Broadway comes to Luther

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Photo Courtesy of neilberg.com

The cast of 101 Years of Broadway perform select hits from Broadway musicals in the Center for Faith and Life Main Hall on Feb. 14.

The first Center Stage Series kicked off Spring semester with Neil Berg’s 101 Years of Broadway on Feb. 14 in the Center for Faith and Life.

“101 Years of Broadway” is a touring production that showcases the most influential parts of Broadway history. The evening featured five Broadway performers, running through famous musical theater repertoire from musicals of the 1920s to modern hits like “Wicked” and “Jersey Boys.” Despite having played large venues in major cities, the cast affirmed their special love for performing in smaller venues like Decorah, which is made possible by the lack of set or costumes in the production.

The evening proved to be as much an educational experience as much as an entertaining one. Between the songs, Berg, who played piano and organized the show, would give context for the upcoming performance and detail how a certain piece fits into the history of Broadway. For example, the success of the rock musical “Jesus Christ Superstar” saw Broadway shows start using the popular music of the day to tell a story onstage, a trend that continues to this day with musicals like the hip-hop inspired “Hamilton.”

The production put up an audition call in Decorah for the chance to perform onstage alongside its Broadway stars. Those chosen were Bailey Fields (‘20) and Emma Forsyth, a prospective Luther student. Fields and Forsyth got to join the cast at the end of the performance and sing “Seasons of Love” from “Rent.”

Fields has been performing since elementary school and is a theater major at Luther. She was struck by how personable the theater stars were in the brief time she spent with them. Due to a miscommunication, Fields did not know what she would be singing until the day of.

“During the sound check, they brought me up onstage, and said, ‘Hey, we’re gonna run this song, Bailey, you sing the solo, they’ll all back you up,’” Fields said. “I was like ‘What song are we singing?’”

Her theater background came in handy because she already knew the solo verse of “Seasons of Love.”

Maddie Kuehn (‘20) appreciated the array of famous musicals incorporated in the performance as well as actors who performed on Broadway.

“I thought it was a phenomenal show,” Kuehn said. “It was just so exciting to hear all of the great works from Broadway, and it made me really excited and happy to be here. I love hearing someone who actually sang as Christine Daaé on Broadway. She was amazing.”

Berg, the creator and composer, intended for the performance to be a Broadway show for the majority of the population who are not interested in musical theater. Selections from “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Cabaret,” “Phantom of the Opera,” “Les Misérables,” and “West Side Story,” were meant to invoke feelings of familiarity and recognition from the audience.

“It’s fun because they’re the same as theater people here or theater people in high school, where they’re just quirky people who are really cool onstage,” Fields said.

The next Center Stage Series performance is Catapult on Saturday, Mar. 7.

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