This ain’t your daddy’s Broadway
They’re not expecting any Janet Jackson moments.
“But it is live theater so nobody knows what to expect,” said Beth Swearingen. “Anything could happen.”
Swearingen is co-director of the Vail Valley Theatre Company’s production of “An Evening on Broadway.” The curtain goes up at the Vilar Center Sunday at 7:30 p.m.
The show is performed revue-style, and is in its third year. Though it’s always been a veritable non-stop parade of hits, this year sees a marked difference to the proceedings: a live band, a new type of repertoire and a slew of young blood.
Bob Finnie is known for his sassy-yet-accomodating piano-side manner – he’s the man at the baby grand in Splendido’s bar area. Finnie is musical director for the performance, and brings a whole band with him.
“The energy is entirely different,” said Swearingen.
“Broadway is a live music idiom,” said Finnie. “That’s the nature of Broadway, so that’s why we’re doing it with a live band. Every show has a live orchestra or a rhythm section. Plus, there’s just a lot of fun, dancing stuff – “Footloose,’ “Aquarius,’ “Jailhouse Rock.’ We’ll have a really good band there.”
Four years ago, Dana Del Bosco asked Finnie to produce a Broadway-themed Street Beat concert. (Street Beat is a free concert series in the middle of Vail Village on Wednesdays, and begins again Feb. 18 with Tim O’Brien.) Finnie came up with “Not Your Father’s Broadway,” which is the basis for Sunday’s performance.
“It’s the antithesis of “My Fair Lady,’ said Finnie. “It’s the rock ‘n’ roll side of Broadway. “Jesus Christ Superstar’ instead of Andrew Lloyd Webber. But it’s not just rock, either. One whole section is jazz standards that started out as Broadway songs. The whole thing is energetic, up songs. There are 43 songs, and it just goes bang, bang, bang.”
“Basically, there are a lot of standard Broadway repertoires that people come to expect when they come to a show like this,” said Swearingen. “But there’s such a wonderful eclectic style of music that people don’t realize came from the Broadway stage. There’s going to be more of an edge to it.”
With the addition of the live band, the company is able to have more flexibility in their repertoire. Not only can they perform rare songs that don’t have any accompaniment recordings, they’re also able to create medleys.”
“I think it adds a whole new dimension to the show,” said Dave Priboth of the Vail Valley Theatre Company. “It’s going to be different but exciting and fun.”
“An Evening on Broadway” was Priboth’s idea years ago, and he’s still intimately involved. He performs in it, in addition to being on the production crew. His favorite number is one he does with Ann Olin, “Gus the Theater Cat.”
“It’s just a fun number,” he said. “It lets me be a real old man. Another fun one is “Man of La Mancha.’ We really get to sing that one.”
The Vail Performance Art Academy is part of the performance, too. Made up of high school students, they’re a big part of the show. And just because they’re young doesn’t mean they don’t know their stuff.
“There will be a lot more movement and dance incorporated into this year’s show,” said Swearingen.
“There’s one kid named Jonathan who jumps like Peter Pan, and he’s a really good dancer,” enthused Finnie. “One of the best angles is the kids. They’re featured a lot. They’re the future of community theater.”
The Vail Valley Theatre Company is 20-years strong, and has gone by a few names over the years. They’ve produced everything from “Heaven Can Wait” to “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” Though it’s community theater – primarily non-professionals – the caliber of performance they manage is always noteworthy.
“These are not theater people doing the show,” said Finnie. “These are people with day jobs. Some of the production staff are professionals, but otherwise it’s amateurs with day jobs. We’re trying to show you that you can do it, too.”
“An Evening on Broadway” is produced as a fund-raiser for the Buckman/Blount Community Performance Fund, which helps offset the Vilar’s costs when community groups use the theater, and the Eagle Valley Land Trust, dedicated to preservation and enhancement of open space in Eagle County and adjacent areas in Colorado.
“We’re trying to give an evening of performance where the audience is going come in and have a ball,” said Swearingen. “And we’re also trying to highlight the level of talent in the valley. And we’re trying to put the Vail Valley Theatre Company on the map and certainly let people know when they’re coming for a performance, to expect the best.”