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by Robert Diamond

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Standing Ovations 3 - What a night!

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I’m still on cloud nine from last night’s Standing Ovations 3 benefit at Joe’s Pub. It feels like each one of these that we do, gets bigger, a bit more stressful, and is all the more rewarding. Last night’s concert was certainly no exception. First and foremost, big thanks to BroadwayWorld’s concert team... Jamie McGonnigal aka Jamie McBenefit, directed the concert, as he’s done with many of BroadwayWorld’s gigs. He’s always a blast to work with, and this time was certainly no exception. He even wore the kilt, which is his way of showing that he means business. Our MD for the evening was the fabulous Larry Blank, who I first came across a few years back when he conducted and did some brilliant arrangements for one of Michael Crawford’s concert tours. I had only an inkling as to all his dozens of credits, which grew over the few days he was in town as he told some fabulous stories of all the greats that he’s worked with. If I knew his full resume, I probably would have been too embarrassed to ask him to fly over for this, so thankfully I didn’t Google too heavily. He was backed up and superbly by assistant MD John Fischer on keyboard, Matt Scharfglass on Bass, and Sean McDaniel on drums.

Act 1!

Jessica Grove - Take Me to the World – A perfect way to kick the night off (after some brief remarks from me – as brief as I could make them!), and a great rendition of a song that’s not sung close to as often as it should be.

Erin Leigh Peck - Thanks a Lot But No Thanks – From the MGM Film It’s Always Fair Weather, a classic tune that Erin sang to perfection. She’s both a great friend, and a great performer, and seeing her do anything is always a treat. Last night was another great example of that.

Victor Wallace - Marry Me a Little – A Sondheim classic that Victor Wallace, who most recently starred as Sky in the Las Vegas company of Mamma Mia! and toured as Raoul in Phantom of the Opera sang amazingly well. We love showing off new talents, as well as established ones as we can, and Victor was a perfect example of the former.

Barbara Walsh - Out of Africa – One of the comedic highlights of the night came from the current Velma von Tussle in Hairspray, Barbara Walsh. Her imitations of another Barbra, brought down the house with a bright wave of laughter.

Sara Gettelfinger - Come Down From the Tree  - Sara sang this lovely song which was cut from Flaherty and Ahren’s Once on This Island. A beautiful number, sung beautifully by the beautiful Sara Gettelginger. (see a theme here? Good.)

Greg Jbara - Isn't She A Wonder? – Back to backers from the cast of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Greg sang this song from the Doctor’s Wife, with music by Eric Schorr, and lyrics by Charles Leipart. Not just a good tune, but also filled with some fabulous lyrics by Leipart, who we were happy to have in the audience. Greg’s a treat in everything he does on stage, and last night was no exception to that.

Julie Tolivar – Gimme Gimme – The lovely Julie Tolivar, who’s currently in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and who previously appeared in Lone Star Love sang the you know what out of this Millie hit tune. One of a few songs she offered up during rehearsals, this one was perfect to show off her voice, and to showcase a great tune.

Kris Cusick and Marty Thomas - As Long as You're Mine – Kris will soon be heading off to star as Fiyero opposite Ana Gasteyer in Chicago, sang this Wicked tune with castmate Marty Thomas. It was one of the best renditions of the tune I’ve heard – including by the originals! A true classic with a twist!

Robbie Maitner – I Wanna be a Rockette  - BroadwayWorld board member, and Backstage Bistro Award winner, Robbie J. kicked up his heals, with another comedic highlight of the night, exclaiming why he wanted to be a Rockette. Robbie – we here at BroadwayWorld sincerely hope that dream comes true.

William Michaels – A Kingdom Calling from the Man Who Would Be King – One of my absolute favorite baritone voices, William sang this song from Neil Berg’s The Man Who Would be King. Hearing William sing anything is a treat, and this new tune from a show I loved at the NYMF festival, was another highlight of the night for me.

Kerry Butler - On My Own – A more recent classic song, from Les Mis, reprising a role that Kerry played for 6 weeks, she turned in a great performance of a song I’ve always loved from one of my first Broadway shows. (He says revealing his youth).

Natascia Diaz – If There Were More People Like You…/Sailing On – With one of the true emotional highlights of the night that had me choked up from the first time I heard it at rehearsal, and every time since, Natascia sang a wonderful tune that she got to perform in the workshop of Sweet Charity that never made it into the show. The song was brilliantly coupled with Alan Menken’s Sail On, and it was a perfect way to close the act. She truly is a treat to see, and this song showcased both the great Cy Coleman, and a great performer.

