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September 13, 2010


Concert recap: Broadway on Broadway

by Jesse North

The new Broadway season swoops in with quite a homecoming when it takes over the area it inhabits. During the annual Broadway on Broadway concert, Broadway the art takes full control of Broadway the district. In its nineteenth year, the free outdoor concert in Times Square offered strong performances, many of theater’s biggest stars, and a lack of new offerings.

Sponsored by The Broadway League and billed as a kick-off to the new theater season, Broadway on Broadway should (and usually does) feature the new musical productions that will be bowing in the coming months. It’s an exciting sneak peak of shows that are opening in a few weeks, and some much further into the year. Last year, new productions like Finian’s Rainbow and Memphis were among those that debuted their songs and cast to the Times Square audience. This year, just two new musicals performed, out of the 10+ productions slated for Broadway this year.

Only one of those two productions, Elf, features original music. Beth Leavel was on hand to perform “There Is A Santa Claus,” which was pretty paint-by-numbers in melody, but embodied a strong seasonal flavor. Will Swenson (with newly cropped hair, much to the female audience’s audible disdain) performed “I Say A Little Prayer” from Priscilla Queen of the Desert—a jukebox musical. Not two of the strongest numbers of the day, but still exciting, being they were new.

Where was the cast of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, who is clearly ready to go? The Scottsboro Boys are still performing at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, so they get a pass on this event. But why couldn’t Reeve Carney represent Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark like he did on Good Morning America on Friday? Were the A-list stars of Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown above the free concert? Being that all these shows are set to open in the next two months, a one-song performance couldn’t have been too far out of their reach. Instead of performances, Sutton Foster, from the upcoming revival of Anything Goes (another production that didn’t perform—like she doesn’t know how to sing “Blow, Gabriel, Blow?) appeared on stage to read from the list of all these shows that are coming to Broadway and wouldn’t be performing. Some tease.

Instead, the audience was subjected to the same tired “Can You Feel The Love Tonight,” “All I Ask of You” and “Dancing Queen” that were pandered just recently during Broadway in Bryant Park. (Although we somehow managed to dodge the prac-ti-ca-lly per-fect Mary Poppins)

Lack of new shows aside, the concert was brimming with strong performances. Million Dollar Quartet kicked off the show with a medley, and the four dudes were as strong as ever. Jordin Sparks performed “When You’re Home” from In The Heights, which was a refreshing change from the star-less Bryant Park concert series. (The American Idol winner couldn’t have sounded better, and yet strangely missed the show’s 3 p.m. performance. Hmm.) Memphis performed the formulaic “Steal Your Rock N Roll,” yet led by Bryan Fenkart (understudying for Chad Kimball) and Montego Glover, the company made the number quite moving. Sahr Ngauja and the fantastic ladies of Fela! made “Zombie” a highlight. Promises, Promises went starless, but the boys singing “Where Can You Take A Girl” were at the top of their game. Mandy Gonzalez blew the masses away with “The Wizard and I,” as Wicked always does. Marin Mazzie dazzled the crowd with “I Miss The Mountains” from Next to Normal. Tony Vincent finally got the spotlight for American Idiot by performing “St. Jimmy.” And Mitchell Jarvis from Rock of Ages pulled a complete 180, showing a shockingly new side of himself by performing “Wanted Dead Or Alive” from his role switcheroo from Lonnie to Stacee Jaxx. Not only does the actor have a surprisingly new, toned body, but he has abandoned a huge portion of his comedic flare and appeared seductive and sinister. Jarvis truly gave one of the day’s best performances.

Low points of the concert included an incredibly tedious dance stunt/promotion from event co-sponsor Hue Leggings, a star-less Addams Family number, a supremely awkward three minutes of host Kelsey Grammer biding his time on stage while one of the closing acts set up (seriously, the five-time Emmy winner did nothing to fill the space), and a dismal and embarrassing number from Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles.

Broadway on Broadway closed with an unconventional, but truly rousing performance from In The Heights originals Lin-Manuel Miranda and Karen Olivo. Instead of a show tune, they covered Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind,” which moved the crowd and showered them with confetti. It was a fresh tune, which the concert needed a lot more of.

Set list:

Banging from Stomp
Million Dollar Quartet
: Medley of “Walk the Line,” “Shake Baby Shake” “Have Some Fun Tonight,” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On”
The Lion King
: “Can You Feel The Love Tonight”
Billy Elliot
: “Expressing Yourself”
In The Heights
: “When You’re Home”
: “Steal Your Rock N Roll”
: “Zombie”
Mamma Mia!
: “Dancing Queen”
: “There Is A Santa Claus”
La Cage aux Folles
: “We Are What We Are”
: “We Both Reached For The Gun”
The Phantom of the Opera
: “All I Ask of You”
: “The Wizard and I”
Promises, Promises
: “Where Can You Take A Girl”
Rock of Ages
: “Wanted Dead Or Alive”
The Addams Family
: “Just Around The Corner”
Next to Normal
: “I Miss The Mountains”
Priscilla Queen of the Desert
: “I Say A Little Prayer”
American Idiot
: “St. Jimmy”
West Side Story
: “The Jet Song”
Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles
: “Hey Jude”
“Empire State of Mind” by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Karen Olivo

Were you at Broadway on Broadway, Rushers? Did you enjoy the concert’s offerings? Do you wish more new musicals performed? Are you getting tired of the same songs being performed, or will you never get enough of “Dancing Queen?” Who was your favorite act and performer? Leave your Broadway on Broadway stories and thoughts in the comments!

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3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Linda
    Sep 13 2010

    This was my first year at Broadway and Broadway, but I was kind of annoyed because I could only stay until one (I left right before The Addams Family) and had to miss the stuff I wanted to see. I don’t mind seeing long-running shows, but I just don’t need to see the 19th cast of Mamma Mia. I was glad I got to catch Elf, which didn’t leave me optimistic about the musical and Mandy Gonzalez, who I’d really like to see in Wicked. I was shocked by Mitchell Jarvis and I’ll admit I was wrong–I didn’t think he could pull off Stacee Jaxx. I have always avoided Broadway on Broadway because of the crowds, but there were plenty of spots by screens that had very few people, so that was a definite plus.

    • Sep 13 2010

      @Linda: I’m really glad to know I’m not the only one that is tired of MAMMA MIA! and all these other long-run shows. Yeah, Mitchell Jarvis was incredible. I might have to go see ROCK OF AGES again to see him in the role. The crowds are intense, but it’s really nice in the back with all the screens! I prefer it that way!

  2. Melissa
    Sep 13 2010

    I could have done without the Lion King, Chicago, Phantom, and Mamma Mia. We get it, they will never go away. But give us Spidey! Andrew Jackson! even just one of the women on the verge! I saw the schedule beforehand so I knew what to expect, it just could have been better.

    The top 2 that stuck out to me were Marin Mazzie proving to me I could see N2N a 7th time but without Alice…and Levi Kreis stealing the show from the Quartet as usual! Oh and the ending – Lin-Manuel Miranda’s awesomeness saved the show.


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