Three leading ladies who have played Christine in Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera have teamed up to form a Broadway soprano sister-act that is likely to blossom in theatres and concerts halls around the country in the coming years.
In the tradition of The Three Tenors, The Three Irish Tenors, The Broadway Tenors and Three Mo' Tenors, actress-singers Teri Bibb, Karen Culliver and Lisa Vroman are billing themselves at The Leading Ladies and singing in gigs in theatres.
Bibb told Playbill On-Line the three have been friends and colleagues over the past decade or so and found they had a lot in common, personally and professionally.
"We sat down to compare the roles we've all played," Bibb explained, "thinking we had the same resumes. Two of us have played all the roles in the repertoire."
Their past roles in common include Magnolia in Show Boat, the Marias in The Sound of Music and West Side Story, Marian in The Music Man, Amalia in She Loves Me, Johanna in Sweeney Todd, Guinevere in Camelot, Rosabella in The Most Happy Fella and more. However, Bibb told Playbill On-Line, the haunted Christine in Phantom of the Opera is the only role all three have played (between them, over 4,000 times). Bibb said they considered calling themselves "The Three Christines," but decided it was too limiting a label. Bibb said the repertoire is flexible, and they have played Broadway themed concerts as well as holiday-themed shows, and will sing an opera-flavored show on board a cruise ship later this season.
Their first appearance was at a 2001 gala for the Library of Congress in association with the Kemper Open golf tournament in Washington, DC. They have also sung at TheatreWest in Los Angeles, are putting a recording together and have a website (theleadingladies.com).
Their next appearance will be a gala three-concert gig for the Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre, a new Equity resident theatre starting in Oklahoma City, OK, where Bibb attended school. Performances play Nov. 22-24.
"We all knew each other and have known each other over the years," Bibb told Playbill On-Line. "Lisa and I were roommates in New York City, after college. Karen and I both started the national tour of Phantom together — we were co Christines."
As Los Angeles residents now, the three of them cooked up the act by going through a lot of their past material. "Lisa bought a house in Pasadena and we got together for coffee and said, 'We should do something,'" Bibb explained.
John Sawoski is a partner in the venture, serving as arranger and musical director. Bass, drums and synthesizer are part of the mix, but the act can be expanded for symphony orchestra, Bibb said.
"We try to keep it light and fun and tell anecdotes and share stories," Bibb said. "It's real warm and fun. We try to convey our love for each other and the music that we're singing..." What's in the act?
"We do a trio of 'Memory,' with three-part harmonies, a Phantom medley that we close the show with, that we each do a solo from," Bibb said. "We do 'Think of Me' each with a run of the cadenza...and hold out the high note."
They also sing the Andrews Sisters-style "Sing for Your Supper," plus a Rodgers and Hammerstein medley that includes "If I Loved You," "Hello, Young Lovers" and "You'll Never Walk Alone."
There's a Shakespeare section, with Bard-inspired tunes including "I Feel Pretty," "Tonight" (West Side Story) and "Falling in Love With Love" (from Boys From Syracuse). They also offer a children's section that includes "Never Never Land," "Come to My Garden," "Over the Rainbow" and "A Lovely Night." They're working on adding a Sondheim section.
"Singing strictly from the soprano repertoire could be tiresome, so in our more modern section we do a medley we of 'Love Changes Everything' from Aspects of Love, 'Once Upon a Dream' from Jekyll & Hyde and 'On My Own' from Les Miserables."
For now, The Leading Ladies are planting the seeds toward more bookings (five are lined up in the coming year).
Vroman is Christine in the current Broadway company of The Phantom of the Opera, Bibb recently appeared in The Secret Garden in Los Angeles and sang with the Sante Fe Symphony and Culliver is appearing in Singin' in the Rain in San Diego. All three are still working musical theatre actresses beyond The Leading Ladies concerts.
The women have seven Broadway shows between them; all three have appeared as Christine both on Broadway and in national companies.