Singers soar in tribute
to ‘Broadway’

Review by John Berger

It was a triumphant homecoming for Jade Stice and Cliffton Hall, and Nataysha Echevarria made a promising big-stage debut, as Tim Bostock presented "Hello Broadway" Saturday at the Blaisdell Concert Hall.

Stice demonstrated her range and stage presence with selections from torch songs to romantic pop; her renditions of "And the World Goes Round" and "Keepin' Out of Mischief" were two of the best numbers in the show. Hall, a lesser-known quantity despite performances here in road-show productions of "Miss Saigon" and "Les Miz," displayed headliner-quality presence as well -- most notably on "This is the Moment."

Echevarria, whose won a local talent search to appear in a single showcase number, was cute and competent, stopping just short of preciousness, singing "Broadway Baby." Judging her on the basis of that one song, Echevarria's could soon be a star on the local stage.

Promoter Bostock presented a well-paced musical revue featuring songs from several modern Broadway musicals. Several original songs were drawn from musical theater projects written or developed by members of the ensemble.

Deedee Lynn Magno, making her Hawaii debut, camped it up just a bit on "I Enjoy Being a Girl" but touched all the right emotional notes in her chilling rendition of "I'd Give My Life for You." (Magno played Kim, the doomed heroine of "Miss Saigon," on Broadway as well as in the second national tour. The song foreshadows Kim's decision to commit suicide so her son can go to America.)

Magno and Hall combined stage experience and real-life chemistry in their biggest duet, "Last Night of the World" (Hall played Chris opposite Magno's Kim in an Asian tour of "Miss Saigon" last year; they're getting married next spring).

Hall displayed his knack for lighter stuff when he and Welly Yang teamed up on "Perfect Woman," from a work-in-progress musical adaptation of "The Wedding Banquet," about a gay Chinese man (Yang) and his boyfriend (Hall).

Yang also displayed a flare for wry, self-deprecating humor when he bemoaned not being from Hawaii like Stice and Hall, and not having a girlfriend like Magno. Yang also got a laugh by pretending he didn't know how to pronounce Aiea.

Conductor Jason Robert Brown was another asset to the show. Never mind that he's a 1999 Tony Award winner, Brown quickly proved that he is an multitalented and accomplished entertainer. Brown took over from pianist Melina Lillios on several numbers and opened Act 2 as the featured vocalist, singing "I'm in Bizness," an original composition from "The Moneyman," with the orchestra.

Another Brown composition, an expansive up-tempo anthem titled "Coming Together," proved an excellent choice as the final number and another great showcase for Stice as the lead vocalist. The song is one of the countless pieces written in response to the devastation of 9/11, but should stand the test of time as a powerful inspirational statement in its own right.

It was certainly an impressive vehicle for Stice and an uplifting call for unity and hope as well.

To follow such a dramatic and substantive number with a reprise of "Broadway Baby" as the encore seemed a bit odd, even though it did allow Echevarria to come back out and briefly join the others.

Despite the odd encore, "Hello Broadway" overall was a successful celebration of American's modern musical theater tradition.

Moreover, it's a safe bet that the example set by Stice, Hall, Magno and Yang -- all four of them of Asian or hapa-haole ethnicity -- will be mentioned in years to come as the inspiration for a younger generation of island actors, leading them to follow their own dreams of beating the odds and performing on Broadway.

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