Reviewed by Joe Regan Jr.
July 16, 2013
The seventh edition of Broadway’s Rising Stars was presented at The Town Hall to an enthusiastic audience July 16. Created, written, produced and hosted by Scott Siegel for The Town Hall, this year’s show was again directed by Scott Coulter and choreographed by Vibecke Dahl. The music director and arranger was John Fischer and, again, he put together great arrangements and had wonderful musicians on stage with him: Dan Gross on drums, Steve Doyle on bass, and Steve Benson on guitar.
18 young performers who had survived cross country auditions opened with a bang exploding on stage dancing and singing “Live In Living Color” from Catch Me If You Can. Each had a special solo piece and you got a snapshot of the extraordinary voices we would hear in solos. I’ll list the performers and then describe some of the very special highlights: Gabriela Albo, Cassie Levine, Ally Bonino, Elijah Caldwell, Joanne Shea, Michelle Cameron, Amalia Tullas, Keith Foster, Nikki Guevaras, John Kish, Christopher J. Hlinka, Christopher Sheehan. Charlie Jhaye, Judy Mora, John Kish; Jose Ramos, Dominique Solano; Lakia Stevens, and Justin Tarkington. Their home cities included Mexico City, Manila in the Philippines, a lumberjacking town in Oregon, Atlanta and Wyoming, Ohio. All of them gave polished and professional performances. The full company returned in the middle of the first act and did a wild “Burning Love” from All Shook Up, this time the men in jeans and women in Levi shorts.
Special high points were Caldwell, a big muscular black man, who stood stage center and in a glorious voice sang a heartbreaking “Who Can I Turn To,” performed with great acting chops and phrasing. He effortlessly went for the high note at the end. Cameron is a legit soprano and sang verse and full chorus of “All The Things You Are” which made you regret so few contemporary Broadway composers are writing for those voices today. Hlinka sat on a stool and sang a simple and moving “Danglin’” from The Murray Yeston Songbook with a country western flavor. Tall and bearded like a lumberjack, Kish sang a moving “Proud of Your Boy” from Aladdin in honor of his parents who have supported his music career. Ramos did a stunning version of “Anthem.”
Gabriela Albo, from Mexico, closed the first act with the most bizarre performance: an all-out soprano version of “Glitter and Be Gay” as she did animated gymnastics all over the stage including cartwheels and a full split, never singing a false note or losing a lyric! The house applauded and cheered at each unexpected feat. Cirque de Soleil, here’s your next star!
The entire company opened the second act with a wonderfully staged “Put On Your Sunday Clothes.” Laria Stevens was equal if not better than Melba Moore singing “I Got Love.” Joanne Shea showcased her legitimate soprano with a simple and dramatic “Something Wonderful.”
Sheehan tore onto the stage with “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” dancing, interacting with the musicians, pointing at individual members of the audience with each chorus, including one in the balcony and he had an off stage female chorus doing his backup! Sheehan is ready for Broadway!
Young Amalia Tollas sang a beautiful “Mira.” Keith Foster acted and sang sans mic a full performance of “Being Alive.”
Justin Tarkington sat on a stool and, in tribute to his father’s support, sang a heart-breaking “If I Sing,” impeccably phrasing and modulating and the audience erupted with tears and bravos.
The entire company returned to sing “Climb Every Mountain” and after their curtain call reprised “Burnin’ Love.” It was a great night for everyone and to paraphrase Judy Mora’s first individual number you‘re gonna hear from these talented youths!
*Photos: Maryann Lopinto