On Nov. 12, the cable TV channel Bravo will tape a concert dedicated to Broadway showtunes — which is not terribly unusual for the arts channel. What is different is that these songs will be warbled by such pop artists as Cyndi Lauper, John Hiatt and Trisha Yearwood. Composer Frank Wildhorn serves as artistic director on the project, which he hopes will cross over and bring Broadway music to a country busy listening to Britney, Back Street Boys and Bono.
Wildhorn's spent the past several years trying to bridge the gap — one that didn't even exist until the 1970s — between theatre music and popular song. Not only did his scores to Jekyll and Hyde, The Scarlet Pimpernel and The Civil War feature lush ballads and catchy anthems, but all three were as heavily marketed for their CD recordings as they were for their Broadway productions. In fact, The Civil War released an all-star "cover"-version CD, featuring numerous country singers, before that show even came to New York.
Ultimately, all three productions failed to recoup their Broadway investments, and Wildhorn laid low for a year or so, with plans for his Latin-flavored Havana seemingly on the back-burner. But now he's reemerged with the Broadway-bound Dracula (which just opened to mixed reviews in La Jolla) and remains committed to proving that Broadway can still be a populist art form. As he told the Associated Press, the Bravo concert hopes to "show the durability and timelessness of classic Broadway shows... we will cross over to a new generation who might otherwise not be aware of the rich tradition of Broadway musical theatre."
Also taking part in the "Broadway's Best from Bravo" concert, which was taped in front of a live audience, are Jill Scott, Lee Ann Womack, Mandy Moore and Shawn Colvin. The show, which will use "contemporary arrangements" of the showtunes, is skedded to air in March 2002, with Allen Newman producing.
— By David Lefkowitz