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BRINGING BROADWAY HOME | Review by Robert W. McDowell

IN “BRINGING BROADWAY HOME,” CLAY AIKEN DELIGHTED HIS FANS, BUT LAUREN KENNEDY AND QUIANA PARLER WERE SHOWSTOPPERS, TOO

Last Monday night, the North Carolina Theatre, whose gala home-grown productions of big Broadway musicals compare favorably with many of the bus-and-truck tours that play the Triangle, staged BRINGING BROADWAY HOME: CELEBRATING 27 SEASONS OF BROADWAY, a spectacular benefit concert last Monday night, featuring effervescent performances by NCT alumni Clay Aiken, Lauren Kennedy, Sharon Lawrence, Terrence Mann, and Quiana Parler and a splendid orchestra led by frequent NCT musical director and conductor Edward G. Robinson.

Aiken is the 2003 “American Idol” runner-up and a multi-platinum recording artist who also played Sir Robin in MONTY PYTHON’S SPAMALOT; Kennedy is a rising Broadway star, who has played Betty Schaefer in SUNSET BOULEVARD, Fantine in LES MISÉRABLES, and the Lady of the lake in SPAMALOT; and Lawrence is a television star probably most famous for playing assistant district attorney Sylvia Costas Sipowicz in the ground-breaking crime drama “NYPD Blue.”

Mann created the roles of the irrepressible Rum Tum Tugger and the implacable Inspector Javert in the American versions of CATS and LES MISÉRABLES, respectively, as well as starred as the Beast in the original Broadway production of DISNEY’S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST; and Parler is a superlative African-American actress and singer who gave a career-making performance as troubled diva Effie Melody White in the 2008 North Carolina Theatre production of DREAMGIRLS.

Hometown favorite Clay Aiken opened the show with a rousing rendition of “Home” from THE WIZ, then delighted his legion of local fans with two saucy selections from his new album “Tried and True,” released June 1st on Decca: “Mack the Knife” from THREE PENNY OPERA and “What Kind of Fool Am I?” from STOP THE WORLD I WANT TO GET OFF. Aiken also added crowd-pleasing performances of “This Is the Moment” from JEKYLL & HYDE and “Those Magic Changes” from GREASE, and sang dynamic duets of “Last Night of the World” from MISS SAIGON with Quiana Parler and “In Whatever Time We Have” from CHILDREN OF EDEN with Lauren Kennedy.

Another highlight of the evening was the delightful reprise of “What Do the Simple Folk Do?” from CAMELOT by Terrence Mann and Sharon Lawrence, who played Arthur and Guenevere in NCT’s very first production in May 1984. Mann also reprised his role as Inspector Javert with brio as he sang “Stars” from LES MISÉRABLES, and his vibrant version of “Where’s the Girl?” from THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL also earned applause.

From the moment she sashayed onstage to sing “Popular” from WICKED, wearing a rhinestone tiara and a purple boa over her little black sequined and fringed dress, with a white sash emblazoned with “Raleigh’s Own” printed on it tied diagonally across her chest, Raleigh’s own Lauren Kennedy OWNED the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium audience lock, stock, and barrel. Her perky performance continued with vivacious versions of Jason Robert Brown’s sassy “I Can Do Better Than That” from THE LAST 5 YEARS, Fantine’s (and Susan Boyle’s) showstopper “I Dreamed a Dream” from LES MISÉRABLES, the wistful “Send in the Clowns” from A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, and “Hold On” from THE SECRET GARDEN.

Sharon Lawrence served as an informal mistress of ceremonies and contributed a charming version of “Shy” from ONCE UPON A MATTRESS, and Quiana Parler’s solo on “What I Did for Love” from A CHORUS LINE sparkled. But even if Clay Aiken was the evening’s most flamboyant showman, his erstwhile singing partner Quiana Parler one-upped Aiken and the rest of this stellar cast with her simply fab-u-lous rendition of “(And I Am Telling You) I’m Not Going” from DREAMGIRLS. After that next-to-last number, the company’s grand finale of “Imagine” by ex-Beatle John Lennon seemed anti-climactic.

All in all, BRINGING BROADWAY HOME was a bracing program of music and reminiscences in which backstage tales were told and North Carolina Theatre founder and head honcho De Ann Jones and her son and successor, Wally Jones, were given their due. NCT is a shining jewel in this state’s cultural crown and, for one magical evening, a fabulous quintet of NCT alumni, emphatically demonstrated how excellent this critically acclaimed regional theater is as a springboard to show business fame and fortune.

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21 Responses

  1. Aiken impressed me greatly, not having previously had the pleasure. He delighted more than just his local fans, sir. He delighted us all.

  2. Just adding to the above comment — many Clay Aiken fans traveled from across the country to see him. They enjoyed a wonderful show. Glad to see a few locals enjoyed him and the show as well! And, just so this is understood, Quiana Parlor has been a backup singer/friend of Clay since 2003. His pride when watching her sing is palpable. Talent like her’s deserves to be heard. He has always highlighted her talents on tour and she will be singing on tour next month with Clay and Ruben.

