Look out, Audra McDonald. There are ten new actor-singers nipping at your dainty heels.
Monday night’s concert at SPACE (1245 Chicago Ave.) featured Porchlight Music Theatre‘s New Faces Sing Broadway 1951 which showcased ten outstanding up and coming performers in Chicagoland musical theater. This was the first time back at SPACE since 2020 and the eighth New Faces production overall
Chosen for their talents as actors, singers and dancers, the five men and five women demonstrated their singing prowess and captivated the audience with songs from shows both well known and obscure. The New Faces for this show are Daryn Alexus, Daniel De Cranie-Pierre, Nick Johnson, Abbey Loria, Caroline Lyell, Luke Nowakowski, Ziare Paul-Emile, Alix Rhode, Nolan Robinson and Jerod Turner.
The new faces in “New Faces Sing Broadway 1951.” Top row, from left: Daryn Alexus, Daniel De Cranie-Pierre, Nick Johnson, Abbey Loria and Caroline Lyell. Bottom row, from left: Luke Nowakowski, Ziare Paul-Emile, Alix Rhode, Nolan Robinson and Jerod Turner. Credit: Porchlight Music Theatre
Each performer sang a solo, a duet and a small group number, plus joined in the opening and closing songs and the two sing-along numbers.
The songs were from musicals performed during the 1951 Broadway season, which ran from Sept. 1950 through Aug. 1951. It was a rich year for theater and saw the debuts of timeless classics like South Pacific, Peter Pan, The King and I and Guys and Dolls. It was also a year for a flop called Flahooley, which lasted 40 performances.
But even a flop can have a song worth singing. Under the musical direction of Dr. Michael McBride, a Jeff Award-winning music director, every song on the program sounded wonderful thanks to the respective New Face assigned to sing it. McBride was on stage and accompanied each song on piano. David Fiorello directed.
David Girolmo, a Broadway veteran of more than 100 shows and winner of a Jeff Award, hosted and sang the opening and closing songs–both from South Pacific–with the New Faces. He also sang a solo midway through the show, “They Call the Wind Maria” from the musical Paint Your Wagon.
Evanston Township High School grad Nolan Robinson (third from right) dances in the song “Top Banana.” Credit: Richard Cahan
As the host, he provided the narrated context summarizing each show, recalling who starred, wrote and directed, and explained the relevant historical context.
Black and white slides from the original productions were shown on a large screen behind the stage and accompanied the narration. Girolmo shared some theater trivia that might surprise anyone other than a theater maven. For instance, Boris Karloff (yes, that Boris Karloff) starred in Peter Pan as Mr Darling and James Hook. Ray Bolger (he played the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz) played the lead in Where’s Charley?
Girolmo also led two singalongs that had the New Faces fanning out into the audience to encourage participation. They made it easy–the lyrics were projected on a large screen behind the stage and the songs were well known: “Getting to Know You” from The King and I and “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair” from South Pacific.
David Girolmo hosts New Faces Sing Broadway 1951 at Evanston SPACE. Credit: Richard Cahan
Every New Face delivered their assigned songs with flair, but a couple stood out. Caroline Lyell and Nick Johnson sang “Sue Me” from Guys and Dolls. Lyell crushed it. Every word, eye roll, body posture, hand gesture and New York twang made this song a highlight. She and Johnson had great chemistry and perfect comic timing together, which added to the fun. She also delivered a sensational version of “If You Hadn’t (But You Did)” from Two on the Aisle.
Luke Nowakowski followed with “Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat,” also from Guys and Dolls. He nailed his solo and took over the stage with his commanding voice. The two songs from Guys and Dolls reinforced what a timeless and terrific show it is.
Alix Rhode and Daniel de Cranie-Pierre delivered a sizzling version of “From this Moment On.” They had great chemistry on stage, enhanced by their vocal chops. The song was written by Cole Porter for the musical Out of This World, which has become a jazz standard song by numerous singers, including Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne and Diane Krall. Rhode and Cranie-Pierre are in good company.
Evanston’s own Nolan Robinson sang a beautiful rendition of the emotional love song, “We Kiss in a Shadow” from The King and I as his solo. He also sang a rousing duet with Jerod Turner, “Guys and Dolls” from the musical of the same name.