Broadway singers past and present gathered together on Sunday at the Broadway Cabaret Festival's "Broadway Originals" to belt out the original versions and reprisals of songs that helped launch or further solidify their careers. The event, organized and produced by The Town Hall, was highlighted by legends Jo Sullivan Loesser to Maureen Silliman, Carole Demas, Crista Moore, Loni Ackerman, Christiane Noll, and more. Some of the performers shared theatre stories from way back when, reliving some of their favorite moments from their careers in show business.
The revue also featured some of Broadway's current roster of stars. John Tartaglia and Stephanie D'Abruzzo sang their key songs from Avenue Q and Nancy Opel delivered her most famous number from Urinetown. This combination of the old and the new displayed the diversity to Broadway show tunes, showcasing both the elegance and the absurdity that make up the theater. Even on a stage on a Sunday afternoon, outside of the fuller production, these singers belted their songs with the intensity and dramatic delivery of a routine performance.
It's really quite remarkable to see some of these performers carry on so late into their lives. As they've aged, and left their shows behind, many of the musicals have taken on new casts. But it's something else to hear the productions' original cast members get back into their roles, even for a few moments, and restore their zing. These songs clearly still mean a great deal to the performers who remain a part of the songs' histories, revivals, endurance, and meaning. This was clearest when Lucie Arnaz stepped up to sing her half of "They're Playing Our Song" from the musical of the same name. You can see a younger Arnaz perform it here:
Arnaz says that after decades of performances, that's the song that remains synonymous with her. The charming Arnaz co-hosted the Town Hall event and regaled the audience with tales from her career in the industry. She was assisted by director of the event, Michele Lee, who delighted the audience with an array of melodies from Seesaw. You can see a younger Lee sing some of those songs here:
Tom Wopat, the last host of the matinee, led the cast in a rendition of "There's No Business Like Show Business" at the top of the festivities. He showed his own range of talent by appearing twice, once to perform "I Stayed" from A Catered Affair and the other time for "My Defenses Are Down" from Annie Get Your Gun. A younger Wopat can be found here:
It was clear on Sunday that these performers haven't lost a beat. Not only do they continue to be recognized for shows they did years upon years ago, they sing the music upon request with the same grace and ability that they did so long ago. As Broadway moves forward with new shows and new performers, it's wonderful to see these legends still have a flair for Broadway.