‘Secret Broadway’ was stunning.
When a Broadway star like Shoshana Bean is in town, one does not miss the chance to get her to sing some of the biggest musical hits, and Gold Coast’s Home of the Arts (HOTA) has done exactly that with their first ‘Secret Broadway’ event for the year. Billed as a cabaret-style series, the show is “part late-night sing-a-long and part homage to musical theatre and cabaret”. Hosted by pianist Lance Horne, this first event also starred Aussie stage legend Simon Burke, and up-and-coming performers Mindy Kwanten and Jordan Malone. The production was supported by Tim Carroll, James Shaw and a 3-piece band.
The series has been inspired by the award-winning book ‘The Secret Life of the American Musical: How Broadway Shows are Built’ by Jack Viertel. This book explains the structure of great American musicals – beginning with an overture and closing with a curtain call. Each of the ‘Secret Broadway’ evenings is inspired by a chapter or two in the book – the first being “Openers” and the ‘I Want’ song.
Staged in the main theatre at HOTA, the show began with a medley of opening tunes from a wide variety of musical favourites, introducing each of the singers to the audience. It was carefully crafted and beautifully delivered, ending with a full chorus of the opening of ‘Songs For A New World’. The audience was then treated to a few favourite opening numbers, including ‘The Sound of Music’ by Jordan Malone and ‘Oh What A Beautiful Morning’ from ‘Oklahoma!’ by Simon Burke, before moving to the ever-popular “I Want” songs.
The show was both well planned and very causal, allowing performers to chat freely with the host, Lance Horne, as he led from the piano. Horne was supported very ably by musicians on drums, guitar and bass (both electric and upright) with Horne only stepping away from the grand piano momentarily to accompany Mindy Kwanten’s performance of ‘No One Is Alone’ from ‘Into The Woods’ with the piano-accordion.
The technical elements found the right balance of doing the job and not being intrusive – the lighting was subtle but changed to suit the mood and the sound balance was excellent across the board.
Each of the performers demonstrated their immeasurable skill across a wide variety of styles and genres, flowing from one piece to the next cleanly. Act One ended with a group performance of the opening of ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ called ‘Skid Row (Downtown)’. Mindy Kwanten’s soulful rendition of the opening was fabulous, but a technical error meant the microphone was not on for James Shaw’s bass line entrance. Lance Horne stopped the piece and made them start again, to the delight of the audience. Simon Burke took the role of Seymour, not one that he has played before. Unfortunately, the lyrics sheet on the floor didn’t help with musical cues and it almost fell apart, but the team made it through and the audience lapped it up. The good humour of the performers and the relaxed, cabaret-style nature of the show allowed everyone to chuckle about the error at the start of the next act.
Shoshana Bean was the crowd favourite and she did not disappoint. ‘Somewhere That’s Green’ from ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ and ‘Part of Your World’ from ‘The Little Mermaid’, which it was pointed out are essentially the same, were two of her standout songs. The highlight however, was the show-stopping finale of her rendition of ‘The Wizard And I’ from ‘Wicked’. Having performed the role of Elphaba at the Gershwin Theatre in New York City, Bean was warm and charming with her seemingly effortless vocals.
‘Secret Broadway’ was a highly entertaining evening of musical theatre favourites. These one-off shows are going to become more popular as the year rolls on, so don’t wait too long to secure tickets to the next event.
‘Secret Broadway’ starring Shoshana Bean performed for one-night only. For tickets to any upcoming shows or events at the Home of The Arts (Gold Coast), visit HOTA’s website.