One of the more popular and special programs staged by the Savannah Voice Festival, Broadway Tales is not only a full evening of live entertainment, but also an educational vignette showcasing the evolution of vocal styles stretching back over the last century.
Featuring an all-star cast of festival veterans and newcomers, "Broadway Tales" will weave a full picture of classical vocal stylings and their shift from traditional opera into the modern pop age of Broadway musicals. From classics like “La Boheme,” “Kiss Me Kate” and “Les Miserables” to “Nine” and Disney’s “Tangled,” this show runs the gamut of styles and tones.
“It’s the stepchild of opera,” "Broadway Tales" star Jessica Fishenfeld said. “It ranges from really classic Broadway all the way to contemporary.”
Fishenfeld is making her Savannah Voice Festival debut and is joining stalwarts like Chad Sonka, Nan Qin and Jessica Ann Best for "Broadway Tales." As a professional opera singer, she always seizes on the opportunity to perform musical theater numbers.
“I love every chance I get to perform musical theater and Broadway repertoire. It’s still a passion of mine. Opera is so demanding, it needs to be your entire world if you want a chance at really succeeding at it. All these opportunities that come around to sing the Broadway material, I jump at it because it was my original passion.
“I did grow up in musical theater. I started when I was 12 years old. I went to a musical theater camp. As far as I knew, I wanted to be on Broadway. That was my goal. I got to high school and they had a really excellent music department. They performed operas. Once I discovered that, I realized that the extra challenge and this higher level of music and preparation was more suited for me.”
For musical theater, vocalists typically follow the same performance practice they do with opera, with minor adjustments.
“The preparation is kind of the same,” Fishenfeld said. “Except for the translation part. It’s nice that everything is in English already, as far as learning the notes," she said.
"If a certain melody is written on the page, but if everyone you hear on the recordings is doing little riffs here and there, then you know what’s expected of that piece. Same thing goes for opera. If there’s certain repertoires that are used, then that’s what the audience is expecting to hear ... With the classic Broadway stuff, back in the '80s and '90s, the Broadway singers and the opera singers were the same. In shows like ‘Showboat’ and 'Kiss Me Kate,’ they’re all classic sounds.”
"Broadway Tales" will be staged at 7 p.m. Aug. 11 at Asbury Memorial UMC and also starts Sean Christensen, Natalie Rose Havens, Peter Lake, Daniel Scofield, Jonathan Walker-VanKuren, Mary Catherine Wright, Nicholas Yaquinto and Laura Zahn.