It was an evening of superb performances, light moods, and laughter at this year’s “A Night of Broadway,” presented by the university’s own Broadway Players.
With music from “Avenue Q,” “Footloose,” “Annie Get Your Gun,” “Anything Goes” and current Broadway smash “Wicked,” the show kept the audience captivated from start to finish.
Co-producer Anne Schmidt said that turnout for Friday night’s show was fantastic.
“Overall it went great. I’m so proud of the cast, especially considering the short timeline of the show this year. We just cast it on the 17th, and still had one of the best turnouts I’ve ever seen Friday night,” she said.
The 13 pieces were all fantastic. The first show-stopper came with the second number of the night, “I Am a Woman” from “Smokey Joe’s Cafe.” This brassy ode to womanhood was performed by Maida Cordero, Amy Smart, Janis Greim – the other co-producer of this year’s show – and Crystal McArthur. The highlight was McArthur’s extraordinary solo.
It can’t be easy to steal the show from Greim, a seasoned performer who was last seen on campus starring as Velma Kelly in the campus production of “Chicago,” but McArthur pulled it off with aplomb. This number was hers from top to bottom. McArthur has a set of pipes that, octave for octave, note for note, nobody else in the show could match. She could have given lessons on projecting to a few of the cast members
A few minutes later, Schmidt ate up the stage like a maniac, a modern-day Momma Rose, promising success and popularity as she trilled her way through “Popular,” from the show “Wicked.” She floated through the staccato highs and lows of this ballad about the power of looking good and being loved for it. It wasn’t hard to tell that Schmidt was one of the best all-around performers of the evening as she lit up the rafters with her voice and the audience with her charm.
The second half had the biggest highlights – and the biggest disappointments – of the evening. Opening was Maida Cordero performing “Dance 10, Looks 3″ from “A Chorus Line.” Cordero nailed the smart, world-wise attitude, but apparently spent so much time learning how to be smugly self-aware that she forgot to learn the music. At one point, it seemed like she missed a line entirely, and by the end the gimmick was more annoying than effective.
First-year student Sara Richardson was both sweet and frisky in spades as she flounced across stage for “I Enjoy Being a Girl,” from “Flower Drum Song.” You may have heard the song in GAP commercials with Sarah Jessica Parker, and Richardson actually looks a little bit like Parker. She brought a natural, easy charm to the number that some others lacked.
Perhaps the best act of the show came when Dominick Varney and Janis Greim belted their way through the dark, moody duet “Dangerous Game” from “Jekyll and Hyde.” This is a chilling and eerie bit of music, so I was a little surprised when they upped the shtick by playing nerdy opponents in an apparently high-stakes chess match who could barely seem to take their eyes off of each other. I was even more surprised when it worked. It lightened the mood enough that the number meshed well with the generally upbeat tone of the rest of the evening, and still gave them a chance to show off some dizzying vocal acrobatics and great stage chemistry.
I’ve reserved my greatest criticism for the master of ceremonies, Michael Thayer. His emceeing was irritating and, inexplicably, featured a sock puppet frog. Unless there was some inside joke that I didn’t get, the frog was more of an aggravating distraction than sidekick. Thayer’s attempts at seeming muddled, confused and wimpy were unfortunately all too effective, and before long he had lost any hope of doing what a good host should – keep the show running – and just ended up making things choppier than they had any right to be.
Still, the complaints are minor and the show overall was a deserved success. The university could use more devoted groups like the Broadway Players to bring such talent, energy and culture to the stage. Here’s to many more nights of Broadway here at UMaine.