By William Wolf

BROADWAY'S RISING STARS 2011  Send This Review to a Friend

Right off the mark all 19 performers selected as the 2011 Broadway’s Rising Stars appeared on stage in a dazzling lineup that quickly made the point by enabling the audience to survey the fresh new faces. The aggregation appropriately launched into the vigorous singing of “One” from “A Chorus Line,” each member holding up the kind of glossy photographs submitted to agents and casting directors. It was a rousing opening, at the end of which the singers symbolically passed their photos down the line to creator/writer/host Scott Siegel.

We then began to meet the “rising stars” individually, each introduced by Siegel during the two-act presentation by The Town Hall on Monday, July 18, as part of its 5th Annual Summer Broadway Festival. (The final show in the series, “All Singin’ All Dancin’ was scheduled for July 25.)

If the impressive work from those we saw and heard is an indication, the theater future should be in good shape talent-wise. For one thing, there are some powerful male voices. Kyle Scatliffe gave a knockout of a rendition of “Make Them Hear You” from “Ragtime,” infusing it with passion to match the forcefulness of his vocal strength. He is also very handsome with an exciting stage presence.

Paul Pontrelli also chose “Ragtime” as his source, singing “Wheels of a Dream,” which showed off his rich voice and ability to put over a number. Jason Gotay is another vocal winner, demonstrated by his singing “Out There” from "The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

Dipping into “The Million Dollar Quartet,” appealing Kevin Mueller did a great job feelingly interpreting “16 Tons,” clinching the solid impression with a final resounding lower register note. Tristan Morris, backed by a chorus of male performers, made a strong impact ratcheting up his power singing “Into the Fire” from “The Scarlet Pimpernel.” Kiarri D. Andrews nicely exhibited his talent with “If I Sing” from “Closer Than Ever.”

Alex Goley proved to be a crowd pleaser with his playful offering of “Mama Says” from ‘Footloose,” also making the most of the fact that his own mama was in the audience. When he asked her for some advice, she obliged by calling out for an encore, which he delivered.

Singing anything by Sondheim is a special challenge. Graham Bailey met it grandly with his sophisticated, delicate and beautiful rendition of “Finishing the Hat” from “Sunday in the Park with George.”

Anthony Ramos Martinez appears to be a consummate entertainer in a class by himself. Dynamic and exhibiting show-business pizzazz, he scored with the audience by engagingly singing “Nothing” from “A Chorus Line.”

So much for the men. The terrific contingent of women assembled added their own luster to the show with a variety of talent styles. In the very first number after the introductory “A Chorus Line” ensemble, striking-looking Australian Philippa Lynas took the stage solo to set the professional tone with a rousing “On My Own” from “Les Miserables.”

This year’s performers included two singers from Korea. Esther Kong, with her lovely voice, transported us into the musical “The Little Mermaid,” sensitively expressing the yearning inherent in the number “Part of Your World.” In the second act, Gyu Jin Lim showed her special talent with the impassioned “I’d Give My Life for You” from “Miss Saigon.”

Diminutive Morgan Billings Smith exhibited a large talent marked by a sense of fun to go with her show biz know-how. She ventured into risky Judy Garland territory singing “The Trolly Song” from “Meet Me in St. Louis.” But she fitted the number thoroughly to her own effervescent personality, and topped it off with amusing dance steps.

Blair Goldberg dared to venture into Barbra Streisand’s domain, giving her all belting “Don’t Rain on My Parade” from “Funny Girl” as if it was being sung for the first time.

Amanda Savan showed she also had the guts to tackle Sondheim, turning on the enthusiasm and the vocal skill as sang the intricate, demanding “Being Alive.” Courtney Simmons received the backing of the company as she opened the second act with her worthy performance of “Nobody’s Side” from “Chess.”

Like the men, the women also tended to have voices packed with strength and chose numbers accordingly. Jeanette Minson effectively sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from “Carousel.” Housso Semon, who hails from Ivory Coast, impressed with “Easy to be Hard” from “Hair.” Mary Lane Haskell rocked the Hall with “I Had a Ball” from the show of that name.

The expert hand of director Scott Coulter showed via the smooth manner in which the performers presented themselves and the way in which the production moved along at a good clip. Choreogrpaher Vibecke Dahle provided the dance steps that blended neatly into the overall effect, and music direction was by John Fischer, who was also at the piano. The finale, with the entire company assembling for “The Impossible Dream” from “Man of La Mancha,” underscored the dreams that those taking part have for their future success in the competitive world of show business. Reviewed at The Town Hall, 123 West 43rd Street. Phone: 212-840-2824.


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