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The United Church of Chapel Hill hosted a remarkable program to benefit EqualityNC and its good works; the organization advocates for equality in every sense of the word, in the workplace at all levels, in hospitals, in schools, and much more. And Broadway has long been our nation's leading voice for equality. So it was a natural thing for Richard C. Wall, Broadway veteran and long-time Chapel Hill teacher, coach, producer, and director, to assemble a remarkable cast of singing actors (or acting singers, if you prefer) for a mostly-Broadway evening in support of Equality NC. The first of two presentations took place October 4. The second will be given today (October 5) at 2:00 p.m. in the same venue. (For details, see the sidebar.)
Do yourself a favor. Drop whatever else you happen to be doing and beat feet for North Chapel Hill. You'll be glad you did, for the show is truly wonderful; it is, alternately, heartwarming, charming, dramatic, amusing, funny as hell, and profoundly moving. The singers are remarkably fine and well-balanced and -matched. The accompaniments are solid without ever verging on the intrusive. The amplifications are nicely managed so nothing is ever too loud (as is too often the case in "Broadway" shows nowadays) – on this occasion, one may savor virtually every word, and from shows like the ones excerpted here, the words often prove to be as important as the music
The artists range from our local Broadway Best Man, Maurio Hines (last heard here in A Shipwreck Opera), who dazzled in "Johnny One Note" and held the audience in his hands (figuratively) in "What More Can I Say?" to Evelyn McCauley (also a vet of the Shipwreck gala but most recently heard in Vox Eccentric), whose "To Keep My Love Alive" brightened the opening sequences, to Laurie Maffly-Kipp and Greg Travlos, who cast "Send in the Clowns" in a whole new light. Joyce Weiser had the crowd eating out of her hand in "No Time at All," and Gilly Conklin took comedic honors for her "Memory" parody (words not credited, alas!).
In part two, Shelly McVicker's "Some Enchanted Evening" brought tears to the eyes of more than a few – love is love, after all, and Emile De Becque clearly doesn’t own this song anymore. As noted, Hines was superb in the March of the Falsettos number, and the grand finale, introduced, as it were, by "Anytime," from Elegies, and sung with breathtaking feeling by Travlos, capped the show (and the evening) in style with cuts from Side Show, Assassins, and Merrily We Roll Along featuring almost everybody. We sensed it was over when the cast raced out but one suspects no one really wanted that to be so. Wall however confirmed it when he announced, "Go home!"
But we can go back – and those who missed it surely ought to. Note the repeat and give up watching that away game in Blacksburg. "Broadway Sings for Equality" is much more worthwhile!
Here's a list of the composers and authors of the shows and their Broadway dates (omitted from the program):
Rodgers & Hammerstein: Sound of Music (1959)
Rodgers & Hammerstein: State Fair (1945 - film)
Richard Adler and Jerry Ross: Pajama Game (1954)
Richard Adler and Jerry Ross: Damn Yankees (1955)
Burton Lane and Edgar Yipsel Harberg: Finian's Rainbow (1947)
Rodgers & Hart: A Connecticut Yankee (1927)
Schwarz: Pippin (1972)
Sondheim: A Little Night Music (1973)
Webber and Rice: Jesus Christ Superstar (1971)
Webber: Cats (1982)
Kander and Ebb: Chicago (1975)
Rodgers & Hammerstein: Carousel (1945)
Rodgers & Hart: Babes in Arms (1937)
Sondheim: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962)
Brooks and Adams: All American (1962)
Rodgers & Hammerstein: South Pacific (1949)
Finn: March of the Falsettos (1981)
Kitt and Yorkey: Next to Normal (2009)
Gershwin and Gershwin: Oh, Kay! (1926)
Foley, Hardwick, Monk, Morgan, Schimmel, and Wann: Pump Boys and Dinettes (1982)
Miranda: In the Heights (2008)
Finn: Elegies (2003 - song cycle commemorating 9/11 and victims of AIDS)
Krieger and Russell: Side Show (1997)
Sondheim: Assassins (1990)
Sondheim: Merrily We Roll Along (1981)
And here's the cast, in order of appearance:
Jeri Lynn Shulke
Kirsten Sherman Cervati
And Other Members of the Company as Credited in the Program:
And here are the members of the band:
Richard C. Wall, Jon Latané, & Mark Hartman, keyboards
Brevan Hampden, percussion
Tony Galiani, bass
Gene Lindfors, clarinet
Terry Patrickis, flute
And with thanks to Richard Wall the other artists, here's a link to a video of the entire performance: http://richwah.blogspot.com/2013/10/heres-our-video-so-proud-of-my-singers.html.