Ethel Merman once said, “Broadway has been very good to me. But then, I’ve been very good to Broadway.”
In many ways, the legacy and success of Broadway can be attributed to its female trailblazers: the talented risk-takers including Ethel Merman, Mae West, Josephine Baker and Fanny Brice; the unique and unexpected show stoppers like Ethel Waters, Gwen Verdon, Pearl Bailey, Carol Burnett, Elaine Stritch, Barbra Streisand, Patti LuPone, Kristin Chenoweth and Sutton Foster; and the definitive, masterful and influential stars including Julie Andrews, Mary Martin, Angela Lansbury, Audra McDonald and Bernadette Peters.
With 2018 declared as the “Year of the Woman,” the timing couldn’t be better for a musical production entitled “The Ladies of Broadway.”
This month, Transcendence Theatre Company, the producers of the critically acclaimed, award winning “Broadway Under the Stars,” presents the new, inspiring musical revue which applauds empowering female characters; the next generation of Broadway’s leading female performers; and female Broadway stars and legends who paved the way.
Performances will be presented at the Marin Center in San Rafael on March 17 and March 18 and at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa on March 24 and March 25. Ticket details below.
Seven female professionals scheduled to appear in the show: Meggie Cansler (Finian’s Rainbow, The Apple Tree, Wicked); Lindsay Chambers (Legally Blonde, Hairspray, Lysistrata Jones); Jennifer DiNoia (Wicked, National Tour of Mamma Mia); Amy Hillner Larsen (National Tour of Hairspray, National Tour of Priscilla Queen of the Desert); Sydney Morton (Motown the Musical, Memphis, Evita, American Psycho); Kristin Piro (Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, An American In Paris, Rocky, Catch Me If You Can); and Laurie Wells (Mamma Mia, National Tour of An American In Paris).
Eric Jackson, who has co-created and directed four concerts with Transcendence Theatre Company, directs “The Ladies of Broadway,” which will feature music, dancing and special moments with cast members performing songs they performed on Broadway and on tour.
Traditionally, the company has presented Broadway caliber performances in original concert productions. “We are not reinventing the wheel but we are taking this particular show a step further by incorporating stories and depth to be shared alongside the stellar singing and dancing audiences are accustomed to seeing,” said Jackson, whose Broadway experience includes performing as an original cast member in the Broadway production of Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein” and “Thoroughly Modern Millie.”
“Our seven ladies will have the opportunity to honor specific Broadway legends that have come before as well as share how these legends have been an inspiration to them,” Jackson continued. “Additionally, the show will give us a sneak peek behind what it’s like to pursue performing as a career with our ladies sharing true, funny, moving and inspirational stories that they themselves have experienced in their own journeys to make it to Broadway.”
Audiences will be inspired and leave feeling like that have gotten to know each of the seven performers in a more intimate way, he said.
Sonoma resident Meggie Cansler is one of the show’s featured performers. “I made my Broadway debut with Kristin Chenoweth in ‘The Apple Tree’ and then followed in her footsteps in the role of Glinda in ‘Wicked.’”
“The Ladies of Broadway” also features Broadway actress and singer Jennifer DiNoia of Brooklyn. DiNoia is best known for playing the leading role of Elphaba in “Wicked” for several companies — more than any other actress in the show’s history. In addition to appearing in Broadway and London’s Apollo Victoria productions, “Wicked” has taken DiNoia to Chicago and other American cities and international locations including Australia and South Korea.
“I am absolutely honored to be considered a ‘Lady of Broadway.’ The women in the theater community are so incredible and it makes me feel like a stronger person to be a part of it. I love being onstage and portraying strong females to inspire others to do the same,” said DiNoia.
Director Eric Jackson says that Broadway’s female characters and their musical expressions, passions and spirit offer something special and very significant for audiences.
“I’ve found that women’s material in musical theater has a greater range in expression of emotions and feelings, their characters and their songs are usually more in the moment about realizations and discovery,” said Jackson. The pairing of deep emotional lyrics in a female musical range can be a very powerful thing.”
“Being a ‘Lady of Broadway’ means I get to do what I love every day and tell beautiful stories that connect us all.”
— Laurie Wells, “Mamma Mia” National Tour, “An American In Paris”
“I was on the road with ‘Kinky Boots’ a couple years ago. Taking that show, with it’s message of acceptance and love, across the United States was a real eye-opener and an honor. People need stories with this message so badly and the show was so well-received. It was amazing to see the joy and hope it brought people who felt like outsiders.”
— Lindsay Chambers, “Legally Blonde,” “Hairspray,” “Lysistrata Jones”
“I feel like I learn something every single day that makes me a better performer. It’s not about being humble, but being open and trying things that are new. Being able to say yes and try new things. Being stupid and silly and pushing boundaries.”
— Kristin Piro, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “An American in Paris,” “Rocky” and “Catch Me if You Can”
“I’ve met many young people while playing Elphaba in ‘Wicked’ all over the world and it’s truly incredible how much her character has affected their self esteem and strength.”
— Jennifer DiNoia, “Wicked” and National Tour of “Mamma Mia”
“Sutton Foster, Christiane Noll, Bernadette Peters and Kristin Chenoweth – these women taught me how to sing and be unique in my skin.”
— Meggie Cansler, “Finian’s Rainbow,” “The Apple Tree, “Wicked”
“I’ve had the privilege of touring the country with national tours and seeing how Broadway inspires kids from all over and all walks of life. Performing a Broadway musical in a small town can bring the arts to a young person who otherwise wasn’t exposed to it.”
— Amy Hillner Larsen, National Tours of “Hairspray” and “Priscilla Queen of the Desert”
“I’m inspired by Audra McDonald. She is a living legend and a black woman who has excelled in an often segregated business. She’s a black soprano who has blazed a path.”
— Sydney Morton, “Motown the Musical,” “Memphis,” “Evita,” “American Psycho”
Spotlight on the ‘Ladies’
Pictured at top: Laurie Wells as Donna in “Mamma Mia!” at the Winter Garden on Broadway. Photo by Joan Marcus.