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Beyond Broadway: An Evening of Song with Lauren Kennedy and Alan Campbell, the sixth and final presentation of Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy’s inaugural season, is a sizzling set of songs from the great American songbook — plus “Mack the Knife” from The Threepenny Opera by German composer Kurt Weill and lyricist Bertolt Brecht — all performed with panache by a pair of Broadway stars. The husband-and-wife team of Alan Campbell and Raleigh’s own Lauren Kennedy prove themselves equally adept with songs from Broadway shows, standards from the great American pop-music repertoire, and good old-fashioned rock-and-roll.
Their eclectic selection of songs — all brilliantly arranged by New York musical director and arranger Kelsey Halbert — are performed with brio by Halbert (piano) and local musicians Damon Brown (standup bass and electric bass), Mike Kris (trombone), Carlton Miles (drums), Michael Mole (trumpet), and Steve Rose (woodwinds). This highly talented sextet can really wail, and Steve Rose contributes some scorching saxophone solos and a lovely flute solo on “Moon River.”
From the bravura opening number, in which Kennedy sings “Come Dance with Me,” while Campbell croons “Come Fly with Me,” to their charming encore of James Taylor’s “Carolina on My Mind,” Campbell and Kennedy have personality plus, and know how to project it. They not only know how to sell a song and how to phrase a lyric, but they also have a firm finger on the pulse of the Hot Summer Nights audience, which leaped to its feet en masse at the final curtain to reward Kennedy and Campbell with a lengthy and well-deserved standing ovation.
The evening’s comic highlights include the dynamic duo’s hilarious rendition of “Two and Four” and “Hit Me with a Hot Note and Watch Me Bounce,” and Kennedy’s PG-rated solos of “My Simple Christmas List” (in which the singer longs to be rich, famous, and powerful) and Jason Robert Brown’s “I Can Do Better Than That” (a scathing assessment of men who just couldn’t quite meet the muster)
Alan Campbell proves he can croon (“Come Fly with Me,” “Fly Me to the Moon, “Grateful”), clown (“Buddy’s Blues” from Stephen Sondheim’s Follies), and really rock (“Mack the Knife” a la Bobby Darin and a red-hot old-time rock-and-roll medley).
Lauren Kennedy is, by turns, wistful (“Moon River” and “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Misérables) and wonderfully wicked (singing the above-mentioned “My Simple Christmas List” and “I Can Do Better Than That”).
The couple’s between-song patter needs tightening and punching up, but their vivacious vocals more than compensate for some lame song introductions. Now that Hot Summer Nights is offering pay-what-you-want Sunday matinees on Aug. 21st and 28th, even lowly North Carolina state government employees can afford tickets for this delightful dual appearance of up-and-coming Broadway diva Lauren Kennedy (Sunset Boulevard, Les Misérables, and Side Show) and her husband, Tony Award® nominee Alan Campbell (Sunset Boulevard and Contact), who is widely regarded as one of Broadway’s finest tenors.
Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy presents Beyond Broadway: An Evening of Song with Lauren Kennedy and Alan Campbell Thursday-Saturday, Aug. 17-20 and Wednesday-Saturday Aug. 24-27, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 21 and 28, at 2 p.m. in The Kennedy Theater in the Progress Energy (formerly BTI) Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina. $35 per ticket or $50 for two tickets (except Aug. 16th) except $20 for groups of 10 or more and students. Progress Energy Box Office: 919/831-6060. Group Rates: 919/828-3726. Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy: http://www.hotsummernightsatthekennedy.org/ [inactive 1/06]. Lauren Kennedy: http://www.ibdb.com/person.asp?ID=70340, http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0448171/, and http://www.laurenkennedy.com/ [inactive 12/05]. Alan Campbell: http://www.ibdb.com/person.asp?id=78100 and http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0132181/. Kelsey Halbert: http://kelseyhalbert.com/ [inactive 1/06].
Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy will conclude its inaugural six-show season with Beyond Broadway: An Evening of Song with Lauren Kennedy and Alan Campbell, a cabaret-style entertainment featuring a husband-and-wife team of Broadway stars, Aug. 17-21 and 24-28 The Kennedy Theater in the Progress Energy (formerly BTI) Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh, NC.
Lauren Kennedy and Alan Campbell, who gave stellar performances April 30-May 8 in the title roles in the North Carolina Theatre’s gala production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, will return to her hometown to work with her father, Hot Summer Nights executive producer K.D. Kennedy, Jr., and her younger brother, producer and company stage manager Michael Kennedy, in the intimate 100-seat black-box theater named for her father and mother, Sara Lynn Kennedy.
Kennedy, who starred in the world premiere production of The Last Five Years in Chicago in 2001, insists that she was not responsible for the selection of that Jason Robert Brown musical to open the Hot Summer Nights series on June 1st.
“Dad saw it in Chicago,” she claims. “I didn’t have anything to do with anything he chose this time around. I left him to his own devices, and he’s done great.”
Alan Campbell says, “Beyond Broadway [will be] a cabaret evening. It’s an intimate evening. We’re calling it Beyond Broadway: An Evening of Song with Lauren Kennedy and Alan Campbell.… We want to give it a very informal, kind of fun feel like we’re in a house standing around a piano and singing …
“…except that living room will also have a bass drum and three horns,” quips Lauren Kennedy.
