Everything old is new again
‘Schwartz Project’ Dazzles at MetroStage

JeanneTheismann

April 18, 2008

For nearly 40 years, the music and lyrics of Stephen Schwartz have been entertaining audiences on Broadway.

Now, it’s Alexandria’s turn to enjoy the legendary composer’s work as “The Stephen Schwartz Project” makes it’s world premiere at MetroStage Theatre.

Conceived, directed and choreographed by Michael J. Bobbitt, “The Stephen Schwartz Project” is a musical revue of songs from Schwartz’s many works in theater, film and television.

From “Godspell,” which Schwartz scored when he was just 23 years old, to the recent blockbuster “Wicked,” Bobbitt has created a masterpiece in this rousing musical tribute to the award-winning Schwartz.

With a cast of nine multi-talented performers, Bobbitt brings to life 28 of Schwartz’s best, if not always most well-known, songs from Broadway shows like “Pippin” and “The Magic Show,” and films like “Pocahontas,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and “The Prince of Egypt.”

MetroStage favorite Felicia Curry is back once again, dazzling the audience with her powerful voice and dynamic flair. The triple-threat actress is especially showcased as she leads the ensemble in the gospel themed “Ain’t It Good?” from “Children of Eden.”

With the exception of Curry, the rest of the actors are making their MetroStage debut, although you would hardly know it from the superb performances turned in by the exuberant cast.

Each has a chance to shine, with several memorable solos punctuating the show, including two from Howard University undergraduate students Jobari Parker-Namdar and Amber Iman Moorer.

Parker-Namdar delivers the tender ballad “Cold Enough To Snow,” from “Life With Mikey,” while Moorer beautifully sings the Vanessa Williams hit “Colors of the Wind” from “Pocahontas.”

Not to be out done, Florrie Bagel captivates the audience with her mesmerizing rendition of “Since I Gave My Heart Away” from the Disney musical “Geppetto,” and Kerry Deitrick  is enchanting in “Meadowlark” from “The Baker’s Wife.”

But it’s when the cast comes together in the rousing song and dance showstoppers that the talent assembled by Artistic Director Carolyn Griffin is especially evident.

In “On the Right Track,” from “Pippin,” theater veteran and Duke Ellington School of the Arts Graduate Cliff Walker evokes the style and flair of a young Ben Vereen, while Benjamin Horan, a Fairfax County music teacher, joins Bagel, Parker-Namdar and Deitrick in a multi-lingual arrangement of “Day By Day” from “Godspell.”

While it is Bobbitt’s vision that conceived this engaging evening of entertainment, it is the unique arrangements of music composer John L. Cornelius, II, that makes it work.

Cornelius, II, brilliantly tackled a diverse selection of songs, penning fresh arrangements that seamlessly blend the old with the new. He is particularly creative in his medleys, simultaneously layering songs on top of each other rather than simply stringing together abbreviated versions of the signature tunes.

Music Director Doug Bowles leads the talented five-piece band while Emily Dere provides costumes that are both contemporary and appropriate to the eclectic theme of the show.

One of the world’s most successful composers and lyricists of all time, Schwartz has won three Oscars, three Grammys. Four Drama Desk Awards and one Golden Globe Award.

With the success of “Wicked,” Schwartz joins Jerry Herman as one of only two composer/lyricists to have three different shows pass the 1,500 performance mark on Broadway, yet despite being nominated six times, he has yet to win a Tony.

That may change, however, when “Godspell” returns to Broadway later this year in it’s first revival since ending it’s initial run in 1977.

But there’s no need to travel any further than the edge of the Potomac River in Old Town to enjoy the very best of Broadway. “The Stephen Schwartz Project” is pure, theatrical spectacle and provides toe-tapping entertainment for young and old alike.