Co-partners Tony James and Doreen Cleverly usually achieve whatever they set their mind to. However, Curtain Up: A Broadway Musical Revue exceeded their expectations.
Curtain Up features more than 30 popular songs from the Broadway canon complemented with stunning costumes, props and funky lighting.
The two-hour show of triple-threat performers celebrated a buzz-worthy world premiere in July. It is now on tour within the Capital Region with a stop planned for the Arden Theatre on Friday, Oct. 9.
“From July, you’d hardly know they’re the same people. They’ve become so confident,” says Cleverly.
Jumping in with enthusiasm, James adds, “The audience didn’t know what to expect but it got more than expected.”
Co-founders of Elite Performing Arts Company, a division of Ocean Entertainment, the duo created a new pre-professional theatre company that fuses emerging artists with renowned professionals.
For the summer performance, James and Cleverly also imported several major artists including internationally acclaimed international tenor Richard Margison and musical theatre artist Jeff Hyslop best known for his leading role in the touring Phantom of the Opera.
Contracted for a series of other gigs, Margison and Hyslop unfortunately will be absent from the tour. James notes, however, the 39 actor-dancer-singers are more than up to the challenge.
With music from Lion King, Annie, Les MisĂ©rables, Wicked and Mary Poppins to name a few, Curtain Up is vocal-visual trip around the world from Africa’s grasslands to London’s cobblestone streets to the magical yellow brick road to Oz.
Cleverly developed a strong ballet technique at the Royal Academy and honed her style with musical theatre, jazz and tap. As artistic director she uses her extensive dance background and puts the cast through snappy choreography.
“The choreography is high-octane. Once the fluidity starts, it builds and builds and comes to what it needs to be,” James says.
Cleverly adds, “The dancers are not just thinking about the steps. They put their own emotions into it.”
The partners are blown away by how the performers are bursting with talent. St. Albert’s Pauline Lee has a vocal range that spans four octaves. The classically trained vocalist sings opera, pop, rock, blues, gospel, country and electronic music.
A stunning beauty with almond-shaped eyes and high cheekbones, the mother of three takes on the role of Rafiki singing Circle of Life in Lion King and A Dream to Dream in Les MisĂ©rables.
“Pauline has a terrific voice. To watch her not only sing but perform is a pleasure. She is a mezzo-soprano. She has so much passion when she sings, it just seeps out,” James says.
Recording artist Kaleia Odelle, 14, is still in the infant stages of her career, but you’d never know it from her powerful vocals says James.
“If you watch her on YouTube, she’s pretty extraordinary.”
Another standout performer is Adam Skogstad, also from St. Albert, singing a solo in Little People from Les MisĂ©rables.
“He’s about 10 or 11. He’s got this infectious smile. He’s more mature than his years. When he’s in rehearsal he invests 150 per cent into his performance.”
In addition to the strong singers, James invested $12,000 in lush costumes and props. St. Albert’s Odd-Lot Puppetry created many props for The Lion King sequences including the lioness’s headdresses as well as gear for rams and birds.
“Unfortunately, we won’t have an elephant. Our elephant is in Texas,” laughs James.
And Karrie’s Costumes stepped up to make the lionesses exotic costumes.
“We’ve tried to make everything as authentic as possible without duplicating the original. It’s still our show.”
Curtain Up: A Broadway Musical Revue
Elite Performing Arts Co.
Friday, Oct. 9 from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
5 St. Anne Street
Tickets: $28 to $42 Call 780-459-1542 or at box office