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Concert review: 'Wildhorn & Friends' warmly entertains BYU audience

Published: Monday, Oct. 7 2013 3:42 p.m. MDT

Adrienne Warren (Copyright: Michael Benabib) Adrienne Warren (Copyright: Michael Benabib)

“Frank Wildhorn & Friends,” Bravo! Performing Arts Series, BYU Harris Fine Arts Center deJong Concert Hall, Oct. 3

PROVO — As part of the Bravo! Performing Arts Series, a BYU audience had the rare treat of hearing three popular Broadway singers perform the works of composer Frank Wildhorn — with Wildhorn himself at the piano as their accompanist.

Wildhorn calls the concerts “Wildhorn & Friends” as a reference to the onstage performers, but he made concertgoers feel as if they were his friends gathering around his piano. The concert was in the large deJong Concert Hall, but through his warm introductions of his compositions, we felt as if we could be in a much more intimate setting.

Darren Ritchie, who has originated Wildhorn roles on Broadway (as Jonathan Harker in “Dracula” and White Knight/Jack in “Wonderland”), sang two songs from “The Civil War.” Ritchie is an expressive singer, and his renditions of “Sarah” and “I’ll Never Pass This Way Again” were moving reminders of the many lives lost during the painful era in our country’s history. The songs were made even more poignant when Wildhorn explained that lyrics from the 1998 song cycle were adapted from letters written on battlefields by dying soldiers to family and sweethearts.

Jackie Burns (Courtesy of Jackie Burns) Jackie Burns (Courtesy of Jackie Burns)

Ritchie’s songs weren’t all somber: He was also tapped to sing the playful “The World Will Remember Us” from “Bonnie & Clyde” and a stirring rendition of “Into the Fire” from “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” with 16 BYU voice students as backup singers.

“Gold,” written for the opening ceremonies of Salt Lake City’s 2002 Olympic Winter Games, was superbly performed by Jackie Burns, who launched the first national tour of “Wicked” in the plum lead role of Elphaba. She was genuinely mischievous in “The Mad Hatter” from “Wonderland: A New Alice, A New Musical.” Burns also made “How ’Bout a Dance?” from “Bonnie & Clyde” into a sultry torch song.

Wildhorn’s megahit “Jekyll & Hyde,” which enjoyed a three-year run on Broadway and frequent international stagings, was represented by a pair of songs. “This Is the Moment” was a song that the original producers wanted to cut from the musical, but Wildhorn now refers to it as “This Is My Mortgage,” because of its long life — leading to satisfying royalties. While introducing “In His Eyes,” the composer noted that it took nearly 17 years for “Jekyll & Hyde” to get to Broadway, amid his mother’s regular questions of, “Is this the year I get to buy my opening-night dress?”

Darren Ritchie (Courtesy of Darren Ritchie) Darren Ritchie (Courtesy of Darren Ritchie)

Away from Broadway, Wildhorn is most known for penning “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” for Whitney Houston. Adrienne Warren, who made her Broadway debut as Danielle in “Bring It On” and was featured in the Encores! production of “The Wiz,” made the platinum-selling hit a beautiful tribute to the deceased superstar. Warren also sang a new song by Wildhorn, “Havana,” which sizzled.

For the encore, the trio of singers performed “Anything Can Happen,” which was written for “Wonderland.” Ritchie helped to end the evening on a lighthearted note by singing his portion of the song in a voice imitating The Muppets’ Kermit.

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