Broadway star Brian Stokes Mitchell brings joy of music to Utah

By Blair Howell

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Oct. 1 2011 3:00 p.m. MDT

One of the songs, “Through Heaven’s Eyes,” a Stephen Schwartz composition that Mitchell introduced in the animated hit “Prince of Egypt,” is “consistently in the top-five downloads of all of the choir’s recordings every reporting period,” according to the choir’s general manager, Scott Barrick.

The number of Mitchell’s choir performances is unprecedented. “We wouldn’t have someone back three times unless he is wildly popular,” Barrick said.

While it was not on the evening’s song list, at the personal request of the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Mitchell performed “Impossible Dream,” which President Thomas S. Monson has said is among his favorite songs, at the Christmas performance he attended. Mitchell received one of his four Tony nominations for his role in the 2002 Broadway revival of “Man of La Mancha.”

“The song ‘Impossible Dream’ is very powerful,” Mitchell explained. “It was such a joy to sing it for President Monson. He responds to ‘Impossible Dream’ the same way that everyone does. You can’t help but be affected by its strength.”

Mitchell sees the great power that is transferred through song.

“Music for me is the most sacred of the arts,” Mitchell said. “I say that because music communicates in a way that no other art form can. All great art has a spirit that we recognize and appreciate, but music goes directly to your heart.

“When I perform, I try to tap into that part of me and try to touch people in a metaphysical way that I don’t fully understand,” he said. “It’s wonderful space, but also a terrifying space and a joyous and happy space.”

At the BYU event, Mitchell will perform both solo and with the university’s student performing groups. The Spectacular artistic director explained she was astonished to find Mitchell so willing to perform songs for the two-night event outside his usual concert repertoire.

“His concern for his BYU performance was not personal but he wanted to know how he could help to make the show the best it could possibly be,” Christensen said. “We feel that it was a magical moment that we were able to make this performance happen.”

Among other songs, Mitchell will sing “They Call the Wind Maria,” in a “Paint Your Wagon” segment with Men’s Chorus and the Philharmonic Orchestra, and “Stand By Me” in the Young Ambassadors’ trio of numbers dedicated to families. Additionally Mitchell will perform “Make Them Hear You,” a song he premiered in the hit 1998 Broadway show, “Ragtime.” In the show’s finale, he will sing “Impossible Dream” with the Men’s Chorus and Philharmonic Orchestra.

If you go:

What: BYU Spectacular Homecoming Concert

Where: Marriott Center

When: Oct. 6-7

Cost: $12-$30

Phone: 800-322-2981

Web: byu.tickets.com

"Through Heaven's Eyes"

Brian Stokes Mitchell performance with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's 2008 Ring, Christmas Bells Christmas concert.

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