New Zealand has been flush with Broadway stars teaching the next generation how to be more than just a triple threat (multi- talented singer, dancer and actor).
American Broadway star Andréa Burns has been in Christchurch for the International Musical Theatre Summer School run by Kiwi composer Luke Di Somma.
She’s spent a fair amount of time in the industry, first touring with West Side Story as an 18 year old. Her credits include Beauty and the Beast, The Full Monty and Tony Award winning In The Heights.
She’s also performed in Opera Houses around Europe, and at Carnegie Hall.
She spoke to Upbeat’s Zoë George about six Broadway tunes that shouldn’t be missed.
1. A Little Priest from Sweeney Todd
When Andréa returns to the States she’ll be playing the role of the Beggar Woman in a major production of this famous Stephen Sondheim work (which was also performed by New Zealand Opera in 2016).
This tune, which comes at the end of Act 1, describes what Sweeney Todd and Mrs Lovett plan to do with all the dead bodies – turn them into pies. Andrèa says it’s great to see and hear something so terrifying enacted with humour.
“The discoveries and word play that are happening throughout this piece are just some of the best of musical theatre,” she says.
2. Mama Will Provide from Once On This Island
Once on This Island, written by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (multi award winning composer of Ragtime, Sussical and Disney’s Anastasia), is the adult retelling of The Little Mermaid based in the Caribbean.
The musical first debuted in 1990, and had a revival on Broadway in 2017. It’s based on the original fable that doesn’t have a “Disney ending”.
In this tune, Mother Earth shows up and provides everything the lead character needs.
“The music is outstanding. It’s so uplifting and sung by some of the greatest voices to have graced Broadway and some of the greatest vocal arrangements,” she says. “I really wanted to share that with Kiwi audiences.
3. The Story Goes On from Baby
Andréa thinks pregnant Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has to listen to this for some inspiration.
Baby tells the story of three couples who are having a baby. Each couple is at a different life stage – one college age, another in their 30s who are having fertility troubles, and empty nesters who are busy planning travel and fun times.
The musical, written by Richard Maltby and David Shire, debuted on Broadway in 1983.
Andréa listened to this a lot as a budding musical theatre student. She says young people were attracted to this show because it was very contemporary for the time.
“The score is a knockout,” she says. “At the time Baby sounded so fresh … it was cutting edge and we were all very taken with this score.”
This song is sung by the college age women who is unsure about pregnancy, but when she feels the baby kick for the first time she is profoundly aware and humbled by what this means.
4. We Do Not Belong Together from Sunday In The Park With George
This was the musical that first introduced Bernadette Peters to Andréa Burns.
Written by Sondheim, the musical is based on the painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by French post-impressionist painter Georges Seurats.
It first debuted on Broadways in 1984 and last year had a revival, starring Jake Gyllenhaal.
This duet, it features George and his muse as they break up.
Andréa says this song was revolutionary for its time, as musical going audiences were used to more upbeat songs about love.
“Sondheim does this better than anyone else. It’s so real,” she says. “This is a very painful break up happening between two people who just adore each other but can’t come to terms with how they want their relationship to be.”
5. Say it Somehow from The Light in the Piazza
It can be difficult communicating in different languages, and within this tune the two try to share their love for each other in ways they can understand.
The musical is written by “Broadway royalty” Andréa says. Adam Guettel is the grandson of Richard Rodgers (Rodgers and Hammerstein – creators of The Sound of Music, South Pacific and The King and I). It debuted on Broadway in 2005.
“This is so spectacular,” Andréa says. “It’s a song of declaring their love for each other and love making itself through sound. They bond harmonically.
“They know the chemistry is real and they are… drawn to each other and they don’t have the words to say what they want to say so the other will understand.”
6. Overture and All That Jazz from Chicago
This piece is all about showmanship (or should that be show-womanship) for Andréa.
Set in prohibition-era Chicago the musical is derived by a book based on criminals and crimes of the time.
Andréa describes this piece as “simplicity done exquisitely”, created by the “original great showmen” John Kander and Fred Ebb, and performed by original Velma Kelly Chita Rivera/
“Sometimes we underestimate the power of a simple, hot tune,” she says.
“What I love about this is the overture which is so smoky and roaring 20’s and then it really builds up tension wise… [it’s] as good as it gets my friends!”
Andréa Burns will perform in concert along side Jonathan Groff (Frozen, Mind Hunter, Hamilton) and Julia Murney (Wicked, The Wild Party) on Friday February 2nd at Charles Luney Auditorium in Christchurch.