MINDEMOYA— There was certainly something for everyone in the lineup of show tunes chosen for Saturday’s Broadway Extravaganza held at the Mindemoya Community Centre and enjoyed by a very, very packed house.
Perhaps because there was so much packed into a single night’s performance, Broadway Extravaganza is certain to be remembered as a gem among the rest of the long list of this summer’s community events.
Alex Baran, the co-producer of the show, along with fellow chorister Tracy Sanmiya, was the lone local Manitoulin member of the group of talented voices who brought the show to the appreciative audience. Mr. Baran explained that the 10 vocalists represent “about half” of a chorus that puts on an annual opera-based fundraising event in Sudbury in November to raise funds to assist outreach organization that assist the needy in the nickel capital’s downtown.
“We love opera,” he told the audience at the end of the program, “but we discovered that Broadway songs are a close relative!”
For this writer, the second number of the bill, ‘Brush Up Your Shakespeare,’ from Cole Porter’s ‘Kiss Me Kate’ (loosely based on Shakespeare’s comedy ‘The Taming of the Shrew’) would have been sufficient all by itself because the song (along with the whole show) is just so darned clever.
But that is only one person’s opinion, one person’s favourite piece and, based on the dozens of smiling faces as the happy audience left the auditorium following the last song, there were not too many among them who had not heard one or more of their favourite standards so the musical lineup was a good one.
There were some surprises, such as the cleverly rendered ‘(Not) Getting Married Today,’ an item from a Stephen Sondheim show called ‘Company.’ The bride-to-be, waiting for her wedding, speaks aloud what many a woman must be thinking at that moment before the vows are said. It was well done by Tracy Sanmiya (the bride), her husband-to-be tenor Cody Powney, wedding singer (and soprano) Irmgard Hechler and accompanist Dr. Charlene Biggs cleverly pressed a button and her piano switched effortlessly to the sonorous and sustained notes of a pipe organ to accompany Ms. Hechler’s very funny lyrics. (Dr. Biggs is well known to many Manitoulin people for the house concerts in which she has participated.)
This piece, not so well known, was one of the many “gems within a gem” the crowd enjoyed Saturday night.
Musical theatre is all about love and the theme was well represented by the wistful ‘September Song’ from ‘Musical Holiday,’ nicely rendered by baritone Mr. Baran and soprano/mezzo-soprano Marion Harvey Hannah. The song was, as noted, wistful, but imbued with the eternal hope that defines our species.
Sometimes Cole Porter’s ‘Night and Day’ (from ‘The Gay Divorcee’) is rendered as a jazzy, torchy solo. But last Saturday, baritone Gene Wu brought the song to the audience in its 1930s pure form, the way Porter expected it to be sung, and as it was indeed sung by Fred Astaire in the original show.
On the other end of the love spectrum, a darker ‘Every Day a Little Death’ was presented by Ms. Hechler (with Marion Harvey Hannah) as the matter-of-fact, tragic circumstance of a married woman’s life. Consider the lyrics: “Every day a little death: in the parlor, in the bed, in the curtains, in the silver in the buttons, in the heart and in the head. Every move and every breath and you hardly feel a thing, brings a perfect little death.” And so on.
Among all of the songs chosen, this was a serious one from Stephen Sondheim’s ‘A Little Night Music,’ that was perhaps stuck in around the middle of the second act to remind the audience, subtly, that, in fact, life has its ups and downs as well as happy endings.
Mr. Baran called the evening “stunning” and said he couldn’t be more happy with the turnout—over 240 people turned out for the event.
Broadway Extravaganza’s planning began in March with Mr. Baran sending Ms. Sanmiya a draft of the program he envisioned. She quickly took it, left a few of his choices intact, but otherwise overhauled it.
“She knows the other singers better than I,” he admits. “While I got the ball rolling, she carried it.”
When asked if lovers of musical theatre can expect another extravaganza in the future, Mr. Baran said that while the appetite is certainly there, he’s not sure he can afford the time. (Mr. Baran is also a member of the Burns Wharf Theatre Players that stages a summer production each year.) But he will definitely consider it.
He noted the enthusiasm and rapt attention of the audience, every performer’s dream. “The audience was so attentive, despite the heat, and so engaged and giving.”
What may shock many in the audience is that the ensemble of 10 had only one group rehearsal prior to the show.
The evening was a fine one and everyone involved merits high praise.