Symphony brings best of Broadway to Nashville

From October 15–17, you don’t have to fly to New York City to see the greats performing your favorite shows: you can get it all in just one night right here in Nashville. Guest conductor Todd Ellison will oversee a performance featuring both the Nashville Symphony and guest vocalists Debbie Gravitte, Susan Egan, and Christopher Sieber. Musical lovers are sure to be riveted by the spectacle, a night of smash-hit tunes from Chicago, Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, Gypsy, A Chorus Line and many more.

Ellison, whose credits include Annie, 42nd Street and Monty Python’s Spamalot explained that the eclectic choice of music was driven, of course, by public interest. But it was also a collaboration with the talent he’s working with, he said: “We chose music and songs that mean something to us. The singers relate better to material that speaks to them.”

So audiences will not only be hearing their favorite songs, they’ll be hearing them from some of the people closest to them. “Susan Egan, who was the original Belle in Beauty and the Beast will be singing a Disney Princess Song Medley, as well as songs from other Broadway shows she's done, like Cabaret and Thoroughly Modern Millie,” he explained.

“Debbie Gravitte won a Tony Award for her performance in Jerome Robbins Broadway, and she will sing her signature song, ‘Mr. Monotony’, by Irving Berlin,” he added. And in what should be an absolute treat, Gravitte will also be singing ‘Defying Gravity.’ This is especially important because, “She was the very first person to sing ‘Defying Gravity.’ Stephen Schwartz taught it to her for a backer’s audition, and she will knock it out of the Schermerhorn Symphony Center!’

Ellison has worked extensively with Chris Sieber, who is currently in the Broadway show *Matilda*. Sieber, Ellison said, “will sing from all the Broadway shows he's done: Chicago, La Cage Aux Folles, in which I conducted with him, and Spamalot, which also we did on Broadway and London together.”

The orchestra will be featured playing the great overture from Gypsy and a medley from The Phantom of the Opera, as well as a medley from A Chorus Line by Marvin Hamlisch. Hamlisch was both important in Ellison’s career and his connection to Nashville.

“I worked with Marvin on several projects, including his last musical, The Nutty Professor, when it played here in Nashville,” Ellison explained. Hamlisch died during the show’s Nashville run, before it could go to Broadway. “We had a great time here. He was extremely instrumental in arranging for me to conduct orchestras, like the great Nashville Symphony, in the way that he did. I wouldn't be here in Nashville if it weren't for him; so this is my tribute to him.”

Of the selection as a whole, Ellison said, “In that we chose music that speaks to us as musicians and performers, we also want the music to bring the audience some fond memories, or some new appreciation to songs they've heard before. People may roll their eyes at the idea of a Phantom of the Opera medley, but listening to it, you can't not appreciate how beautiful these melodies truly are!”

For Ellison, conducting one of the nation’s most acclaimed symphonies in a show featuring Broadway is a perfect fit, and the realization of a childhood dream. “I took piano lessons from age six and studied classical music in college (Bachelors of Music, Piano Performance, Boston University), but I always knew what I was going to do, and that was to conduct Broadway shows. I discovered musicals as a kid seeing my first one at age seven—Peter Pan, starring Nancy Dussualt, at the famed Goodspeed Opera House near where I grew up in Connecticut—and I was, pardon the pun, HOOKED! I spent all my allowances on tickets (which were $15, top price back then) and took the train down to New York during my high school years to see as many shows as possible. I just always knew that was what I was going to end up doing. I'd watch the conductors as much as I would watch the show.”

Now, Ellison gets to live his dream daily. “Currently I'm the Music Supervisor/Conductor of Broadways "An American in Paris" which is all Gershwin music. I get to conduct this glorious Gershwin music every night!” But still there’s something special about a show like this. He added, “Symphony orchestras are filled with incredible, versatile talent, especially in Nashville. These people can play anything! How great is it that they get to show audiences that versatility by playing evenings like this, well beyond the usual classical music fare? And who knows, maybe that will peak a few concert goers’ interest to even becoming regulars at the symphony.”

So while the show is full of favorites, are any standout favorites of the conductor’s? “The Chorus Line medley is truly one of my favorites, but no there’s no way to include all of my favorite pieces of music into one concert. Besides, I have to save some for NEXT time if I'm invited back!”

“The Best of Broadway” will appear at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 15, and at 8:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, October 16–17, 2015. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.nashvillesymphony.org.

 

 

 

 

Photo courtesy of Joe Eats World

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