Oct. 29--Reading Eagle
"Eric Schaeffer's Signature Broadway" was a special event for many reasons.
The revue, part of the KU Presents! performing-artists series, was produced and directed by Fleetwood native and Kutztown University graduate Eric Schaeffer to celebrate the renovation of KU's Schaeffer Auditorium.
There's no connection between the two Schaeffers, but there was real chemistry between the Broadway-musical actors and the nearly sold-out crowd Monday night.
The quartet of performers, friends and colleagues who have worked with Schaeffer on Broadway and at his Tony Award-winning Signature Theatre in Arlington, Va., had the audience in the palms of their hands, thanks to stunning vocals and genuine professional panache.
For those who regularly attend Broadway musicals, the actors who brought this classy entertainment to vibrant life, at times hilarious and at others remarkably moving, are familiar personalities: Jason Danieley, Rebecca Luker, Christiane Noll and Ron Raines.
With the assistance of a 22-piece orchestra and the brilliance of music director James Moore, who conducted the show, the performers proved to be at the top of their games.
Danieley's nuanced "Marry Me a Little" from "Company" opened the evening with virtuoso singing and stunning emotional honesty.
Noll's "Back to Before" ("Ragtime"), an ode to the emergence of women from the shadows, began tenderly and ended with a powerful charge of defiance.
Luker's sumptuous "Unusual Way" from "Nine" captured the essence of a woman at once in love and yet terrified of her feelings.
And Raines' "This Nearly Was Mine" from "South Pacific" showed off the richness of his voice and the heartache that fueled it.
If one were forced to choose the revue's showstopper, it would have to be Noll's uproarious interpretation of Leonard Bernstein's "Glitter and Be Gay" from "Candide."
Her operatic gymnastics blended with ingenious comic timing to create a moment that those present won't soon forget.
Schaeffer's concept for the evening was simple: a salute to the music of the Broadway stage.
But there was something more to it, something that seemed, at least to me, more personal.
Many of the songs were from shows that did not enjoy critical success but featured rare gems, such as "I Won't Send Roses" from "Mack and Mabel" or "Streets of Dublin" from the underrated "A Man of No Importance."
Some songs addressed issues such as sexism and racism, themes that art has a way of confronting that leads to social change.
Danieley's take on "Bring Him Home" from "Les Miserables" could be seen as a commentary on our military, still fighting and dying in unyielding landscapes.
As entertaining as the show was, it also provoked thought and exuded humanity.
It's uncommon to experience this level of talent on any local stage, be it Schaeffer Auditorium or any other.
It will be a long time until aficionados of theater music are likely to see and hear anything quite as impressive and transporting again.
Contact Entertainment Editor George Hatza: 610-371-5075 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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