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by Melissa Giordano
It was another eventful night at Northport's stunning John W. Engeman Theatre as they hosted their ongoing Broadway Concert Series. Per tradition, during their dark week between shows, Producer and Host Stephen DeAngelis rounds up Broadway's best for an evening of songs and stories about their lives and careers. The incredible line up this time included Chester Gregory, Tari Kelly, Caissie Levy, Jessica Phillips, Rashidra Scott, and a special appearance by Tad Wilson.
One of the themes of the evening was that everyone's first performance was their most recent Broadway appearance. So, for his first performance, the handsome Chester Gregory sang "I Could Be That Guy" from Sister Act. For his second number, the Indiana native decided to perform "Higher and Higher" which was received very enthusiastically among the sold out audience. For his third number, he asked Rashidra Scott to the stage and did the duet "Ain't No Party" from Dreamgirls. It was a great performance considering they were both in Dreamgirls, but not at the same time, so they hadn't performed this piece together until this event. For his final performance, he selected the beautiful Jackie Wilson standard "To Be Loved".
It was plain to see Tari Kelly was having a great time as she was joking around during her performances. For her first selection, she chose the title song from Anything Goes and did the famous tap routine. For her next number, she chose Judy Garland's "The Man That Got Away" from the film A Star Is Born which was absolutely beautiful. For her third number, she chose "He Loved Me 'Til the All-Clear Came" from the 1943 film Riding High which was a crowd favorite. She then decided to give a rousing rendition of the famous "Don't Rain On My Parade" from Funny Girl.
Having seen Caissie Levy in the 2009 Broadway revival of Hair, I knew she wouldn't disappoint. For her first number, she chose one of the most emotional songs of the evening called "With You" from her appearance in Ghost, The Musical. Then she selected "Easy To Be Hard" from the aforementioned production of Hair. She then selected a number from the hottest ticket in town; "Not That Girl" from Wicked which was very well received particularly by the younger audience members. For her final performance, closing the show, she chose another song from Ghost, The Musical called "Nothing Stops Another Day".
Jessica Phillips was also, of course, sensational with her performances. Her first number was "Long Past Dreaming" from her most recent appearance in Leap Of Faith for which she brought out cast-mate Tad Wilson who accompanied on guitar. Her next performance was the heartbreakingly beautiful "I Miss The Mountains" from her time in Next To Normal. Jessica next performed a beautiful rendition of "Bless The Broken Road" bringing Tad Wilson back to the stage. And for her final performance, she performed "Somebody Stand By Me"
Next up was Rashidra Scott who looked stunning is her silver sequenced dress. Besides the earlier duet with Chester Gregory, she also performed "Fabulous Baby" from her recent appearance in Sister Act. Then she also selected the standard "God Give Me Strength" that has been done by such notables as Burt Bacharach and Elvis Costello. And for her final performance, she gave a wonderful rendition of "Hero" by Mariah Carey.
Indeed, this was a special night as it also marked the return of Musical Director/Accompanist Eugene Gwozdz. He was tending to other projects and had to miss a couple of these concert events. Tradition for these shows also dictate that Stephen choose an overture for Eugene to perform to officially kick off the show. The catch being Eugene doesn't know what Stephen chooses. This time it was the very funky Dancin' overture.
The diversity and complete randomness of the Engeman's ongoing concert series is the best aspect of the show. You never know who will appear or what they'll sing. Even the attendee's differ, so there is certainly something for everyone to enjoy.