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.
- SHOW: http://nctheatre.com/theatre/bringing_home_broadway.html.
- SHOW BLOG: http://northcarolinatheatre.blogspot.com/2010/04/bringing-broadway-home.html.
- PRESENTER: http://nctheatre.com/theatre/.
- VENUE: http://www.progressenergycenter.com/.
- Clay Aiken: http://www.clayaiken.com/ (official website), http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=470642 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1341750/ (Internet Movie Database).
- Lauren Kennedy: http://www.laurenkennedy.com/ (official website), http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=70340 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0448171/ (Internet Movie Database).
- Sharon Lawrence: http://www.sharon-lawrence.com/ (official website), http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=73954 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0005130/ (Internet Movie Database).
- Terrence Mann: http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=68216 (Internet Broadway Database) and http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0542994/ (Internet Movie Database).
- Quiana Parler: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2161612/ (Internet Movie Database).