Neil Berg’s 102 Years of Broadway that played at the Fort Smith Convention Center Tuesday (Mar. 5) combined the best songs from some of the most popular Broadway musicals and combined them with the actual singers that made them so great.
The amazing vocal abilities of Carter Calvert, Ron Bohmer, Sandra Joseph, Danny Zolli and William Michals combined with the fluid piano of Neil Berg proves sets and props are not needed for the audience to be captivated and entertained.
Berg is a composer, lyricist, and producer. He is also hard to miss playing the piano as his hands fly around on the keys and into the air. Berg is so passionate about the music he was even mouthing most of the lyrics as they were sang. Berg is the composer of “The Prince and the Pauper,” “Grumpy Old Men,” “The Man Who Would Be King,” “Tim and Scrooge,” and is collaborating with Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Robert Schenkkan on a new rock musical called "The 12.”
Berg is also the creator and co-producer of Neil Berg's "100 Years of Broadway," which is now the number one Broadway touring concert in the United States, playing in more than 120 cities in 2010/2011. His 102 Years of Broadway got it’s name because the play was brought back twice by popular demand. Berg displayed his talent on the piano best in the piano solo “The Stream” which was dedicated to his father who passed away recently.
It isn’t just about singing, or the music, but how you tell the story,” Berg said to aspiring artists after the show.
Opening the show after an introduction from Berg was Carter Calvert singing “All That Jazz.” She was later joined by Danny Zolli and Ron Bohmer in the song. Calvert is best known for originating her role in “It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues on Broadway.” She sang one of her signature songs “Don’t rain on my Parade” from “Funny Girl” and a song from “Always ... Patsy Cline” in which she duos with Sally Struthers and sings 25 songs.
Calvert’s older brother was in the audience which she thanked and after a story telling about how hard it is to “make it” in New York she dedicated the song “Memory” which she sings as Grizabella in “Cats” to her grandmother who died recently at the age of 102.
William Michals followed up by captivating the audience with his extremely deep voice singing “Some enchanted evening.” Michals has played in “South Pacific,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Les Miserables,” “Man of La Mancha,” “Phantom,” “The Sound of Music,” “The Music Man,” and “Camelot.” He also enjoys the rare distinction of performing for the joint leadership of the House and Senate inside the U.S. Capitol and Mayor Rudy Giuliani personally called upon Michals to open the Dec. 11, 2001 memorial service at Ground Zero with a solo, a cappella rendition of "Let There Be Peace On Earth.” Michals joined in with Bohmer and Zolli to sing “Ya Got Trouble” from the musical “The Music Man,” and a song from “Man of La Mancha.”
Sandra Joseph performed “Think of Me” from “Phantom of the Opera.” Joseph has played the leading lady in Broadway’s longest-running show, “Phantom of the Opera.” While she continues to perform on stages across the country she is also a passionate keynote speaker, workshop facilitator, and author of the book “Behind the Mask: A Memoir of Faith, Love, and The Phantom of the opera.” Sandra met Bohmer on stage while performing “Phantom of the Opera” and has been married to him for 10 years. She joined Michals, Bohmer, and Zolli for a performance of “Don’t Stop Believing” and at the end sang “Phantom of the Opera” with Bohmer.
Bohmer also entered the stage singing a song from “Phantom of the Opera.” Bohmer has been the phantom in “Phantom of the Opera,” played the title character in “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” Joe Gillis in “Sunset Boulevard,” Alex in “Aspects of Love,” the evil Sir Percival Glyde in “The Woman in White,” Enjolras in “Les Miserables,” Fyedka in “Fiddler on the Roof,” and Coach Bolton in “Disney’s High School Musical.” Bohmer’s last song, and second to last song of the performance, was “The Music of the Night” from “Phantom of the Opera.”
Danny Zolli was the final singer who started off with the song “Sherry.” Zolli exclaimed mid song “I’m a 47 year old man singing like a 16 year old chick!”
His unique voice and high pitch abilities really got the audience moving around in the seats and dancing. At one point, Zolli told the audience to pull out their cell phones and wave them as he sang “Faithfully.” The whole audience had cell phones going to which Zolli said “It looks like a planetarium in here!” Zolli is best known for playing Jesus, Judas, and Annas in “Jesus Christ Superstar” and has also created a solo album titled “Sometimes Simple is Best.”
Musicians supporting the performance were Abe Saeng on bass, Roger Cohen on Drums who is married to Carter Calvert and also has played with Berg for 20 years, and Dan Walker on keyboard.
Shortly before the finale Berg thanked everyone, including the singers, musicians, lights and sound crew, and Stacey Jones, the associate vice chancellor of Campus and Community Events at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith. He said Jones “is like Santa Claus, always happy and fun to be around.”