This month, Broadway orchestrator and musical director John McDaniel will return to the stage. The Grammy and Emmy winner is set to act as master of ceremonies at Gulfshore Playhouse's Broadway Cabaret Series, featuring concerts starring New York favorites Klea Blackhurst (February 11–14), Natalie Douglas (February 18–21), and Lora Lee Gayer (February 25–28).
McDaniel shared with Playbill what he's looking forward to by getting back in front of a live audience, and what attendees can expect from the trio of performers, each offering a "taste of the Broadway we’ve all been missing."
Florida currently allows playhouses and other entertainment businesses to operate at 50 percent capacity; learn more here.
What will your hosting duties for this event involve?
The kind folks at the Gulfshore Playhouse in Naples, Florida, approached me just before the holidays about creating a cabaret series in February. The audiences are keen to get back to live performances in a COVID-safe environment, which the theatre is taking very seriously. And it's quite easy to do a socially distanced performance in a cabaret. I was thrilled to be able to invite some good friends from New York to come down and make some music with me. I'll open the shows and then bring each of them out—we'll have some laughs, some duets, and some memorable songs!
What do each of your leading ladies bring to her performance?
I'm so excited about each of them! I've known Klea and Natalie for years, and I've been a fan of Lora Lee's since I saw her slay Broadway in Holiday Inn! Klea's big and belty voice and her specific knowledge of and love for both Ethel Merman and Jerry Herman will be on full display. Natalie will be exploring four ladies during four different decades in a show designed specifically for Gulfshore. And Lora Lee will undoubtedly dazzle us with her singing and dancing!
What are your feelings about being part of a live performance event?
Oh my gosh, where to begin? I'm a live theatre baby—I crave the experience of being in a space where stories are told and songs are sung with a rapt audience reacting in real time. This year-long lockdown has been a lot to take for all of us, but for performers, that connection with the audience is everything.
How is Gulfshore Playhouse working to help keep patrons and performers safe?
They have strict protocols in place in terms of cleaning, social distancing, mask wearing, and they will be testing us twice a week. The staff and the theatre crew are all tested as well to help ensure safety for us as well as for the audience. In terms of the audience, designated entrances, temperature taking, ticketless entry, and reduced house capacity all add up to a safe experience for everyone. (Read more here.)
Musically, what are you most looking forward to about this series?
Well, as much as I love putting the shows together and playing the piano, I love singing and am over the moon excited to be singing with each of these extraordinary ladies. And the sound of applause is a healer.