Sunday, Oct. 10, 2010

Emerging From The Audience: Neil Berg’s 100 Years of Broadway

This Friday’s Show Features Performer from DePere

By Russ Bickerstaff
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It goes in cycles. The public’s fascination with stages and screens gradually gives way to a fascination with what happens behind them. The public becomes interested in watching the drama of individuals’ journey to the public stage. The stage shifts. Cameras are pointed outside studios. "Reality," is placed on TV. The glamour shifts elsewhere. 

 

A few years ago, an abrasively charismatic guy from the other side of the Atlantic realized that people still wanted glamour in a world of reality TV . . . but wanted to see people we think of as being “ordinary” become glamorous. Some time later, a TV show he developed had been holding audition callbacks in Milwaukee. Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez and a couple of guys from TV could be seen in the Encore section of the daily sitting in the glossy Calatrava. The breathtaking darling of fashion shows and medical commercials served as home for local auditions for one of the biggest shows in the U.S. one weekend before the Boulevard Theatre’s public audition drama Dramatic License. The one-weekend program, which features actors before a panel including a number of local theatre professionals had been staged before in an earlier incarnation under the TV-inspired title Audition Idol.

The Boulevard's Dramatic License may not have generated the kind of interest that would’ve included a color picture in the arts section of the daily, but Boulevard Theatre’s Mark Bucher is an interesting local theatre-based approach to people’s interest in seeing new talent emerge. A peak behind the curtain with local theatre professionals draws together those interested in learning the basics of auditioning with those interested in seeing how a group of people becomes a group of characters onstage. Bucher’s onto something wit the Dramatic License.

A week after the Boulevard’s show, New York theatre guy Neil Berg’s touring musical revue 100 Years of Broadway has chosen a local performer and a couple of runners-up for the Milwaukee Theatre performance next week Friday. As with every market the show travels to, Berg and company opened their virtual doors for an online audition of Wisconsin talent. Area performers posted mercifully brief audition videos online. Berg and a group of others have decided who will be performing with the show for a brief turn onstage. The winner is from DePere. There are runners-up from Milwaukee and Shorewood.

The local talent competition aspect of 100 Years of Broadway could come across as a gimmick to generate local interest. This is a show that also features Sandra Joseph, Rob Evan, Carter Calvert and Berg himself—names well known to big fans of Broadway. It’s a show that celebrates Broadway with a big, classy production in one of the larger venues. Is the local talent competition really a gimmick, though? Perhaps . . . but this is a celebration the last 100 years of musicals to come out of that special place in Manhattan so successful at marketing itself that it has made itself synonymous with one of the most enduring art forms to come out of the United States. People love Broadway and this is an opportunity for audiences to spend just a little more time with it this side of Lake Michigan. 

Neil Berg’s 100 Years of Broadway hits the stage of the Milwaukee Theatre at 7:30 pm on October 22nd. Tickets are available from ticketmonster, or by calling 1-800-745-3000.

 

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