to ‘starv­ing’ Santa Feans

Pasatiempo - - News - Michael Wade Simp­son I For The New Mex­i­can

Santa Fe restau­ra­teur Michael O’Reilly was sit­ting in Pope­joy Hall in Al­bu­querque in Fe­bru­ary, en­joy­ing a per­for­mance of Broad­way hits pre­sented by stars of the New York stage and the New Mex­ico Sym­phony Or­ches­tra. He turned to his wife, Marge, and said, “We could do this.”

On Sun­day, Aug. 29, a night af­ter the cur­tain falls on the last per­for­mance of the Santa Fe Opera sea­son, O’Reilly has his chance.

Broad­way Comes to the Santa Fe Opera Theater presents the Santa Fe Sym­phony Or­ches­tra on­stage with three Broad­way stars in an evening of songs and mu­sic. Deb­bie Gravitte, Chris­tiane Noll, and Doug LaBrecque sing stan­dards in­clud­ing “Over the Rain­bow” and “I Could Have Danced All Night” and more re­cent songs such as “De­fy­ing Grav­ity” from Wicked and “You Can’t Stop the Beat” from Hair­spray. The event ben­e­fits sev­eral non­prof­its dear to O’Reilly’s heart as pro­pri­etor of the O’Ke­effe Café and Pranzo Ital­ian Grill. He hopes to raise be­tween $50,000 and $65,000 for Chris­tus St. Vin­cent Re­gional Med­i­cal Cen­ter Foun­da­tion, Cre­ativ­ity for Peace, the Ge­or­gia O’Ke­effe Mu­seum, Kitchen An­gels, and the Santa Fe Sym­phony Or­ches­tra & Cho­rus. “This should help dur­ing tough times,” he said.

Gravitte won a Tony in 1989 for Best Fea­tured Ac­tress in a Mu­si­cal for her per­for­mance in Jerome Rob­bins’ Broad­way and has also ap­peared in They’re

Play­ing Our Song, Blues in the Night, Chicago, and Les Misérables. Noll was nom­i­nated this year for a Tony for Best Per­for­mance by a Lead­ing Ac­tress in a Mu­si­cal for her role in Rag­time, and she starred in Jekyll & Hyde. LaBrecque played both the Phan­tom and Raoul in the Harold Prince pro­duc­tion of The

Phan­tom of the Opera and also ap­peared on Broad­way as Ravenel in Show­boat. All three singers have made nu­mer­ous ap­pear­ances with sym­phony orches­tras.

“Santa Fe is starv­ing for Broad­way shows,” O’Reilly said. Most na­tional tours hit Al­bu­querque but not Santa Fe, he added, per­haps be­cause pro­duc­ers per­ceive that the town lacks an ap­pro­pri­ate venue or fear it will be hard to sell thou­sands of tick­ets. But there is no short­age of belters at lo­cal pi­ano bars. Pranzo fea­tures an up­stairs pi­ano bar where David Geist — a vet­eran of such Broad­way shows as Cats, Miss Saigon, The Lion

King, Wicked, and The Pro­duc­ers — has earned a fol­low­ing sing­ing show tunes and other pop­u­lar songs. “David has been sell­ing out the first set ev­ery night for the last six months,” O’Reilly said. Santa Fe of­fers sim­i­lar en­ter­tain­ment at Vanessie, where Charles Tichenor and Doug Mont­gomery al­ter­nate at the key­board in Au­gust, and the Cantina at La Casa Sena, where a cast of sing­ing wait­ers keeps things lively.

But bars are bars, and the Santa Fe Opera seats 2,200. O’Reilly is go­ing for the big time with his sym­phony spec­ta­cle, even if it’s for one night only. “I don’t know if we’ll sell out, but it’s go­ing well,” he said at an in­ter­view in down­town Santa Fe. In 2007, O’Reilly pro­duced Porgy and Bess, also with the Santa Fe Sym­phony, and sold out two nights at the Len­sic Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter. He’s work­ing with man­age­ment teams from New York, ra­dio sta­tion mar­ket­ing peo­ple, and vol­un­teers from the five non­prof­its who are us­ing the op­por­tu­nity to of­fer some­thing spe­cial to their donors.

O’Reilly en­listed Randall Craig Fleis­cher as con­duc­tor, be­cause, he said, he was look­ing for a to­tal showman. “Fleis­cher lives in Hollywood, and he’s a great con­duc­tor,” O’Reilly said. Fleis­cher, who stud­ied with Leonard Bern­stein, is mu­sic di­rec­tor of three orches­tras and has con­ducted the New York City Opera, Is­rael Phil­har­monic Or­ches­tra, Los An­ge­les Phil­har­monic, and San Fran­cisco Sym­phony, among oth­ers.

Bring­ing the or­ches­tra out of the pit and onto the stage for this per­for­mance presents spe­cial chal­lenges. “The cross­winds can push the sound of the horns right off the stage,” O’Reilly said. Pro­duc­ers will sur­round the sym­phony with mon­i­tors, and a set of mi­cro­phones should keep all the mu­sic go­ing in the right di­rec­tion. For the spe­cial­ized Broad­way scores, the 60-piece or­ches­tra is aug­mented by elec­tric gui­tar and bass, with Geist at the key­boards. The sym­phony opens the event with the over­tures from Gypsy, West Side

Story, Chicago, and Je­sus Christ Su­per­star. The singers fol­low with clas­sic show­stop­per so­los. Gravitte sings “Don’t Rain on My Pa­rade” from Funny

Girl and “Me­mory” from Cats. LaBrecque presents his ver­sion of “Over the Rain­bow,” and Noll of­fers her col­oratura so­prano tech­nique for “Glit­ter and Be Gay” from Can­dide. The singers plan duets and trios for other num­bers, in­clud­ing the theme from The Phan­tom of the Opera, “All That Jazz,” from Chicago, the Gersh­win stan­dard “I Got Rhythm,” Sond­heim’s “Get­ting Mar­ried To­day,” and a medley from Mamma Mia! ◀


▼ Broad­way Comes to the Santa Fe Opera Theater ▼ 7:30 p.m. Sun­day, Aug. 29 ▼ Santa Fe Opera, seven miles north of Santa Fe on the west side of U.S. 84/285 ▼ $40-$170; 986-5900, 800-280-4654

Chris­tiane Noll

Deb­bie Gravitte

Doug LaBrecque

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