Imagine gathering several of the strongest tenor voices you've seen on the New York stage in some of Broadway's hottest shows ---“Wicked,” “Mama Mia!” “The Book of Mormon”—and offering them the spotlight and a microphone of their own. No longer exuberantly belting out harmonies and dancing their hearts out in in the musical's ensemble but instead placing them front and center stage. Give the young artists some snappy musical arrangements infusing pop, funk, gospel and jazz with standard musical theater and pop fare and see what happens.
Let me introduce you to The Broadway Boys or, as their fans simply call them, the 'Boys.'
In support of the Northeast Children's Theatre Company (NCTC) and Westport's Staples Players, The Broadway Boys will perform a benefit concert in the auditorium on Sunday, Feb. 12 at 4 pm.
Justin Paul, The Broadway Boys' music and band director, and keyboard player, is a 2003 Staples' graduate. His brother, Tyler, a member of the Class of 2007, is the co-founder, with Morgan Weitz, of NCTC.
Two members of The Broadway Boys' band—Drew McKeon, drummer; and Dan Asher, bassist—are also Staples grads. Guitarist Jeremy Goldsmith graduated from .
Even though they've recently veered away from performing—Justin is the composer of several original musicals and Tyler has found success as producer, manager and now director of a non-profit theater organization--the two brothers are remembered by local audiences for their time spent in front of the footlights. Kerry Long, co-director with husband David Roth, of The Staples Players,said she especially loved watching Justin's portrayal of Franklin Shepard in Merrily We Roll Along.
Long stated, “When Justin wasn't onstage, he was in the pit orchestra. He was always conflicted as to whether he wanted to perform in the shows or play piano in the pit.”
During Justin's senior year of high school, he directed the pit orchestra for “Hello, Dolly!”
Tyler was also “very, very involved with Staples Players,” Kerry continued. Some of the many leading roles Tyler took on during his tenure at Staples were John Jasper in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Officer Lockstock in Urinetown, The Lion in The Wiz, Mr. Van Daan in The Diary of Anne Frank.
Kerry fondly recalls Tyler playing Jean Valjean in Les Miserables and his “gorgeous
rendition” of the song 'Bring Him Home.'
Both Kerry and David are excited about the debut of Tyler's new theater company for young audiences. “I can't wait to see what they have up their sleeve,” said Kerry. “As a theatre-loving mother of a two-year old, any thing that is going to expose my child to theatre is great by me!”
David agreed. “Tyler seems to be driven to get this company up and running - we both admire his efforts and wish him the best of luck. Any time a former Player
pursues the arts as a career, it is exciting for us.”
Sunday's show will open with a sneak peak at NCTC's first original musical, which is based on Aesop's classic tale, “The Tortoise and the Hare.” Andrew Barbato, who wrote the show's music and lyrics with Lesley DeSantis, will perform “Racing and Running.” He will be joined onstage by two members of Staples Players, August Laska and Grace McDavid-Seidner.
Justin said The Broadway Boys are also bringing a few Westport teens onstage to join them in song. “That's what we're here for –to come together and celebrate our three distinct arts groups,” Justin said. “We want to get everyone involved.”
The Broadway Boys appeared in a sold-out show at The in December. Artistic Director Jesse Nager said the singing group evolved from a small group of friends, all making their living singing on Broadway, who regularly got together after-hours when their show ended. What began as a
way to unwind—and perhaps channel some creative energy that hadn't been tapped into onstage—the singers began to do what they do best: sing.
For their own enjoyment, they started to improvise and adding different harmonies and twists to old favorites from musical theater. This led to a formal one-night only gig in 2005 at a New York City club. The show was sold out and another date was added.
Jesse quickly realized he tapped into something special. The boys liked having a way to earn income when they were between shows, and audiences clearly loved the excitment and positive vibes emitted through their powerful singing.
Justin credits Jesse's “amazing ear” in creating the big vocal sounds that bring audiences to their feet at every performance. “We have a unique collaboration,” Justin explained. “He knows what he wants and what he wants it sound like and I try to make it happen musically.”
Though there is a corps of 20 to 30 singers on their roster, only six performers are featured in each show. Because its members are actively auditioning for professional gigs, they may land a job at any time and be unable to maintain The Broadway Boys' commitments. “It's such a shifting community on Broadway,” Justin explained. “It's always a question of who's available for shows."
Justin said there's been a few rare occasions when he's had to fill in as a singer because there was no one else available. It was fun but challenging, he admitted. “These guys are all professional Broadway singers,” Justin laughed. "I had to really work."
Justin admits he's “wearing many hats” these days. When he's not musically directing the boys, Justin is busy developing new musicals with his artistic partner, Benj Pasek. The duo have been working on an original musical based on Roald Dahl's “James and the Giant Peach.” The musical, which was presented at the Goodspeed Opera House in 2010, will be part of the Kennedy Center's New Visions, New Voices program in May.
Justin and Benj also wrote the music and lyrics for a new musical “Dogfight,” which is based on the Warner Brothers film and screenplay by Bob Comfort. Its New York premiere is slated to open at the Second Stage Theater in July. Joe Montello, director of "Wicked," plans to direct the musical. Westport native, and Staples graduate, Peter Duchon, wrote the book for the show.
For more information and to get tickets to this weekend's concert, go to www.staplesplayers.com. The performance will take place at Staples High School in Westport.
To purchase tickets to The Tortoise and the Hare at the Kweskin Theatre at in Stamford on Friday, March 2 at 7:30, Saturday, March 3 at 11 am and 2 pm, and Sunday, March 4 at 2 pm, go to www.nctcompany.org.
To learn more about The Broadway Boys, go to www.bwayboys.com.
Stay tuned for more information about all of the above at this weekly blog about the arts in Fairfield and New Haven counties. All comments and ideas for future blogs about artists, programs, exhibits, concerts, performances and creative outlets are welcome. Contact me at email@example.com.
In the meantime, sit down and enjoy the show!
Karen Kovacs Dydzuhn