New Yorkers make great pizza and dreadful tourists. They claim their city as the center of the universe, and won’t let anybody forget it. But for one night on Feb. 1 at the Times-Union Performing Arts Center, we were the tourists, given a glimpse into the world of Broadway, a world that indeed has influenced our universe of entertainment.
"Broadway Rox," an ensemble of six talented singers and a backing band of authentic New York musicians brought Big Apple charm to the River City, promising to take the audience on a musical journey through 50 years of Broadway.
Half a century of ubiquitous, influential music is an ambitious journey, and "Broadway Rox" wasted no time getting into the thick of it. The show opened up with a medley of hits, ranging from rocker Jason Wooten’s "Jesus Christ Superstar," to Ashley Loren’s energetic rendition from "Footloose," to Green Day’s "21 Guns."
The performers encouraged the audience to sing along, and sometimes they did. On slower songs, like the haunting group a cappella of the Beatles' "Because," the audience stayed silent while the singers exercised their impressive range.
During his rendition of Jersey Boys’ "Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You," the charming Darren Ritchie serenaded one lucky lady in the audience — concluding with a quick apology to the gentleman she was with.
"Broadway Rox" got the audience fired up with the energetic, slightly campy "Time Warp" from "Rocky Horror Picture Show." From the first few notes, the performers were able to get much of the crowd — ranging from older couples to children — grooving and pelvic thrusting along to the signature dance from the Broadway hit.
The performance was moved to the more intimate Terry Theater at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts. With a capacity of 600, the theater was packed, but no one seemed to mind.
While the first half of the show mostly kept the very tight and professional backing band in the periphery, the second act featured some songs that allowed them to loosen up and strut their stuff a little.
We came out of intermission with a heavy-hitting drum solo from Matt Zebronski that would have landed just as well with head bangers as it did with this cultured audience. After an introduction to guitarist Thomas Monkell, who had to borrow Ritchie’s pants for the evening because he left his back in New York, and Matt Fields, a bassist with one mean “Stank Face,” the show rolled straight into full, back-to-back performances of "We Will Rock You" and "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen.
The performers prefaced some of the songs with an introduction, citing various award information and dropping factoids. Some of those introductions seemed unnecessary. Yes, down here in the South we’ve got a little molasses in our drawl, but many in the audience probably came in with at least some savvy to worldwide hits like "Falling Slowly" from the film "Once" and "Hey Jude" by the Beatles.
Though the lyrics of Billy Joel’s "New York State of Mind," sung from the mouths of (who else?) Yankees true and through, might give some native Floridians an impulse to throw up in their own mouths a little, there’s no denying the talent and scope present in this show.