by Monica Charline Brown
BroadwayBox’s most anticipated show of the month. Broadway Sings’ twelfth concert over the course of four years. A trip to the Highline Ballroom I most look forward to every few months. Attracting Baby Boomers and Millennials alike, The Beatles, their tunes and moreover their messages, proved truly timeless Monday evening.
Emily Padgett (Side Show) kicked the night off with a sexy and funky mash-up of “Twist and Shout” and “Come Together.” Michael Wartella (Tuck Everlasting) followed with a relaxed and suave “With a Little Help From My Friends.” Alison Luff (Les Miserables) stood out in a night where it is nearly impossible to pick favorites with her warm, yet powerful take on the classic “Oh Darlin.”
The iconic “Let It Be” became an up-tempo, groovy anthem in the hands of Antoine L. Smith (The Color Purple), with the help of a disco ball in full force. “Blackbird” was done so much justice by Dawn Cantwell (The Last Ship), who channeled a blend of Ingrid Michaelson and Janis Joplin in her introverted, lush performance. Nic Rouleau (Book of Mormon) took on a classic arrangement of “Here, There and Everywhere,” while Zurin Villanueva (Shuffle Along) pleaded a bluesy “We Can Work it Out.”
Founder Corey Mach (Godspell) combined “Golden Slumbers” and “Something” into a chilling and majestic ballad. Another one of my highlights of the evening was Carrie St. Louis (Wicked). “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” started with the adorable, demure side she sports every night at the Gershwin as Glinda. Bit by bit, a Big Band Beltress shone through, and ultimately, could not be suppressed any longer. Her flawless comedic timing on top of nailing the two vocal styles was thrilling. Next, Diva Alysha Umphress (On the Town) brought the drama in her take on “Because” mixed with “Across the Universe.”
Between Drew Gehling (Waitress) and his sexy blend of “I’ve Just Seen a Face” and “Got to Get You Into My Life,” John Rua (Hamilton) and his funky “Can’t Buy My Love (including a hip-hop dance break), and Steel Burkhardt (Aladdin) smoldering his way through “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” I was enjoying myself quite a lot. Seriously, my job is so hard… Nevertheless, the line-up of ladies toward the end of the performance was equally killer, including Britney Johnson (Beautiful) driving a dark, rock and roll version of “Eleanor Rigby” home and Angela Birchett (The Color Purple) bringing the soul out of “Yesterday.” The finale was the ever-lovely Ciara Renee personalizing a fusion of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Hey Jude” as a call to our generation to be revolutionaries, much like the Beatles. It is up to us to “take a sad song and make it better.”
Music Director, Arranger, Orchestrator, and Certifiable Genius Joshua Stephen Kartes once again conducted the insanely talented eleven-piece band and dazzling back-up singers. If you are intrigued by me raving on and on about how great Broadway Sings is, check them out for yourself in Broadway Sings Their Own at Feinstein’s/54 Below on August 29 or the just announced Broadway Sings Beyonce, highlighting music from her self-titled album and “Lemonade,” later this fall.
Photos: Christine DiPasquale