By Rahat Hossen
Students were apparently in a serious mood when they chose the 18 singing and dancing performances for Thiel’s 14th annual Evening of Broadway on Jan 26-27, because most were either sad or angry and even the emcees commented on that to the audience.
After the entire ensemble started with the cheerful “Be Our Guest” from Beauty and the Beast, which is just as inviting as it sound, the second piece was “Burn” from Hamilton, sung by Alison Schemrich. For those not familiar with Hamilton, the title also is evocative, as Eliza responds to Alexander Hamilton’s public account of his extramarital affair. It starts out with, “I saved every letter you wrote me, From the moment I read them, I knew you were mine, You said you were mine, I thought you were mine.” But it ends with “You forfeit all rights to my heart, You forfeit the place in our bed, You sleep in your office instead, With only the memories, Of when you were mine, I hope that you burn.”
The next song, from Shrek the Musical, was “I know it’s today,” about a young woman, Fiona, waiting, to be rescued from a tower. Sung by Ashley Torres (with Mariel Hanely and Hillary Miranda playing supporting roles), Fiona is slightly hopeful, but mostly resigned, even bitter, to her situation: “Cut the villains, cut the vamping, Cut this fairytale, Cut the peril and the pitfalls, Cut the puppet and the whale, Cut the monsters, cut the curses, Keep the intro, cut the verses, And the waiting, the waiting, the waiting, the waiting, The waiting! But I know, he’ll appear, Though I seem a bit bipolar, And I’m a vandal now as well, though he won’t mind, I’m a find, I’m a catch, And a very gifted bowler….”
In “Breathe,” a song from In the Heights, Lin-Manuel Miranda, playing college student Nina Rosario, prepares to give her parents bad news, that she’s had to leave Stanford. The song, in part, goes: I got every scholarship, Saved every dollar, The first to go to college, How do I tell them why, I’m coming back home, With my eyes on the horizon, Just me and the GWB,Asking ‘Gee Nina, what’ll you be?’ Straighten the spine, Smile for the neighbors, Everything’s fine, Everything’s cool, The standard reply, ‘Lots of tests, lots of papers,’ Smile, wave goodbye, And pray to the sky, Oh, God, And what will my parents say?”
A few songs later, including the well known “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables, Steven Levenson sang, “Waving through a Window,” another melancholy piece, this from Dear Evan Hansen. In the song, Hansen, who has social anxiety disorder and has used the moment of a classmate’s death to get close to the family, is lamenting feeling unaccomplished and especially ignored. A couple of lines after repeating, “When you’re falling in a forest and there’s nobody around, Do you ever really crash, or even make a sound?” four times, the title character sings, “On the outside, always looking in; Will I ever be more than I’ve always been? ‘Cause I’m tap, tap, tapping on the glass, Waving through a window, I try to speak, but nobody can hear, So I wait around for an answer to appear, While I’m watch, watch, watching people pass, Waving through a window, oh, Can anybody see, is anybody waving back at me?”
Other depressing songs included “Brother, My Brother” from The Civil War, sung by Evan Youker, “Stepsister’s Lament” from Cinderella, sung by Ashley Torres and Sammie Voto, and “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” from Phantom of the Opera, sung by Deanna Shaw, among other songs. Even in “Touch Me” from Rocky Horror Picture Show, sung by Tylor Whitely, the exuberance of a sexually awakened Janet Weiss runs into Rocky, a hunky but dumb and awkward “monster” created by Dr. Frank N. Furter (who has created Rocky for his own pleasure, not for women).
One outstanding cast member was Deanna Shaw, particularly her nearly operatic performance in “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again,” but also in “For Good” from Wicked (along with Tylor Whitely) and as one soloist in “One Day More” from Les Miserables. Talia Jackson also was excellent as usual singing “So Much Better” from Legally Blonde the Musical and as one soloist in the final production, “You Can’t Stop the Beat” from Hairspray. But the entire cast gave their best.
The performances were a fundraiser for Greenville High School’s music programs.
Evening of Broadway this year was directed by Meagan Daugherty and Andrew McClain, choreographed by Samantha Voto, accompanied by Julie Neish, with technical direction by Fran Comstock. The tap choreographer was Hillary Leiopold, who did a nice job with students apparently just learning the art.