Press and Media
By GUY D'ASTOLFO
What is it about "Neil Berg's 100 Years of Broadway" show that has made it a touring mainstay for 10 years?
The great songs from Broadway blockbusters are part of it.
But everyone does Broadway songs.
What elevates "100 Years," according Neil Berg himself, is that it captures the songs in the context of the show that spawned them, with all of their power, meaning and expressiveness intact.
That's done by using the actual actors who performed the songs - sometimes thousands of times - on Broadway.
"Neil Berg's 100 Years of Broadway" will come to Packard Music Hall in Warren on April 23, and also Westminster College on April 25.
Calling from his home in Nyack, N.Y., Berg explained what goes into each song.
"There is sometimes 2,000 hours worth of performance and story craft [on the part of each singer]," he said. "They are giving you much more than singing. They're giving you the entirety of the [original] performance. Legally, we are not allowed to use costumes [from the original show]. But it is even more fascinating when you see the Phantom of the opera, the real actor doing it. It goes behind the mask, figuratively and literally. It strips away the layers, and the audience can see the essence. They are let in on something special, and they know it."
Berg said audience members of all ages are usually blown away by the performances.
"For older audiences, this is confection sugar candy times 10," said Berg. "It's right in their wheelhouse.
"But our audience can be very young with this 'Glee' generation and 'High School Musical.' I get to educate them. We'll do 'Don't Rain On My Parade,' but they don't know that Barbra Streisand did that first. They think it was Lea Michele on 'Glee'."
AdChoices Berg's show also has a second - and perhaps sneakier - motive.
"If you have never seen a Broadway show, or you want to expose your wife or husband, or whoever, to Broadway if they've never seen it, this is the perfect show," he said. "They will fall in love with Broadway musicals. It's not what they think it will be. It's so much more than just a singer. It's like a grand buffet from a 5-star restaurant."
Berg, who is a composer, lyricist and producer, uses five singers for each show. The Mahoning Valley performances will include Maria Eberline, who played Elphaba in "Wicked" and who also was in "Fame" and "Evita"; Rebecca Pitcher, who played the female lead of Christine Daae in "Phantom of the Opera"; Richard Todd Adams, who played the Phantom in "Phantom of the Opera" and whose other roles include Jean Valjean and Javert from "Les Miserables"; Lawrence Clayton, who also played Jean Valjean; and Danny Zolli, whose roles include Jesus and Judas in "Jesus Christ Superstar."
The singers are backed by a small orchestra.
Between songs, the actor/singers share personal anecdotes that provide a behind-the-curtain insight into their career or maybe just a particular performance.
"It's extremely entertaining," said Berg. "It's like the audience is in a living room having a party with five of the greatest singers."
As an introduction, the five singers will start off with a song that they are known for, setting the bar for the rest of the evening.
"People in the audience will wonder how they can top that, but after touring this for 10 years, I know how we'll top it," said Berg. "I watch to see how the audience discovers it, and they always do. They tell us after they show that it kept surprising them."