On March 28, the Biltmore Ballroom of the Graduate Providence Hotel will be the most swankified place in town for any Broadway geek to hear the people sing, as the Providence Singers will give their regards to Broadway in Broadway at the Biltmore, a gala of musical theater favorites of the 20th century, from George and Ira Gershwin to Andrew Lloyd Webber.
In creating the setlist for this showtune-packed evening, not just anything goes. Artistic director Christine Noel began with a song from a musical revue that served as her first experience with musical theater as a teenager, “Ol’ Man River,” the classic, soulful bass solo from Jerome Kern’s 1927 musical Showboat.
“[Ol’Man River] was a piece that really moved me as a teenager and it really stayed with me over the last 30 years. It’s one of my very favorite pieces of music in this genre,” Noel says. “The Providence Singers do not typically program musical theater repertoire — we perform classical works — so this was a unique opportunity for us, and when I began to think about what kind of music we would perform, that piece from 30 years ago was the first one on my list.”
With such an iconic song headlining the music of the night, the challenge then became finding a singer who could do it justice. Luckily, internationally renowned bass soloist Kevin Deas came on board. Deas has a history with the Singers, having appeared with them at the Newport Jazz Festival in 2004 and at the Lincoln Center in 2005. His resume also includes portraying the title role in Porgy and Bess with orchestras all over the country. In addition to “Ol’ Man River,” Deas will perform solos from Ragtime and Les Miserables.
“When Kevin Deas confirmed his availability, I knew that this would be a very very special performance,” says Noel.
The rest of the setlist includes some of the most beloved musical theater hits from the early years of Broadway (including selections from the likes of Anything Goes and a few Gershwin musicals), the Golden Age (including selections from Guys and Dolls and the works of Rodgers and Hammerstein) and comparatively recent mega musical hits (Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables).
Additional soloists from the Providence Singers include tenors Justin Kisch, Brad Kleyla and Ted Doran; sopranos Cat Monfette and Olivia Black; baritone Josh Krugman; bass Mike Zarzycki; and mezzo-soprano Alyssa LaMothe.
The gala will serve as the Providence Singers’ major fundraising event of the season. In addition to the concert, there will be a tapas buffet reception and a silent auction. Proceeds will go to support the Singers’ artistic and educational endeavors. Other ways to support their efforts include purchasing program advertisements, donating items or experiences for the silent auction, or becoming a gala sponsor.
The Providence Singers have been singing since 1971. Its nearly 100 members perform both traditional and new choral pieces throughout the season, often accompanied by the RI Philharmonic Orchestra. After this event, they will close out the season in May with a performance of Verdi Requiem, for which Kevin Deas will join them once again.
For tickets, visit providencesingers.com. General admission includes concert seats, the silent auction and tapas buffet reception. Patron admission includes preferred seating and a pre-concert reception with the artistic director and soloists.