Classic Broadway concert at Bristol Riverside

Although retired since 2014, I still relish opportunities to teach, write, and share opinions.
Bristol Riverside Theatre presents Classic Broadway, one in a series of their Summer Music Fest productions onstage now until August 28. 
 
The singers were Meredith Beck,Philip Chaffin, Maggie Griffin-Smith, Elyse Langley, and Keith Spencer. The BRT Concert Band had Spenser Gallo on keyboard, Robert Gargiullo, bass, Kathy Goff, drums, Neil Nemetz, guitar, and Claudia Pellegrini, violin. Keith Baker conducted from the keyboard.
 
As the title of the program stated, the evening consisted of Broadway standards from “Oklahoma,” “Music of the Night,” to “I Believe In You,” and many others. Several times during the program, Keith Baker charmingly introduced songs from West Side Story and Thoroughly Modern Millie as contemporary works, even though they were on Broadway decades ago. 
 
Highlights were many, but a surprise was having Bristol Riverside Theatre’s Board of Directors President Keith Spencer (and a celebrated actor) as one of the singing ensemble.His rendition of “It Ain’t Necessarily So” from Porgy and Bess electrified the audience early in the show. Mr. Spencer didn’t just sing the song, he inhabited it. He became the character, acting the role with sharp detail, clear diction, beautiful singing voice and plenty of characterful dancing, movement, and stage business in the broadest sense of the terms. It’s a pleasure to see an experienced artist like Mr. Spencer give free reign to characterization which may not be “woke” by today’s standards, but is true to the Gershwins’ concept. After intermission, Mr. Spencer once again fully created the Phantom of the Opera singing “Music of the Night.” He beautifully phrased every challenging turn in this very difficult song. “Ol’ Man River” from Show Boat brought even more surprising dimensions of his art to the fore. From the deepest bass to the most clarion declamatory outburst, he realized a fine rendition of the song. — Keith Spenser was joined by Elyse Langley in a duet “So In Love,” from Kiss Me, Kate. The audience was in rapt attention and swooned with the music. 
 
Elyse Langley performed a wonderful “Memory” from Cats, as well as joining Philip Chaffin in the lovely duet, “(I Wonder Why?)/You’re Just In Love” from Call Me Madam.
 
A great highlight was Maggie Griffin-Smith singing the comical “To Keep My Love”.
 
Claudia Pellegrini created an entire landscape of violin interludes with her “Fiddler On The Roof Medley.” The house was electric both during and afterwards.
 
The Bristol Riverside Theatre packed the house this night, mostly with senior citizens, but also a fair share of young adult couples and groups. 
 
An amusing story involved me and an octogenarian who stood over me and exclaimed, “You’re in my seat! Move!” before the performance. She said she had a ticket for seat 110 and I was in it. I was sitting in seat 101. She was loudly adamant until an usher heard the hubbub and came over and told her to walk this way. Luckily, she did. God bless both her … and the usher.
 
The tall chap sitting to my left said he was concerned for a while, to which I responded I was glad she hadn’t stabbed me to death. That quieted the quartet of chatty matrons behind me … for a few minutes. 
 
Classic Broadway will be on stage until August 28.
Their 2022/2023 Season begins in September. 
For information, visit www.brtstage.org , the box office, or call 215-785-0100.
 

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