By Marilyn Lester. . .

When Scott Siegel started the Broadway by the Year series at The Town Hall in 2000, the shows did indeed showcase the big hits from The Great White Way for a particular season. Some years ago, that format was expanded, but always centered on the music of shows on the Rialto. Now, Siegel has turned his attention to shows that never made it to Broadway yet became as popular and even as famous as some of the biggest Broadway productions, or at least had numbers from them that achieved iconic status. What a great idea—because as Siegel demonstrated, there are plenty of worthy songs here, with many of them becoming part of the new American Songbook.

In the history of Off-Broadway, there’s been a long trail of shows that were immensely popular, often running for years, and subsequently finding life being regularly produced at colleges and universities, and regional and community theaters. Other big shows, which might have been candidates for a Broadway production, played to great acclaim in Europe and the West End, and for one reason or another, just never made the leap to these shores. So, mining the riches of these shows, creator, writer, director and host of Broadway by the Year, Siegel outdid himself in staging a night of brilliant musical theater on June 27, 2022, filled with top-rate talent singing famous songs from the hilarious to the serious-minded.

Kelli Rabke
Pedro Coppeti

One three-part example of “almost” lay in a trio of Stephen Schwartz musicals. Despite successes with Godspell, Pippin and Wicked, these other works never had the chance to shine on the Great White Way. Kellie Rabke applied her natural belt voice to two Schwartz hit numbers: “Stranger to the Rain” from Children of Eden and the exquisite “Meadowlark” from The Baker’s Wife. This latter tune was so popular it became an audition go-to for aspiring actresses! The magnetic Brazilian-born Pedro Coppeti (who was one of Siegel’s “rising stars” a few years back) delivered as impassioned “Out There” from Schwartz’s Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Leo Daignault, Jason Graae, Larry Raiben
Adam Grupper, Cheryl Stern, Bradley Dean

Comedy was a very large part of this Broadway by the Year, and it didn’t go amiss. Jason Graae brought back memories with his precious and funny rendition of parodist Alan Sherman’s “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah,” a hit song that spawned an Off-Broadway musical of the same name. He also appeared with Larry Raiben and Leo Daignault in an homage to the popular (and still much-produced) Forever Plaid. The fourth Plaid, unable to appear because of illness, was represented by his plaid jacket, which was artfully draped over the standing microphone. From that show the quartet sang “This or That/Undecided” and “Rags to Riches.” From another long-running spoof show, “Forbidden Broadway,” Gina Kreiezman and Michael West pushed laugh buttons, as did Bradley Dean, Adam Grupper and Cheryl Stern and “I Need a Life” from No Way to Treat a Lady.

Crystal Joy
Christine Andreas

Girl power was represented in Crystal Joy with the affecting “If We Only Have Love” from Jacques Brel Is Alive and Living in Paris and a rock ’n roll hit, “My Boyfriend’s Back” from Beehive. This latter number was executed with the Broadway by the Year Dance Troupe, choreographed by Danny Gardner. Gardner, a hugely talented triple threat, himself offered Don’t Give In” from A New Brain, demonstrating his superb tap dancing chops. Book-ending the show was the opener, “Try to Remember” from the incredibly long-running The Fantasticks (42 years and then 11 years in revival) sung by Christine Andreas, one of the foremost interpreters of song on legit and cabaret stages. Another performer of dazzling talent, Brian Charles Rooney, with the BBTY Dance Troupe, led the finale of “But the World Goes ‘Round” from the Kander and Ebb revue, And the World Goes Round. It’s the tune that later became our City’s unofficial anthem when it appeared in a film and transmogrified into “Theme from New York, New York.” It was a fitting ending for a joyful night celebrating song and live performance.

Danny Gardner

Music director and pianist, Ross Patterson, who’s been Siegel’s one-man orchestra since the beginning of Broadway by the Year, was ably supported with rhythm by Don Falzzone on string bass and Eric Halvorson on drums.

Photos: Genevieve Rafter Keddy