Monday, 25 February 2019 15:33

Broad Strokes: West Michigan Symphony gets theatrical

Written by  Marla Miller
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This month, two accomplished Broadway performers are joining West Michigan Symphony for a night of Classic Broadway, featuring notable songs by some of Conductor Scott Speck’s favorite American composers. 

Vroman, of Phantom of the Opera acclaim, have joined forces to sing classic Broadway songs with symphony orchestras across the country, including Detroit, Rochester, Vancouver and now West Michigan Symphony. 

“If you went to New York to take in a Broadway play, you couldn’t hear singers more engaging or more seasoned than the ones we are bringing right here to West Michigan,” Speck told Revue. “And our orchestra is much bigger and lusher than anything you’ll find on Broadway right now. It’s a taste of classic Broadway in our own backyard.”

The program includes favorites from Broadway’s Golden Age and beyond. Concertgoers can sit back, relax and enjoy a mix of melodies and lyrics by Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Irving Berlin, Andrew Lloyd Webber and more.     

“We haven’t done a strictly Broadway program for a long time,” Speck said. “This is one of the best kinds of pops concerts an orchestra can do because the music we play is wonderfully orchestrated, and has terrific challenges for our musicians.”

Speck said he has worked with LaBrecque many times and admired Vroman from afar for nearly two decades. LaBrecque, a native of Michigan and a graduate of University of Michigan, said he is thrilled to get back to Michigan and perform. 

“I admire his (Speck) expert musicianship and the rapport he has with the audience,” LaBrecque said. “Your audiences will love these blockbuster Broadway songs performed with your wonderful symphony.”

Although LaBrecque and Vroman both have a long history with Phantom of the Opera, they never appeared together in the show. The duo has an extensive list of songs they typically perform, and Speck made selections based on what he thought audiences and the orchestra would most enjoy. He added the Bernstein Times Square from On the Town, which he calls “fantastic” and a “very appropriate opener for a concert about Broadway.”

Selections include Porter’s Wunderbar from Kiss Me Kate and You’ve Got That Thing from Midnight in Paris. The Lerner and Loewe songbook is represented with songs from My Fair Lady and Meet Me in St. Louis. And as a tribute to the Wolverine state, LaBrecque will sing Berlin’s I Want to Go Back to Michigan

The lineup also includes a Rodgers & Hammerstein medley, songs by Meredith Willson and selections from Phantom of the Opera. The format gives LaBrecque and Vroman alternate time in the spotlight, plus they team up for duos.

Vroman has numerous musical theater and Broadway credits and regularly performs with symphonies. She starred as Christine in Phantom of the Opera, and as Rosabella in The Most Happy Fella

Meanwhile, billed as one of the most prolific concert performers of his generation, LaBrecque is a frequent guest soloist with symphony orchestras in America and abroad. He has also starred as The Phantom and performed on Broadway as Ravenal in Showboat, and was featured in Oscar Hammerstein’s 100th Birthday Celebration at The Gershwin Theatre.

Most of the Broadway hits they sing were written for classic Broadway shows with far fewer musicians in a pit, according to Vroman, so it’s even more powerful to hear the music with a full orchestra.

“I never tire of singing these glorious songs live,” Vroman said.


Classic Broadway
West Michigan Symphony
Frauenthal Center, 425 W. Western Ave., Muskegon 
March 15, 7:30 p.m. 
Tickets $28-$64, 
students $10

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