Vocalist Debbie Gravitte is "one of the lucky ones." She grew up in Los Angeles but always wanted to be a Broadway star.
"It's amazing how it just infiltrates you somehow," she said by phone from her home in Connecticut.
"I loved Gwen Verdon, and I remember when I was growing up in L.A. and they had this thing where they'd show a movie over and over, and one of them was 'Damn Yankees,' and I just fell in love with Gwen Verdon. I just thought that she was unbelievable. And I just wanted to do that."
In 1979 that goal became a reality with her debut in "They're Playing Our Song." Ten years later, she won a Tony Award for best featured actress in a musical for "Jerome Robbin's Broadway."
But Gravitte hit a stumbling block when she had her first child. "It's really difficult when you've got little kids because its six days a week, eight shows a week, and I could never see my kids," she said.
So, she found a new creative outlet doing concert work.
"I miss working on Broadway, I do," she said. "But the wonderful thing in the concert world is that I get to sing roles that I might not necessarily do. Right now I'm doing a song ('For Good') from 'Wicked,' and it's just a show that I don't really fit in, but I get to do a song from it.
"On top of that I get to sing with wonderful orchestras like the Utah Symphony," who she'll sing with on Friday and Saturday. Tony-nominated Melissa Errico and Marc Kudisch will also perform.
Broadway may get all the credit, but a lot of work goes into the concerts, too, Gravitte said. "It's a lot of rehearsal. You have to hone up. You have to rehearse all the music. I'm doing some new stuff that I haven't done before in this show. I'm really excited. I've sung the songs before, but I haven't done them in concert."
And just because there aren't sets and costumes doesn't mean the acting and dancing isn't there.
"We do it all in the concerts," she said. "We don't hold back. We have to show off all our bags of goodies, all our bags of tricks at the concerts."
Beyond that "each show is honed so that's it's a journey in and of itself," Gravitte said. "We're doing selections from 'Phantom of the Opera,' and people just love it. We're also singing from 'Mamma Mia' because everybody loves that, and every time I come to Utah that's everybody's favorite."
Keeping the beloved tunes fresh for audiences is easier than you'd think, Gravitte says. "Because we're not doing eight shows a week as you would be on Broadway and because every program is completely different, it's not like I'm singing the same songs day in and day out. On top of which every symphony is different, every group of people I sing with is different, every audience is different and every song is different."
It doesn't hurt that Broadway music is so popular. "It's true. I've yet to do a concert where people go, 'Oh, that was OK.' Everybody's got a story, 'I saw the show when I was 12. That was my favorite song.' Everybody's got something attached to it. It's never dull."What you hope is that the music transports (the audience) to a different place whether it's to a theater when they were 10 years old or the first time they saw a Broadway show. I take them to a place they haven't been for a while or a place that they want to go to."
If you go . . .
What: "Bravo Broadway," Utah Symphony
Where: Abravanel Hall
When: Friday and Saturday, 8 p.m.
How much: $20-$50
Phone: 355-2787 or 888-451-2787
E-mail: [email protected]