Show business lore celebrates instances when performers are plucked from the chorus to enjoy a spotlight of their own. This occurred appealingly last night (May 22, 2017) at the latest in the Broadway By the Year series at The Town Hall, this one spanning shows from 1997-2006. Creator/writer/director/host Scott Siegel spoke with pride about three who stepped out of the Broadway by the Year Chorus to take center stage. He also took the occasion to plug the forthcoming Broadway’s Rising Stars on July 10, an annual event that showcases new talent.
First it was Pedro Coppeti who came from the ranks to deliver a highly entertaining rendition of “I Am Adolpho” from “The Drowsy Chaperone.” Not only did Coppeti flash a powerful voice, but he showed his acting chops and sense of comedy by having a ball with the character.
In the second act the spotlight shone on Emily Iaquinta and Jeanine Bruen, chorus members given the opportunity to show their singing prowess with the touching co-joined sisters number “I Will Never Leave You” from “Sideshow.” Joining Coppeti, Iaquinta and Bruen in regular Broadway by the Year Chorus duties in the show were Emma Camp and Jacob Pressley.
Of course, main attractions of the evening were already proven stars. What more can one say about the hugely talented Christina Bianco? She impressively sang “Gimme, Gimme” from “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” Scott, having explained that Kristin Chenoweth was one of those originally considered for the lead, asked Bianco to top her rendition by demonstrating how Chenoweth would have done it, and Bianco obliged with an example of her imitation expertise. Later in the program she went to town with her hilarious, uncanny impressions of such stars as Barbra Streisand, Julie Andrews, Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone, etc., earning her one of the night’s biggest ovations.
Among the other accomplished women was Maxine Linehan dynamically singing “Someone Like You” from “Jekyll & Hyde,” “Holding Out for a Hero” from “Footloose,” “The Next Best Thing to Love” from “A Class Act,” and teaming charmingly with Brian Charles Rooney in “I Walk the Line” from “Ring of Fire.”
A surprise on the program was Stephanie D’Abruzzo, who on very short notice subbed for the scheduled Emily Skinner, who had to withdraw unexpectedly for personal family reasons. D’Abruzzo obliged to perfection with “A Fine, Fine Line” from “Avenue Q,” in which she starred, and also with a delicately rendered “Feed the Birds” from “Mary Poppins.”
Farah Alvin, whose voice can soar with power as she escalates a number to its climax, sang “Back to Before” from “Ragtime,” “The Winner Takes It All” from “Mamma Mia!” and “Don’’t Cry Out Loud” from “The Boy from Oz.”
Siegel always manages to assemble vibrant male singers, as was the case last night with, for example, talented Josh Young, whose first number was “You Walk With Me” from “The Full Monty,” followed by “Barrett’s Song” from “Titanic” and teaming with Bianco on “ All the Wasted Time” from “Parade.”
Brian Charles Rooney is another with special appeal, as evidenced by his superb singing of “Stranger in This World” from “Taboo,” the swinging “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” from “Jersey Boys” and “The Prayer” from “The Scarlet Pimpernel.”
The series is frequently spiced with tap and other dancing, and the audience was treated with “Pick Yourself Up” from “Never Gonna Dance” teaming Danette Holden and Jeremy Benton, and also the satirical “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from “Spamalot” by Danny Gardner and Benton. There were some great moves to “It Don’t Mean a Thing” and “Jumpin’ at the Woodside” from “Swing!” thanks to Gardner, Gaby Cook and Bobby White.
The program ended with Josh Young, the chorus and the company combining on “Endless Night” from “The Lion King,” a show that Scott amusingly predicted would still be playing long after all of us are gone. As usual for the series, skillful Ross Patterson was at the piano in addition to his demanding chores as musical director. Tom Hubbard was on bass with Eric Halvorson on drums. Rick Hinkson was assistant director, with Joe Burke and Holly Cruz production assistants. At The Town Hall, 123 West 43rd Street. Reviewed May 23, 2017.