Broadway by the Year is an annual event at Broadway by the Bay, produced by special arrangement with the Town Hall in New York. It features a series of Broadway stars, recapping show tunes from two particular years. If this sounds like a sleeper, best left for the assisted living crowd, think again. I too started with that attitude. By the end of the show, my only regret was that I didn’t make it to the earlier show because I happily would have taken in a second performance.
The magic of this one lies in the top-notch performers who know how to sell these songs. Expertly paced with solo performances interspersed with group numbers and dance bits, Christini Bianco, Carole Bufford, Ron Rohmer, Jeffrey Denman and Scott Coulter (all of whom have substantial Broadway credits to their names) performed in a show hosted by Scott Siegel. Building slowly throughout the show, they left the audience – even those who might be show tune neophytes – completely wowed.
This year’s Broadway by the Year focused upon 1947 and 1966. 1947 is even before my time – as presumably it would be before most of the audience’s. However, given that Finian’s Rainbow and Brigadoon have been revived numerous times, that hardly seemed to matter. It was Jeffry Denman’s performance of “Go Home with Bonnie Jean” that gave the first twinkling that this performance was truly extraordinary. From there, the program just seemed to build and build, to a truly spectacular finish. The song “There’s a Glen in Glocca Morra” resonated with anyone who ever read a biography of JFK.
The second half of the program truly brought me from a fence sitter to a convert. Carole Buffet’s rendition of “Hey Big Spender” darn near brought the audience to their knees. If that didn’t do it for you, Christina Bianco’s channeling of everyone from Streisand to Judy Garland, Patti Lupone, Julie Andrews, Bernadette Peters and Celine Dion to perform “Caberet” was spot on perfect. One suspects that even Patty Lupone would approve.
Shows like this are heartening: you come in with a mensa-mensa attitude and leave a complete convert. It’s a tribute to the transformative power of musical theatre – and to the performers of this program. Show tunes that I’d forgotten about, show tunes that I never knew, and show tunes that I’d completely ODed on took on a new life. The only thing missing was an encore!
by Broadway by the Bay
3.5 out of 5 stars (Sweet Stuff)
Starring Christina Bianco
Ron Bohmer Carole J. Bufford Jeffry Denman Scott Siegel Scott Coulter Ross Patterson
November 17 – 20th