An evening of top-notch entertainment with the Nashville Symphony and stars from Broadway, Oct. 15 - 17.
Nashville Symphony’s FirstBank Pops Series:
The Best of Broadway
Oct. 15 – 17; All ages
Schermerhorn Symphony Center
1 Symphony Center, Nashville
615-687-6400 • nashvillesymphony.org
Remaining show times: Fri – Sat 8 p.m.
Tickets: $26 – $128
Broadway musical lovers, take note! The current installment of the Nashville Symphony’s FirstBank Pops Series is must on your family’s to-do list this weekend as it truly serves up “The Best of Broadway.”
This spectacular night of music is off-the-charts exquisite on all counts serving up several memorable songs from beloved musical theater shows. Joining the Nashville Symphony are four huge talents from the Great White Way who are taking a weekend break from their regular gigs in New York to share the magic of Broadway with the Music City audience.
Todd Ellison serves as guest conductor, and he’s no stranger to Broadway music. In fact, he’s currently the music supervisor of the new Broadway musical, An American in Paris, and he’s got a long list of credits on his resume, including work with Annie, Monty Python’s Spamalot (Best Musical Tony Award), La Cage aux Folles (Best Musical Revival Tony Award), Once Upon a Mattress, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, A Class Act and more. The New York times hails him as “an electrifying conductor,” and for good reason — he brings a lot of energy and passion to the stage. It’s clear that he loves this music, and he makes it fun for the audience to experience, including young children (he’s a father of two little ones whom he says share an obsession of Disney princesses).
Three notable Broadway stars join Ellison and the Nashville Symphony for the immense journey through musical theater. Ellison has worked with all three stars in various show in New York, and their camaraderie on stage makes for great entertainment while they share stories about their Broadway experiences ranging from their first auditions to on-stage mishaps with comical prop malfunctions during shows.
After the Nashville Symphony opens the show with a rousing rendition of the Gypsy overture, Tony Award winner Debbie Gravitte graces the stage to continue the Gypsy nod with a dazzling performance of “Let Me Entertain You,” followed by “Don’t Rain on My Parade” from Funny Girl. Gravitte won the Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for Jerome Robbins’ Broadway, and later in the evening, she sings the Irving Berlin song from that show, “Mr. Monotony,” which she delivers with finesse. Another favorite from Gravitte is “Defying Gravity” from Wicked, and it’s fun knowing that she was the first person to sing this song in front of a crowd when composer Stephen Schwartz was trying out the musical numbers for Wicked in front of audiences before taking the show to Broadway.
Taking the stage next is two-time Tony Award nominee Christopher Sieber. His powerful voice fills the concert hall, and his polished stage presence is what you’d expect of someone with more than 15 years experience on Broadway. Kids will love knowing that Sieber created the role of Lord Farquaad in Shrek the Musical, and he was also in the original cast of Monty Python’s Spamalot. He’s also had starring roles in other Broadway shows including Beauty and the Beast, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Chicago, Pippin and Into the Woods. He’s currently in his 12th Broadway show playing the evil headmistress Agatha Trunchbull in Matilda the Musical.
After his opening number, “Broadway Baby,” from Dames at Sea (which celebrates its Broadway debut this year), Sieber offers up a reflective, emotional performance of “If I Can’t Love Her” from Beauty and the Beast, and later steps back into his dapper Billy Flynn role from Chicago for “All I Care About” before serving up a show-stopping, powerful version of “I Am What I Am” from La Cage aux Folles.
While all three vocalists are strong and can hold their own, my favorite is Susan Egan. She has a dynamic range with precise control, and she has such a natural, comfortable stage presence that few can match. That kind of ease only comes with years of stage experience, and the Tony-nominated actress definitely has a lot of stage credibility. Among other Broadway credits, Egan’s performed the title role in Thoroughly Modern Millie, she holds the record for the longest running performance of Sally Bowles in Cabaret, and she’s also originated a few leading roles along the way, too, including Triumph of Love and State Fair. Her most familiar one, however, is the original Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast in 1994.
Egan’s first number with the Nashville Symphony pays tribute to Judy Garland’s historic, triumphant 19-week run at the Palace Theatre in 1951 as she treats the audience to a medley of Garland’s signature songs, including “You Made Me Love You,” “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart,” “The Trolley Song,” “The Man That Got Away” and “Over the Rainbow.” Egan channels perfect childlike charm and whimsy when she leaps into “I’m Flying” from Peter Pan, and if you’ve got Disney princess-loving little girls, they’ll love Egan’s medley of popular princess tunes from Little Mermaid, Pocahontas, Let it Go and Tangled.
During the second act, Ellison and the Symphony receive a much-deserved standing ovation for their nod to the great Andrew Lloyd Webber with a stirring, dramatic instrumental medley of songs from Phantom of the Opera. This is a breathtaking, magical moment of music without vocals … a great reminder of the sheer magnificence and beauty of Webber’s score.
Gravitte, Sieber and Egan share the stage for a couple of unforgettable numbers, including an Andrew Lloyd Webber “Love Trio” featuring selections from Aspects of Love, Song and Dance, and Jesus Christ Superstar. They end the night together with a festive performance of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from Monty Python’s Spamalot.
This is an evening of top-notch entertainment you’ll never forget. It’s a wonderful journey through a great amount of Broadway’s amazing music, and it’s a treat to have real, authentic Broadway talent here in Nashville on the Schermerhorn’s stage. If you have kids who dream of theatrical pursuits, this is a best-bet experience for them, no doubt. This is the kind of talent young, aspiring artists should strive to achieve.
“THE BEST OF BROADWAY” SET LIST
Let Me Entertain You (from Gypsy)
Don’t Rain on My Parade (from Funny Girl)
Broadway Baby (from Dames at Sea)
If I Can’t Love Her (from Beauty and the Beast)You Made Me Love You/Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart/The Trolley Song/The Man That Got Away/Over the Rainbow (Judy Garland medley)
Gimme Gimme (from Thoroughly Modern Millie)
Instrumental Tribute to Marvin Hamlisch (from A Chorus Line)
Andrew Lloyd Webber Love Trio (Love Changes Everything from Aspects of Love/Unexpected Song from Song and Dance/I Don’t Know How to Love Him from Jesus Christ Superstar)
— Intermission —
All That Jazz (from Chicago)
All I Care About (from Chicago)
I’m Flying (from Peter Pan)
Instrumental medley (from Phantom of the Opera)
I Still Believe in Love (from They’re Playing Our Song)
Mr. Monotony (from Jerome Robbins’ Broadway)
Disney Princess Songs Medley (Part of Your World from Little Mermaid/Colors of the Wind from Pocahontas/Let it Go from Frozen/I See the Light from Tangled)
I Am What I Am (from La Cage aux Folles)
Defying Gravity (from Wicked)
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life (from Monty Python’s Spamalot)