Campbell says he and Kennedy got the idea for Beyond Broadway last summer while they were co-starring in a new musical version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s at The Municipal Theatre in St. Louis.
“Our musical director for Breakfast at Tiffany’s at The Muny, a guy by the name of Kelsey Halbert, came to us and said, ‘You guys are really great on stage together. Have you ever thought about doing a small show — a cabaret-type show — on stage together?’” recalls Alan Campbell. “We had been asked over a few years by a couple of other people if we had something that we did together. When Kelsey asked, we said, ‘Maybe we should think about it.’ So, we said, ‘Well, since it’s your idea, you have to conduct it and arrange it all.’ So we roped him in.”
That’s how Kelsey Halbert, who made his Broadway debut playing keyboards for Grease, became musical director and arranger for Beyond Broadway. He will accompany Alan Campbell and Lauren Kennedy on piano; and local musicians Damon Brown (bass), Mike Kris (trombone), Carlton Miles (drums), Michael Mole (trumpet), and Steve Rose (woodwinds) will complete the band.
In addition to stage manager Michael Kennedy and musical director and arranger Kelsey Halbert, the production team for Beyond Broadway includes technical director and lighting designer Curtis Jones and scenic designer Sonya Drum.
Lauren Kennedy and Alan Campbell were both members of the original Broadway cast of Sunset Boulevard, which opened Nov. 17, 1994 at the Minskoff Theatre, ran for 977 performances, and won the 1995 Tony Award® for Best Musical, Best Book (Christopher Hampton), and Best Score (composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricists Don Black and Christopher Hampton). Campbell made his Broadway debut playing world-weary screenwriter-turned-gigolo Joe Gillis — the male lead opposite 1995 Tony winner Glenn Close as aging silver-screen siren Norma Desmond — while Lauren Kennedy made her Broadway debut as an understudy for Joe’s girlfriend, Betty Schaefer.
A real-life romance developed, and Kennedy and Campbell were married on Oct. 10, 1999. They have a daughter, Riley Rose, who is quite obviously the light of their lives.
On Broadway, 31-year-old Lauren Kennedy has already played Betty Schaefer in Sunset Boulevard and Fantine in Les Misérables. A beautiful blonde with a big Broadway voice, she also starred as carnival headliner Daisy Hilton in Side Show on Broadway and played Ensign Nellie Forbush in Trevor Nunn’s Royal National Theatre production of South Pacific in London’s West End.
In addition to Sunset Boulevard, the boyishly handsome 48-year-old Alan Campbell starred in director/choreographer Susan Stroman’s 2000 Tony Award-winning musical Contact, both on Broadway and during the 2002 National Tour that Broadway Series South brought to Raleigh. (Campbell played the burned-out advertising executive, on the verge of a complete breakdown, in the swing-dance segment that closes the show.)
One of Broadway’s finest tenors, Alan Campbell is a veteran star of stage, screen, and television, with a remarkable resume that includes five seasons on “Jake and the Fatman.”
Campbell and Kennedy were cagey about the exact song list for Beyond Broadway. “We have a show order,” Kennedy insists. Campbell adds, “We are going to be singing the songs that we just love…. We culled together a lot of songs that we’ve sung over the years, plus some new things that we just love to sing.”
Kennedy says, “We chose songs that we loved to sing and we thought were reflections of us as human beings, and were appropriate for us as well. These shows are interesting if you make them personal.”
Campbell adds, “We’re going to sing some American standards (‘Come Dance with Me,’ ‘Come Fly with Me’), plus some good torch songs by Diva Kennedy.”
Kennedy says, “We’re going to sing some songs outside of the Broadway canon, some folk and country and old rock-and-roll.”
Campbell says, “Lauren is doing the things she did in Lay Miz (‘Dream the Dream’).”
Kennedy says, “I’m going to do a song from my Jason Robert Brown album. We’ll be selling CDs in the lobby,” she laughs.
Campbell says, “This show is personal.”
Lauren Kennedy concludes, “People should come and get a little slice of Alan and Lauren.”
Alan Campbell promises, “It will be a very eclectic evening.”
Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy presents Beyond Broadway: An Evening of Song with Lauren Kennedy and Alan Campbell Wednesday-Saturday, Aug. 17-20 and 24-27, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 21 and 28, at 2 p.m. in The Kennedy Theater in the Progress Energy (formerly BTI) Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina. $35 per ticket or $50 for two tickets (except Aug. 16th) except $20 for groups of 10 or more and students. Progress Energy Box Office: 919/831-6060. Group Rates: 919/828-3726. Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy: http://www.hotsummernightsatthekennedy.org/ [inactive 1/06]. Lauren Kennedy: http://www.ibdb.com/person.asp?ID=70340, http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0448171/, and http://www.laurenkennedy.com/ [inactive 12/05]. Alan Campbell: http://www.ibdb.com/person.asp?id=78100 and http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0132181/. Kelsey Halbert: http://kelseyhalbert.com/ [inactive 1/06].