With an 80 person cast, 85 production numbers (55 in the first act and 30 in the second act) and clocking in at over three hours long, you might actually feel like Forever Broadway was indeed that, forever-long. Instead of being a fun musical revue that pulled musical numbers from different shows throughout the decades, it became a very extreme comprehensive musical history lesson that even for a musical history buff, like myself, was completely overwhelming.
There were extremely well-known numbers from musicals like The Sound of Music, The Music Man, West Side Story, RENT and Cats and also they performed songs from lesser-known shows like The Most Happy Fella, Where’s Charley, Ruthless and Rock and Roll Jamboree. If the show was cut down by an hour and director, John Bisceglie, picked the best numbers of the night, he really could have a hit production on his hands – something well worth all of the effort that was put in.
There were a few doozies speckled throughout the show and then there were also some great show stoppers. I’m going to review some of the stand-out performances of the night. (It was almost like a huge casting call, where each performer got to sing a cut of a song that most showed off their voice. These are the actors that would be called-back for the final cut.)
- “Some People” (Gypsy) – Halsey Varady: Quite the rhythmically difficult song and Varady pulled it off without a hitch. It was also the first song of the night that had some true acting behind it. You could tell that Varady’s performance was well-thought out, with a complete character and story. Well done.
- “If I Love You” (Carousel) & “The Light in the Piazza” (The Light in the Piazza) – Iris Smith & Moira McManus: Both of these numbers had dancer, Iris Smith, performing in the background. Smith’s graceful dancing was beautiful and added so much to both of these songs. McManus’ voice was lovely in “The Light in the Piazza”. At some point, McManus should play Clara in The Light in the Piazza.
- “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” (Dreamgirls) – Jujuana Williams: Prior to this song, there were about 20 full-cast production numbers (several of them were medleys of songs tied together) so it was quite refreshing when Williams took the stage. This is an extremely difficult song to sing but what I think is the hardest part of this song is making it “your own” and Williams did a pretty good job of it. She lost a bit of wind toward the end, but it was a solid performance. You could tell the audience absolutely loved it because they were clapping right through the beginning of the next song.
- “Send in the Clowns” (A Little Night Music) & “Unusual Way” (Nine) – Desiree Goyette: While, “Send in the Clowns” was quite fantastic, it was “Unusual Way” that stopped the show! (Well, it would have stopped if the orchestrations weren’t pre-recorded.) If you’ve heard “A Call From the Vatican” recorded by Alice Ripley, then you’ll know what Goyette sounded like. Every note was perfection!
- “Rich Man’s Frug” (Sweet Charity) – Company: This was the first company production number that really worked. The Bob Fosse choreography was spot-on and really well done. The choreographer (Josh Fargher or Kayvon Kordestani-Thompson or Michelle Parodi) used the space and performers extremely well and became an instant highlight of the night. It eased right into “Big Spender” sung by Elyse Eliane Baugh, Noelle Glory Guerin, Miquela Sierra, Brooke Wallace and Company. Also, another song that was quite good, with excellent choreography. I only wish there were more efforts like this one throughout the show.
- “I Wanna Be a Producer” (The Producers) – Stephane Alwyn & Company: Alwyn’s voice was quite good and his portrayal of Leo Bloom was spot-on. (I’d love to see him in this role with a more developed character.) Once again, the choreography was very strong.
- “If I Didn’t Believe In You” (The Last Five Years) – Jason Hite: Hite had the strongest male vocal performance of the night. He was just seen in the East Bay premiere of RENT as Mark Cohen. There’s no doubt in my mind that he was excellent in this production and I’m sad I missed it. His warm vocal tone, coupled with a well-grounded reality in his acting made his performance extremely believable and moving.
- “What Do You Do with a BA in English”, “It Sucks to Be Me” & “Special” (Avenue Q) – Brett Hammon, Brooke Wallace, Larry Cowen, Daniel Schultz, Chad Benjamin Potter, Lee Achacoso-Haskin and Mandy Wilczynski: This Avenue Q segment was cute and I think the audience really liked it. It was a welcome comic relief and everyone participating did a good job with the characters (even though there weren’t any puppets).
- “Joey is a Punk Rocker” (Rock and Roll Jamboree) – Jenna Davis: Davis was funny, charming, endearing and cute performing this unknown song from a musical no one has ever heard of. (It doesn’t even come up in google.) While, it didn’t really fit into the rest of production, Davis did a hellavu job selling that number.
- “You Can’t Stop the Beat” (Hairspray) – Monica Turner, Sadie Brown, Moelle Glory Guerin, Jujuana Williams & Company: Another fun number that the audience loved. It was well sung by all of the soloists (though a bit heavy on the belt when they were all singing together) and the choreography was extremely cute. By this time in the program, we really need something fun and bubbly and “You Can’t Stop the Beat” was exactly that.
Forever Broadway boasts some of the biggest up and coming theatre talent in the Bay Area. A lot of that talent was highlighted in Forever Broadway, but instead of quantity, Bisceglie needed to strive for quality. He’s got some fantastic talent to work with and with some editing, Forever Broadway could really shine!
Forever Broadway at Herbst Theatre
Sunday, March, 21st @ 3pm.
Box Office: 415-392-4400