In 1904 when George M. Cohan sang, "Give My Regards to Broadway," our modern image of Broadway didn't exist yet. Dreamers like Cohan, Irving Berlin and Jerome Kern merely hoped to make their mark someday with a new sound, a sound rooted in African-American music likely invented by Scott Joplin and W.C. Handy.
More than a century later, Cohan's statue, the only one honoring a Broadway star (at the behest of Oscar Hammerstein II in 1959), stands as a landmark in Times Square to honor "the King of Broadway."
In 1904, Broadway theaters showcased imported shows, primarily from London's West End. But over the next two decades, a handful of first-generation Americans invented a truly unique American art form: the Broadway musical.
Gary Shin-Leavitt and the Maui Choral Arts Association will present “A Broadway Century” at McCoy Studio Theater
JACK GRACE photo
Heather Kelsey of the Seabury Hall Dance Ensemble will perform in a “Fosse-esque” piece choreographed by David Ward.
JACK GRACE photo
This week, the Maui Choral Arts Association presents "A Broadway Century," the brainchild of Artistic Director Gary Shin-Leavitt and co-hosted by Kathy Collins and Jerry Eiting.
Featuring more than 60 singers, accompanied by Lotus Dancer and Beth Fobbe-Will, the performance travels through the early "tin pan alley" era; the golden age of the 1950s; and Broadway's big comeback in the 1970s, led by Bob Fosse and Stephen Sondheim; plus contemporary offerings from blockbusters like "Wicked."
The first act of "A Broadway Century" will be one medley of well-known songs, and the second act will offer seven sections highlighting the history of Broadway from the early 1900s to the present. Songs include "Yankee Doodle Dandy," "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man," "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning," "Everything's Coming Up Roses," "Seventy-Six Trombones," "My Favorite Things," "Hello, Dolly," "Comedy Tonight," "Send in the Clowns," "Tomorrow," "The Ballad of Sweeny Todd," and "Do You Here the People Sing." Selections from such megahits as "Porgy and Bess," "Annie Get Your Gun," "South Pacific," "Guys and Dolls," "Bye, Bye Birdie," "Mame," "Oliver," "Man of La Mancha," "the Fantasticks," "Cabaret," "Chicago," "Jesus Christ Superstar," "Godspell," "Grease," "Cats," and "Phantom of the Opera" will also be included.
I met with Shin-Leavitt last week to discuss the annual spring concert and how his idea evolved.
"Just after 'Les Miserables' (Maui Academy of Performing Arts' August production), the idea emerged. We have a Christmas concert every year, and the spring concert is created from year to year. Since 'Les Mis,' there has been a crossover between the choral community and the theater community."
Shin-Leavitt joined the Maui Symphony Chorus in 2001, which became the Maui Choral Arts Association when the symphony folded. Growing up in a musical household in East Hampton, N.Y., he frequently attended Broadway musicals with his family, who also performed in community theater productions.
Not unlike Al Jolson, his father was a synagogue cantorial singer, which Gary does as well. "I was always mesmerized (by Broadway) - it struck a musical chord in my heart."
Upon his father's passing when Gary was 21, and after serving in the Navy for five years, he returned to New York to sing with the NYC Gay Men's Chorus and the New York Choral Society.
Since transferring to Maui, in addition to choral singing, Shin-Leavitt has appeared in several theatrical productions, most recently portraying Tevye in MAPA's "Fiddler on the Roof." "Just as in jazz, you can listen to a Broadway song and say, 'That's a Sondheim, that's Webber, that's Lerner and Lowe, that's Rodgers & Hammerstein.' To me, there are two purely American idioms, jazz and the Broadway musical, which is deeply rooted in American culture," said Shin Leavitt.
n Join the Maui Choral Arts Association for "A Broadway Century." Performances are 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday in McCoy Studio Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. Tickets range from $15 to $30. Visit the MACC box office, call 242-7469 or order online at www.mauiarts.org.
It's not a Broadway show without both song and dance, so if you want to celebrate the other half of the equation, you'll need to head Upcountry this weekend for Seabury Hall's "Dance Showcase 2014." To celebrate Seabury Hall's 50th year and 25 years of its dance program, Program Director David Ward will present a piece he describes as "Fosse-esque," a new suite of dances set to cabaret-style melodies.
"The parts choreographed on cafe chairs are proving to be a challenge," says Ward. "But it definitely builds balance, coordination, strength, and flexibility."
Ward will also reprise The Village, as part of the 25-year retrospective, with music by the Gypsy Kings and Ottmar Liebert. This lively, colorful suite combines two top- level classes, Level C and the Seabury Hall Dance Ensemble. Dance teacher Andre Morissette will also reprise Amarok, a modern-dance piece with strong rhythmic structure. "The rhythmic patterns in Amarok give the dancers an opportunity to develop their spatial awareness, rhythm, and dynamics," says Morissette.
While looking back at where Seabury began, they're also looking forward. Ballet mistress Vanessa Cerrito is choreographing an original, contemporary piece to "Chain of Fools" by Aretha Franklin; guest artist Julane Stites choreographs a rigorous, high-energy piece; and Kumu Kahula Maolo offers Haleakala Hula to be performed by the Seabury Hall Dance Ensemble at this weekend's show and at the National High School Dance Festival in Miami.
"Dance Showcase" performances are 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays, this week through May 4 in the A'ali'ikuhonua Creative Arts Center on the Seabury Hall campus in Makawao. Tickets are $12 adults, $10 seniors and $5 students. Call 573-1257 or visit seaburyhall.org.
Also this week
Opening this weekend is "God of Carnage" by Yasmina Reza, directed by Jonathan Lehman. This 2009 Tony Award- winning adult comedy-drama stars Kisha Milling, Jennifer Rose, William Makozak and Don Carlson. A playground altercation between 11-year-old boys brings together two sets of parents for a meeting to resolve the matter. At first, diplomatic niceties are observed, but as the meeting progresses, and the rum flows, tensions emerge and gloves come off, leaving the couples with more than just their liberal principles in tatters. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays, today through May 11 at the ProArts Playhouse in Kihei. Tickets are $22, with kamaaina discounts available for Hawaii residents. Show contains adult language. For more information, call 463-6550.