NOVEMER 7, 2002
Singers offer ‘wonderful' take on Richard Rodgers
BY MARGO SCHAFER
‘I f somebody wants to sing my songs after I'm gone,” the prolific composer Richard Rodgers once said, “nobody will be happier than my dead body.”
If four Broadway performers have their way, the late Rodgers will be a very happy man indeed.
To celebrate Rodgers’ would-be 100th birthday, four acclaimed singers will present “Something Wonderful: Richard Rodgers’ Centennial of Song” Nov. 16 at the Prairie Center in Schaumburg.
Heather Mac Rae, Craig Rubano, KT Sullivan, and Mark Nadler have all won awards for their performances on and off Broadway. Between them, they have won 10 Manhattan Association of Cabaret (MAC) awards and six Backstage (BISTRO) Awards.
The group will perform for one night only in Schaumburg to honor the life and music of Rodgers and his partners, Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II. Their show, which is touring the country through 2004, includes biographical information about all three men and highlights from six decades of music.
“The show is really fun, and it’s filled with lots of little surprises,” said Craig Rubano, who performs in the show and also played Marius in “Les Miserables” for two years. Rubano won this year’s BISTRO Award for Outstanding Vocalist.
Rodgers’ songs — more than 900 in all — include classics such as “My Funny Valentine,” “The Lady is a Tramp” and “Blue Moon,” in addition to the musical scores of “Oklahoma,” “Carousel,” “The King and I,” “South Pacific” and many others.
Rob Pileckis, production supervisor at Prairie Center, said the quality of the signers was one reason the center chose the show. The timeless quality of Rodgers’ music was another reason.
“Rodgers’ musical compositions not only exist in his original shows but stand on their own as works of art,” he said.
In fact, Rodgers’ music has developed a life outside its Broadway origins.
Mac Rae, daughter of the late Gordon Mac Rae, who starred in “Oklahoma” and “Carousel,” is a Broadway star in her own right. She said the group performs duets, quartets and solos.
“It’s a wonderful evening of music and stories that are both touching and funny,” said Mac Rae, who met Rodgers and Hammerstein as a child and talks about those memories — as well as moments with her father — during the show.
Nadler said Rodgers and Hart were the toast of New York in the 1930s.
“You can hear the sense of humor in the lyrics, and the music echoes it,” he said.
Nadler sings, tap dances and plays piano in the show, sometimes simultaneously.
According to Nadler, when Rodgers later teamed up with Hammerstein, Rodgers’ music changed significantly because of the enormous success of “Oklahoma,” which forever changed the face of musicals.
“In the show, we juxtapose Hammerstein to Hart so you can compare the two composers,” Nadler said.
Nadler has received MAC awards three years in a row for outstanding Musical Comedy Performer and won two Bistro Awards.
Sullivan, who will sing the original version of “Blue Moon” that Rodgers wrote for Jean Harlowe, said Rodgers was so prolific because he simply loved to work.
“He couldn’t get the songs out fast enough. He never stopped working, and was truly a genius who was loved by America,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan has won several MAC and Bistro Awards for her work on and off Broadway and was deemed “one of the finest cabaret/musical stage performers around” by Billboard magazine.
Rodgers, who died in 1979, was no stranger to awards himself. He received two Pulitzer Prizes and numerous Tonys, Oscars, Grammys and Emmys for his work.
“He didn’t just write jazzy melodies. He wrote jazzy melodies that will live forever,” Nadler said.
“Something Wonderful” will be performed at 8 p.m. Nov. 16 at the Prairie Center for the Arts, 201 Schaumburg Court, Schaumburg. Tickets are $24 for adults and $22 for seniors and students. Call (847) 895-3600 or buy tickets online at http://www.prairecenter.org/.