Sunday, January 27, 2013

Saginaw Choral Society's Broadway Showcase tickles the funnybone

review and photos by janet i. martineau

Feathers flew on Saturday during the Saginaw Choral Society’s annual Members’ Showcase....and artistic director/conductor Glen Thomas Rideout made good use of it!

When last year the choral society announced it was no longer going to do this program after nearly a decade, many of us were heartbroken. Thankfully cooler heads prevailed and it returned this year with a program titled “The Bright Lights of Broadway.”

Suellen Estes in "To Keep My Love Alive"
Perfect theme .. who does not love Broadway show tunes. And into that mix of the usual heart-tuggers like “On My Own” from “Les Miserables,” “Hello Young Lovers” from “The King and I” and “Make Them Hear You” from “Ragtime” -- all of them beautifully performed by, in order, Kathleen Scott. Mary Walk and Ah Templo! -- the members got silly with their selections.

Wonderfully silly.

Not all Broadway show tunes are serious.....they spew venom, arrogance and jealousy too, as well as an ode sung by a woman to her many, many husbands. So it was that laughter filled the sanctuary of First United Methodist Church on Saturday (and hopefully Sunday with the second performance).

Alto Suellen Estes was a woman dressed in red (boa included) and rings galore, oozing of high class wealth and with hilarious vocal and facial inflections, to sing of an odd collection of husbands who met their early.demise in “To Keep My Love Alive” from”A Connecticut Yankee.”

A few of her boa’s feathers fell to the floor in the process -- which was early on in the program. 

Tenor Jim Smerdon, dressed to the hilt as the arrogant “Very Model of a Modern Major-General” from “The Pirates of Penzance.” entered from the back of the sanctuary, harassed partons along the way and then barked at the chorus. He always showcases such wonderful acting skills.

Sopranos Kathy Bocade and Cole uglied up as much as they could to sing “Stepsisters’ Lament” from “Cinderella,” with lots of jealous inflections, as the beautiful prince and Cinderella danced before them.

And alto Betty Mayor and baritone Matt Zielke got in each others face in “What Is This Feeling” from “Wicked.” Starts out sounding like they love each other then gets more and more full of bitter dislike.

Robert Hart, who always delivers a flute solo at these affairs, served up a surprise with incidental music from “Death of a Salesman.” Who knew? And he served it up with dialogue from the drama.

Betty Mayer, Matt Zielke in  "What Is This Feeling"
Later he and his daughter, Catherine Hart, teamed up on the title tune from “Beauty and the Beast.” This also has become a hallmark of these annual showcases -- children joining their parents.

Another highlight was soprano Nancy Stevenson dressing up like Carol Burnett’s charwoman to sing “Broadway Baby” from “‘Follies.” Gosh she has a beautiful voice.

We cannot list the entire performance crew -- there were 21 numbers in all. And sorry, more serious singers, that  you are being slighted. Suffice it to say it was a totally satisfying program.

Besides, we have to leave room for the dessert reception/kitchen crew -- from which we caught hell Saturday since apparently last year we did not mention them. 

Part of the Members’ Showcase tradition is a HUGE dessert buffet for patrons. Enough good stuff prepared or brought by choral society and church members that you could feed all of China. Bravo to marshaling it crew.

Oh, and that opening graph reference to Glen Thomas and the fact Estes lost some of her boa feathers. Well, at some point he must have picked up one of them somehow -- or plucked one from her -- because he used it in his closing comments to issue an invitation to the next choral society concert in its season of a “Colors” theme.

(More photos from the concert are on the Arts Saginaw Facebook page.)

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