Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
Regional Reviews by Zander Opper
The Broadway Boys
On September 7 I had the great pleasure of seeing a performance of The Broadway Boys as part of a benefit for the Jamie A. Hulley Arts Foundation at the Quick Center for the Arts at Fairfield University. It was the eleventh annual Evening for the Arts for the Jamie A. Hulley Arts Foundation, and The Broadway Boys were the evening's entertainment. Backed by a rocking onstage band, the Boysthe extraordinarily talented Mike Backes, Omar Lopez-Cepero, Carlos Encinias, Adam Halpin, Tim Young and Willis Whiteput on an amazing show, styling nearly twenty Broadway songs into group numbers and harmonies, but still allowing each performer to shine in individual solo moments. And, though I must confess that I am at heart a musical theater purist who likes Broadway show tunes performed as they were originally written, the vocal arrangements and group choral work were so exciting and infectious, I was immediately won over.
This was the second consecutive year that The Broadway Boys performed at a tribute for the Jamie A. Hulley Arts Foundation, although I missed last year's benefit. What is particularly endearing about the group is their ability to not only work flawlessly together, but to also let the audience get to know each performer individually. And, though I wouldn't dare pick a favorite from a group of equals, I was struck by performer Mike Backes's story of having to go on midway through a performance of Jersey Boys and perform the song "December, 1963" (which he proceeded to sing thrillingly at the benefit). Another shining moment from Backes was "Too Darn Hot." Other standouts included Carlos Encinias' glorious delivery of "Electricity" and leading "Aquarius" in a funky new arrangement. "Home" from The Wiz is always a showstopper, and Adam Halpin did full justice to it, singing it to the rafters.
Other notable moments during the evening were Willis White's pleasurable singing of both "On Broadway" and "Corner of the Sky," and Tim Young melting hearts with the beautiful "Neverland," then rocking the house with "Uptown Girl" (even bringing a girl from the audience up onstage to sing it to her). Not to be forgotten is Omar Lopez-Cepero, whose stellar vocalizing of "Where Is Love?" and the moving "Seasons of Love" (which also employed a full chorus of young performers onstage) were also highlights.
Still, these young men are called The Broadway Boys for a reason, and they truly function most excitingly as a group. Their synchronized movements, intricate choreography, and close harmonies were amazing as they brought new life to Broadway songs I have been listening to for decades. They began the show with terrific group singing of such chestnuts as "Lullaby of Broadway" and "Luck Be a Lady," then closed with "Ease on Down the Road" and a neat new arrangement of "Defying Gravity."
The most transcendent moment of the evening was the group's delivery of another song from Wicked, "For Good." Having only heard this song as a duet (as it was written to be sung), it never occurred to me how universal the lyrics are and how effectively the song could be when sung by a group. They dedicated this song to the memory of Jamie A. Hulley, whose untimely death in her early twenties was the reason the Jamie A. Hulley Arts Foundation was founded by Jamie's mother Judy Primavera. As The Broadway Boys sang, I got goosebumps and could see how moving the song was for the audience, who, most deservedly, gave the performers a standing ovation. This was a beautiful moment in a wonderful evening. (I later found out that the group only had about 24 hours to learn the new arrangement.)
For more information about The Broadway Boys, please visit their website at www.bwayboys.com. Further information about the Jamie A. Hulley Arts Foundation can be found at www.jamiehulleyartsfund.org.