  3. Everyone was fantastic…I hope they do some more Show tunes in the near furture. although Parker has a great voice she needs get more stage presence…if you noticed Parker would look at Clay for quidance when the cast did Imagine. Parker and Clay have been on many tours together…she was even on his Christmas special. Clay always looks at Parker, when she sings, like a proud parent would look at their child.

  4. Thanks for the great review.
    There sure was a lot of talent on that stage!! They are all such wonderful live singers–that’s rare today. They didn’t need any special effects–it was all about the voices.

    Have to confess that Clay Aiken was my favorite. All he had to do is come out in his plain grey jacket with white shirt and grey tie and open his mouth. From the first note to the last his voice was stellar. I think I just may have to get his new album that was mentioned in the review.

  5. Love seeing our stars from Raleigh get recognize by some of their own local family and it was good to see the many out of town and out of state fans who attended. Glad to have them support local talent here and help keep our hotels and restaurants going too!

    Lauren was adorable as usual, and so funny in her own version of “Raleigh’s Own”. It was sweet to see how warm and welcoming Terrence and Sharon were to the newer fellow stars, and their talent lent a real professional air to the evening as well. Yes, they were great themselves….as we all knew they would be.

    We all knew from AI that he could sing, but what a pleasant surprise to see this gorgeous hunk that Raleigh’s own little Clay Aiken has grown into.

    Another surprise – the incredible talent that AI overlooked – Quiana Parler – belting out “I Am Telling You!”. Beat Jennifer Hudson’s version and I adore Jennifers voice. So glad Clay was smart enough to recognize Quiana’s talent and take her along with him for the ride.

    Thanks again for your article and for your recognition of these great talents.

  6. My husband and I are both from the Triangle area and attended the show last week. It was wonderful to see the amazing talent on that stage. All of the performers deserve an enormous amount of credit for the entertaining 2 hours they gave everyone that was able to attend. It was wonderful to see Mr. Aiken again after having not been fortunate enough to see him too often after his time on American Idol. We loved him just as much last week as we did on television. His voice is a glorious gift and may it be heard for years to come.

    Seeing Sharon Lawrence and Terrance Mann, both whom we’ve followed in the past was an additional bonus for us. I will admit that although we have heard of Lauren Kennedy because she is from the local area, we had not had the pleasure of seeing her in any of her Broadway performances, but we will keep an eye out for her in the future.

    We did see Dreamgirls when it came to NC Theater and enjoyed Ms. Parler’s performance. She has a wonderful voice. We weren’t aware of the friendship between her and Mr. Aiken until we read the program but it was obvious that they are indeed great friends. How wonderful for them both.

    All in all, it was a very wonderful evening and I do hope that another show of this caliber can be done again in the near future. It would be an added bonus if it would be with the same performers. They not only had wonderful voice, but their repore with one another was heart-warming. I only wish that there had been a dvd for purchase so that we could share it with our family members and friends that weren’t able to attend. That would have added quite a bit to raising funds for the NC Theater. Keep up the good work!

  7. I was lucky enough to attend this wonderful concert. It is too bad that more local folks did not fill the auditorium. The entire concert was amazing and each star added to the entire evening.

    I am a bit appalled by some of the adjectives used in this review. Using terms like “saucy” and “flamboyant” are really inappropriate. Shame on you!! Also, in this day and age, the race of a person who sings in a concert is really un-necessary and again, inappropriate.

    As a person who lives in the area, I am proud of the talent of the singers on the program. I am not so proud of Mr. McDowell.

  8. I am a little put off by the use of “flamboyant” when describing Clay Aiken. I have watched the videos of this show, and Clay in his conservative gray suit was the least flamboyant of all, but he was in great voice.
    Also Quianna Parler is a back up singer for Clay Aiken and not his “singing partner”

  9. I attended the show that night and thoroughly enjoyed everyone on the stage. I’m a Raleighite and was so proud of the three from this area and Quiana who is from “right down the road” in SC. What a show!

    I had not had the pleasure of hearing Terrence Mann nor even knew that Sharon Lawrence sang and enjoyed them so much. Lauren Kennedy was cute as a button and everyone enjoyed her vivacious song renditions. The duet with Clay Aiken was so very very nice. I saw Quiana in DreamGirls so knew she would knock that song out of the park — and she did!

    Clay Aiken continues to show what an amazing voice he has — he can sign anything. I loved his Those Magic Changes and Home. His This is the Moment must have brought back so many memories for him since he performed that same song from the same stage in Pieces of Gold — at age 17, I think.

    I do have Clay’s “Tried and True” CD and recommend it — a wonderful CD. (your picture of the CD is incorrect by the way — that’s the cover of his “On My Way Here” Album — also a very good one to have.)

    I, too, wish we could have had a DVD of this Bringing Broadway Home” — shame not to be able to share with friends and family. I hope the NC Theater will do this again with the same performers — their chat with each other was also a fun way to learn how they came to the theater and singing.

    Great way to show everyone the talent from this area.