ACT 2

UPSTAGE – Tribute to American Musical Theatre – Opening Act 2, was UPSTAGE, the boy band formed by Jamie for our Andrew Lloyd Webber concert. Mick Bleyer, Mike Busillo, Wes Coulter, Patrick Garrigan, Mike Minarik sang a hilariously put together medley (by Jamie and John Fischer) of some classic theater tunes from Sound of Music, Fiddler, and Hello Dolly! done in true boy band fashion.

Darren Ritche - Sarah – (Frank Wildhorn) – A composer whose work I’ve always enjoyed, that often doesn’t get a fair shake in theatrical circles, I was proud to have with us Frank Wildhorn. He took to the stage in a rare public performance, accompanying on two tunes, one old, and one new. Darren sang Sarah, from Frank’s Civil War, a wonderful tune that’ll be part of the show when it opens at Gettysburg for a 10 year summertime run.

Brandi Burkhardt – Brandi, a beautiful former Miss New York, who’s currently at work on an album of her own, got to sing a new Frank Wildhorn tune that’s certainly on its way to joining the ranks of his other hit numbers.

Rita Harvey – Fairy Tale – The lovely Rita Harvey, who’s currently in Fiddler on the Roof, did a fabulous job with this song from husband Neil Berg’s Prince and the Pauper. It’s a song that I’ve loved since the first time I heard it, and I was thrilled to make it a part of Standing Ovations 3. No doubt it’ll be part of next month’s Music of Neil Berg concert as well.

Cady Huffman - Maria – The ultimate Ulla in every sense of the word, who made a memorable appearance on Curb Your Enthusiasm this past season as well, we were happy to have the absolutely fabulous Cady Huffman. Cady, unleashed her beautiful voice on a classic tune, and the audience ate it up. We need this woman back on stage, and fast.

Cheyenne Jackson – Breeze Off The River – Taking a wee-break from singing the songs of Elvis was the always great Cheyenne Jackson, appearing for the 3rd time in one of our Standing Ovations concerts, singing a great tune from the Full Monty. Cheyenne never fails to deliver the goods, and last night was no exception.

Sara Chase – Home – Singing from the Wiz was a newcomer to New York, that you’ll certainly soon be seeing more of. The beautiful and talented Sara Chase, turned in a wonderful rendition of a tough tune that was definitely another highlight of the night. We love to show off new talent when we can, and this one is also definitely going places.

Marty Thomas - Easy as Life – Speaking of highlights, seeing Marty Thomas sing almost anything is a highlight, and Easy as Life from AIDA was no exception. Just like he was with everything else’s he’s done for us, and elsewhere – Marty brought down the house.

Shoshana Bean/Kris Cusick - How Could I Ever Know – One of my favorite songs from The Secret Garden, and arranged for Shoshana and Kris by Marty Thomas, the two of them knocked this one out of the park. The two have fabulous chemistry together from working together in Wicked, and both shined on this number.

Jenn Gambatese - The Promise – Jenn Gambatese embodies star quality in every sense of the word, as anyone who’s seen her in All Shook Up can tell you. Singing from Alan and Marilyn Bergman’s The Promise, was a beautiful number that again choked me up at rehearsal, and again last night.

Last but certainly not least was our surprise closer, the lovely, the talented, the one and only Ms. Jennifer Holliday. From the moment she agreed to do the concert, I’d been doing giddy little dances (while humming Dreamgirls of course), and from rehearsal, to sound check, to her iconic performance that brought the crowd to its feet, Jennifer showed exactly why she’s one of theatre’s legendary leading ladies. Both onstage singing her signature tune like no one else can (wow!), and the great way she carries herself offstage as well, Jennifer oozes both class and talent. The audience, like everyone whose every seen her live knows, ate up every minute of her onstage, as did I. The thunderous applause, and her coming back out onstage to acknowledge the still cheering audience were moments that I’ll not soon forget. Before the show, and at the after-party, I was lucky to spend a great deal of time with her, and last night will truly go down as one of the most special in my life and career thus far.

Thanks again to her, as well as all the other performers, everyone else involved from always helpful Associate Producer Eddie Varley on down, and most of all to the audience whose support of Broadway Cares, BroadwayWorld, and everything else we do is a constantly touching reminder of why we do what we do!

Posted on Monday, April 18, 2005 @ 02:41 PM

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