If you'd like to trade the great white snowbanks of Fort Wayne for the Great White Way of Broadway, then venture out to the Embassy Theatre at 8 p.m. Saturday for “Behind the Mask,” the Fort Wayne Philharmonic's third installment in its Sweetwater Pops Series.
The show will feature some of the best music from Broadway shows of the past 40 years, as well as some of the finest music from the pen of Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Music from renowned shows such as “A Chorus Line,” “Chicago,” “Wicked” and “Jersey Boys” will be presented in the first half of the show. The second half will feature music composed by Lloyd Webber from Broadway classics such as “Phantom of the Opera,” “Cats,” “Evita” and “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
Two seasoned Broadway vocalists will perform — Sal Viviano and Indiana University graduate Elizabeth Stanley.
Stanley, who has built an impressive resume on Broadway with roles in the Tony Award-winning 2006 revival of “Company” and in “Million Dollar Quartet,” said she hopes audiences will respond to the music featured in “Behind the Mask” — especially the music of Lloyd Webber, which has more of a pop feel to it.
Audio interview with "Behind the Mask" singer Elizabeth Stanley:
“I think his stuff (Lloyd Webber) is really that thin line between theatrical and pop music, and so it's easily accessible to lots of people,” Stanley said in a telephone interview.
“Sometimes I think with opera, it's so far from what we listen to in the contemporary world,” she said. “It's a very specific group of people who enjoy it. And it's the same with musical theater. Sometimes it's so theatrical that people are like 'Ah, this is not my jazz.'”
“It's (Lloyd Webber's music) in the same vein as Kander and Ebb, and Stephen Schwartz and some of the other people who will be featured in the concert,” Stanley continued. “Their stuff is certainly influenced by contemporary pop music, so I think it appeals to a larger audience that way.”
“I'm excited to do 'All That Jazz.' I love that tune,” Stanley added about some of her favorites songs from the show. “And I also really love 'Unexpected Song.' I just always thought that was such a beautiful melody.”
Stanley, who recently made her cabaret debut in New York, said she enjoys working in all types of musical settings. But, for her, there's nothing like being part of an ensemble cast in a play and finding out how the characters think and how their relationships work with the other characters.
While Stanley has had the opportunity to work in several Broadway productions as well as television, she still has a fondness for her Broadway debut, which she says is one of the highlights of her career.
“It was a dream come true,” Stanley said of her role in the 2006 revival of “Company.”
“I felt so, so, so happy and lucky that it happened,” she said. “It was something that I had dreamt of for a really long time. I feel really lucky that my debut really was a dream experience.”
“I was in an original company of something that ended up being very popular and won the Tony,” she said. “It was sort of every dream that you could have happen in that experience. Definitely hard to top.”
“'Company' is probably my favorite, I think, because it's sort of like your first love,” she added. “It lives in a very special place, and the first of anything is hard to top.”
“One of my (other) favorite things that I've done, which is sort of recent, is I portrayed Gussie Carnegie in the Encores! production of 'Merrily We Roll Along,'” Stanley said.
“And that was a role that was really challenging and really fulfilling and fun,” she added. “A production that was filled with a lot of actors I've really admired for a long time, so it was really special to get to work with them.”
“We had a huge orchestra, which was a dream,” Stanley recalled. “I remember being in the room with James Lapine, Stephen Sondheim and Jonathan Tunick and the orchestra, and then just like singing along to my solos with them and I thought, 'Wow, I don't know that this will be any better.'”
Stanley said she hopes audiences are uplifted by the music in “Behind the Mask” and that they can discover something new among all the classics and simply enjoy a great night of music.
“I think they can expect to hear a lot of tunes that they'll be familiar with,” Stanley said. “And a few of them will probably be new to them, too, so I guess you won't be bored. ... It's a great night of music.”