Siegel Entertainment’s Broadway Unplugged Celebrates 10th Anniversary September 30 at Town Hall
By: Ellis Nassour
In this age of over amplified concert and theater sound, Scott Siegel came up with a unique idea. Instead of making everything louder, why not go back to the days when there were voices that could reach the very back row of the gods [now, the only cheap seats in a Broadway theatre] without amplification and microphones.
I’ll leave it to that amazing historian of everything theater, Peter Filichia, to tell us exactly when amplified sound began to creep in. But when Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza sang of strangers across a crowded room or Carol Lawrence and Larry Kert sang tenderly of love on that fire escape, it was like they were in our living rooms. They didn’t need to be amplified to the point you could hear them in Hoboken, to where you had no idea what they were singing about.
On September 30 at 8 P.M. at The Town Hall, Siegel Entertainment will present the granddaddy of Broadway Unplugged concerts, maybe even with cake and ice cream.
The line-up for September 30 is mindboggling [how does he do it?]: Carole Bufford, Tony nominee Liz Callaway, Bill Daugherty, song-and-dance man extraordinaire Drama Desk nominee Jeffry Denman, Metropolitan Opera’s John Easterlin, Eddie Korbich, William Michals (a singer who def needs no mike!), Tony nominee Christiane Noll, Tony winner Tonya Pinkins, Tony nominee Camile Saviola, Christopher Sieber, Natalie Toro, Max Von Essen, and Tony nominee Barbara Walsh. Special guests will be the gifted dancer/choreographer Noah Racey and his New York Song & Dance Company.
Amazingly, a missing name in the lights on this very large marquee is Siegel Entertainment regular, the performer who helped launch Unplugged, that modest four-time Tony nominee Marc Kudisch. What? Wait! He will be on the bill? It seems Mr. Kudisch wants to arrive incognito. He’ll appear in a newly-formed trio, Baritones Unbound, with Tony winner Ben Davis and Met principal Jeff Mattsey. Music director and arranger is Ross Paterson and his Little Big Band. Scot Coulter directs.
"This is truly live entertainment," says Siegel. "As live and unfettered as it gets today. I’m pleased to report so many of our followers have called Broadway Unplugged, well, to quote one, ‘The most exciting musical theater event they have ever seen.’ I invite you to experience it yourself. There’s a very good reason this concert is celebrating its 10th Anniversary."
But who knew, even Siegel, one of the most optimistic people on the planet?
At a Broadway by the Year rehearsal, Siegel asked powersinger Mary Bond Davis if she would feel comfortable performing Irving Berlin’s "Suppertime" [introduced in As Thousands Cheer by Ethel Waters, about a mother calling her children to dinner after her husband’s lynching] without a mike. "Considering the song," says Siegel, "I knew singing acapella would add emotion and power to the moment. Mary delivered a performance no one could forget. It packed a wallop and brought the house down. You could feel the building shaking.
"I had the idea of doing a full show with sound design by God," he continues. "Since Town Hall is acoustically perfect that would be the venue, but I had no budget, no sponsor. We’d use posters and hand out fliers as audiences exited theatres. Friends warned there’d be 200 devotees and 1,300 empty seats. To make a long story short, we sold out. The audience was ecstatic, and a new series was born."
So, here’s to Siegel, now head of an entertainment empire, Dav is, and a great idea. And to The Town Hall for making it possible. It doesn’t seem like 10 years, but as with his Broadway by the Year series, some things get better and better with age.
Broadway Unplugged is supported by ASCAP, Theatermania.com, Max Weintraub, Berkshire Theatre Group, Lightstyles LLC, and Fran Norkin.
Tickets are $27-$77 and available at the Town Hall box office and through www.ticketmaster.com.