Back in the day – the day of Baby Boomers specifically – it wasn’t cool to love Broadway musicals. Mentioning Promises, Promises instead of Jefferson Airplane in the school cafeteria hardly raised your social currency in 1968. Millennials, however, came of age with High School Musical and Glee on TV. As the young people onstage and in the seats for Porchlight Music Theatre’s latest edition of NEW FACES SING BROADWAY NOW might attest, tickets to Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen are actually status symbols.
Porchlight’s NEW FACES series features 10 emerging Chicago performers in numbers from shows currently running on Broadway. The screen behind the stage includes not just production photos but also exterior shots of theater marquees. Completing the Great White Way glee are a musical theater trivia contest and two sing-a-longs, snarky-smoky (Chicago’s All That Jazz) and goofy-anodyne (The Lion King’s Hakuna Matata). For the mixed crowd – those who listened to original cast albums on phonographs and those who listen to isolated numbers on earphones plugged into smartphones – anything goes as long as the source is Broadway.
From Porchlight Music Theatre to stages near and far
As he introduced the program at Space in Evanston, Artistic Director Michael Weber gave updates on previous participants who have gone on to professional success.Please note that four of Henry VIII’s wives in Six, heading for Broadway after its tryout last summer at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, are NEW FACES veterans. Cory Goodrich, who will make her Porchlight debut in its next production Freaky Friday, served as host of the evening.
The parameters of musical theater keep widening, as do the number of shows that use contemporary folk, pop and rock for the score and often the story too. The entire company opened with Why We Build the Wall from Hadestown, folk-pop singer Anais Mitchell’s Tony-winning musical. Following that were songs from Jagged Little Pill, a musical inspired by Alanis Morissette’s album of the same name and River Deep from Tina – The Tina Turner Show.When Michael E. Martin sang Ain’t Too Proud from Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations, one audience member remarked that it was the quintessential line dance song for suburban white girls in the late 60s and early 70s.
Spotlight on everyone in NEW FACES SING BROADWAY NOW
Each of the 10 performers gets a moment to shine. So did Goodrich whose experience on Chicago stages came through in So Big/So Small, the divorced mom’s sorrowful ballad from Dear Evan Hanson. But not all musicals are created equal and that’s part of the biz too. Closing on the unremarkable You Learn from Jagged Little Pill, NEW FACES also makes the point that the road to success includes less than stellar material to which these young talents must still give their all. And they did.
Emily Agy, Alli Atkenson, Barry DeBois, Laz Estrada, Nina Jayashankar, Becky Keeshin, Christopher Kelley, Michael E. Martin, Sam Shankman and Jayla Wlliams-Craig
Johanna McKenzie Miller (Director), Tom Vendafreddo (Music Director/Pianist), Anthony Scandora (Percussionist), Sean Michael Mohler (Stage Manager),
About the Author
Susan Lieberman is a Jeff-winning playwright, journalist, teacher and script consultant who commits most of her waking hours to Chicago theatre. Her radio drama In the Shadows aired on BBC Radio 4 last season.