  10. I really enjoyed the comments, & was glad they were all positive toward the performers.I’m really not too familiar with anyone but CLAY & QUIANA,having followed them since their IDOL days.Have to give them 2 thumbs up. They & Angela are my favorite singers.Glad they put on a really good show.

  11. Just have to laugh at how transparent this ‘review’ is. Calling Aiken “flamboyant” when he was not the one wearing a boa and tiara. Calling Mack the Knife “saucy?” Get real. That song has been called a lot of things over the years, but saucy is not one of them. It’s obvious that this reviewer wanted to make sure he got his ‘gay’ references in. OR maybe a “saucy” Mack the Knife means Mack was gay? Never know. Whatever.

    The reviewer failed to mention that Aiken brought down the house with his performance of Those Magic Changes. There is bootleg on you tube and it’s a great rendition. Aiken rocks it out. The whole show was wonderful and Raleigh is lucky to have such great home grown talent.

  12. I have listened to the entire show on audio and wish I was there for the live performances. Everyone was incredible. As for Quiana, she also auditioned for American Idol and didn’t get past the top 32! Everyone who has ever heard her glorious voice is very puzzled as to why this incredible talent didn’t move up. Clay is one very smart cookie to have made Quiana one of his stellar back-up singers (along with the, also, incredible Angie Fisher), and sometimes soloist, for ALL of his many tours. Her performances of ‘I Will Always Love You’ during Clay’s amazing Juke Box Tour of 2005 made most attendees think: ‘Whitney, who??’! I think Clay did some of his best ‘work’ during the concert last week. The other performers were absolutely amazing, also. This would have made a very wonderful PBS Special!!!

  13. What an evening. What a tremendous amount of talent! Lauren Kennedy never fails to deliver and Sharon Lawrence was quite a surprise! Quiana Parler has a phenomenol voice – makes you wonder why she hasn’t been heard on a more national stage!! And it’s always good to see Terrence Mann!

    But one of the best moments of the entire evening was Clay Aiken’s rendition of Those Magic Changes from Grease. I could NOT believe what he did with his voice and with very little effort! Even the conductor was looking at him and smiling! This man is so very talented! His This Is The Moment brought me to tears…………..he’s come a long way from Pieces of Gold!

    Raleigh has some serious homegrown talent and I hope we can have more evenings like this.

  14. I live in western North Carolina and was very fortunate to have attended the Bringing Broadway Home show. I am a huge fan of Broadway and am not ashamed to admit that I am also a huge fan of Clay Aiken. I adore his voice, personality, and humor. I loved every moment of this show from beginning to end. Lauren Kennedy was wonderful. Sharon Lawrence was as good as ever. Terrence Mann was hilarious and is so gifted. And, since I have seen Clay perform many times, I have also heard Quiana Parler sing many times. This woman needs to be famous. The world needs to hear her voice. She is that good. I am so glad she got such a great reception. I am so glad I was able to attend.

  15. I wish I could have attended this show, but I live very far away. I will just have content myself with 2nd hand reports and recordings.

    Yes, Clay is the best. Thank you North Carolina for bringing him to the world. You have some great talent in your state. Keep up the good work.

    I hope you might be able to adjust the photo of Clay’s new album. It is hard enough to find in the stores, so with the wrong picture displayed it will be even harder for those who are just being introduced to this wonderful work.

  16. I was so glad I traveled from Texas to come see this wonderful show!

    I mainly attended to see Clay Aiken and hear all those great broadway songs. I walked away pleased that I got more than my money’s worth!

    I was amazed by Terrance Mann’s voice. So rich and with a wonderful tone! I would like to see more of him and will check out his schedule to see if it will be possible.

    I never knew Sharon Lawrence could sing. She has a great and lovely voice. I remember her from NYPD Blue. I loved the performance of “Shy”. That was so cute!

    I didn’t know who Lauren Kennedy was until I saw her in a pre-concert interview with Clay online and then read about her in the program. When she came out singing that song from Wicked, her voice sounded just a cute and wonderful as Kristin Chenoweth’s. Lauren was so funny and I loved her duet with Clay.

    Clay and Quiana were both great and outstanding in their performances. Loved the funny moment when Quiana took off her high heels to perform the song from Dreamgirls and then after the song, the other performers took off their shoes as well to show how much they loved her performance. Clay’s performance of This Is The Moment almost brought tears to my eyes thinking how far he has come since that night back when he was 17 singing that same song for Pieces of Gold on that same stage. It’s like he has come full circle. His energetic version of Those Magic Changes from Grease was outstanding. How he is able to change keys, hold out notes, and hit his falsetto without EVER being pitchy always amazes me.

    I would enjoy another show like this in the future. Glad I could travel to help support the NCT.

  17. I live here in Charleston, Illinois and was not able to atend. I really love the rendition of Mr Aiken’s “This Magic Moments. So wonderful to hear. Bravo what a nice voice.

  18. I think everyone did a wonderful job on this great Broadway Show. I particularly liked Clay’s rendition of “Those Perfect Changes.” I would almost love to see Grease return to Broadway..just so Clay could sing this song. I would like to see another show like this one in the near future. Too bad there wasn’t a DVD of the show.

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