who's who of Broadway and cabaret talent -- gave the twenty-three numbers their full-throttle, au natural best. The concert was bookended by B. J. Crosby belting out "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going" and the entire cast thrillingly filling the stage for a rousing "Climb Every Mountain."
But it wasn't just the big belting, tear down the roof songs like Crosby's that made this such a rich evening, but the astute variations on the natural sound. Thus there were some more low key thrills like Deven May's marvelous Sondheim song, "Being Alive." To enliven things there were also some delightful comic numbers to show off the comic acting as well as vocal talents of Marc Kudisch and Sutton Foster and a deft arrangement that had five males doing their own take on the orphans from Annie (including the arranger of this delightfully novel It's a Hard Knock Life, Steven Ray Watkins). I could go on applauding this or that number, especially from the little guys who are big vocally and in the charisma department (like Deven May and Eddie Korbich, and, of course, the show's low-key but ever more endearing impresario). Instead, I'll let the song list below speak for the talent and variety, and refrain from dwelling on the inevitable but, fortunately few, less than wonderful performances. "Where or When" (Babes in Arms
As Scott Siegel never runs out of ways to pay tribute to his beloved wife Barbara (who deserves every one of his little odes), I'm sure he won't run out of the energy and enthusiasm he brings to this and his Broadway by the Year series. These all unplugged concerts won't turn back the clock and bring back musicals without amplification -- which is exactly what makes them so rare and valuable.
Broadway Unplugged-- 2004
The only one at the September 27th Broadway Unplugged concert who used a mike was its impresario, Scott Siegel. That's because Scott wasn't trained to be a singer. But no matter. The man sure knows how to put together a show that's powered by singing talent that can soar without overhead mikes, handheld mikes, body mikes or any other amplifying device.
Siegel's belief that Town Hall provides the acoustics and the talented singers who fuel Broadway By the Year's popularity could deliver an added touch of magic with an occasional off-mike number has proved to be well founded. The unamplified numbers sprinkled through those shows made a hit with the performers as well as the audience. And so, Broadway Unplugged -- an evening in which show tunes delivered by that most perfect instrument, the unadulterated human voice, were not just the icing but the cake. If you were lucky enough to nab a ticket for the sold-out event, you're no doubt still licking your fingers from this finger licking musical treat.
Unlike the series that inspired it, Broadway Unplugged did not limit its choices to a particular time frame. Instead, the singers were asked not to limit themselves to show tunes from the days preceding our current over-amplified era. This neatly avoided an overemphasis on nostalgia. For audiences it was a chance to experience recent as well as older songs without having the sound and lyrics muddied by too much electronic technology. For the twenty stellar performers it was a chance to sing the way they were trained to sing, not according to the dictates of today's amplification happy musical theater.
To sum it all up with a line from song lyric, the result was " heaven. . .simply heaven." The lyrics DID reach all the way to the back of Town Hall's orchestra and into the rear of the balcony (I confirmed this with several people who were seated there). I could point out that Cady Huffman's "Anything Goes" proves that she's a vocal as well as a blonde bombshell and tell you that George Dvorsky's "Proud Lady" from The Baker's Wife made me all agog to see that show when it comes to the Papermill Playhouse. I could rhapsodize about Nancy Anderson's crystal clear soprano in "Romance" from The Desert Song, Mary Testa's frisky "Hard Hearted Hannah," Marc Kudisch's terrifically playful" My Fortune Is My Face" from Fade Out-Fade In and rousing "Song of the Vagabonds" from the operetta The Vagabond King. But since everyone performed with show stopping bravura, I'll simply list the entire program at the end of this critical bouquet.
Happily, audiences who've become accustomed to Scott Siegel's always informative and amusing background commentary, were treated to a between-song, soundbite sized history of amplification. It seems that the whole amplification trend began when Rogers and Hammerstein, arranged for microphones to be placed on stage to avoid having their lyrics were lost to balcony audiences. What was good for Rogers and Hammerstein became de rigueur for the entire industry with the most recent available figures for the cost of amplifying musicals to often unbearable decibel levels estimated to average $20,000 a week.
As usual, the accompaniment was provided by Ross Patterson and his Little Big Band -- also unamplified, and keeping the sound soft enough to make even the less Merman-like voices strain to be heard. Jack Cummings III and John Goden handled the simple but effective musical staging and lighting design.
I'm not a betting person, but I'm willing to wager that the September 27th Unplugged concert will not be a one and only event, but the Broadway By the Years s Jeffersons. . I hope I win my bet.
The Complete Broadway Unplugged Program
Stephanie J. Block, "Don't Rain on My Parade" from Funny Girl
Nancy Anderson, "Romance" from The Desert Song
Cady Huffman, "Anything Goes" from Anything Goes
George Dvorsky, "Proud Lady" from The Baker's Wife
Ludmilla Ilieva, "Dancing in the Dark" from The Bandwagon
Ann Harada, "There Won't Be Trumpets" from Anyone Can Whistle
Bill Daugherty, "Lonely Town" from On the Town
Marc Kudisch, "My Fortune Is My Face" from Fade Out--Fade In
Barbara Walsh, "Holding to the Ground" from Falsettos
Michael Cerveris, "Finishing the Hat" from Sunday in the Park With George
Chuck Cooper, "Low Down Blues" from Eubie
Marc Kudisch, "Song of the Vagabonds" from The Vagabond King
Alice Ripley, "Serenity" from Triumph of Love
Norm Lewis, "Make Them Hear You" from Ragtime
A.J. Irvin, "Lost in the Stars" from Lost in the Stars
Mary Testa, "Hard Hearted Hannah" from Innocent Eyes
Euan Morton, "Why God, Why?" from Miss Saigon
Debbie Gravitte, "If He Walked Into My Life" from Mame
Darius de Haas, "I Am Changing" from Dreamgirls
Christine Andreas, "My Ship" from Lady in the Dark
Alix Korey, "Everything's Coming Up Roses" from Gypsy
Full company, "You'll Never Walk Alone " from Carousel
In closing, it's not too early to think about subscribing to the 2005 season so check out what's on the menu and when below.
Top of List
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.
>6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by our editor.
Click image to buy.
Go here for details and larger image.