May 11, 2014 - Rebecca Ungerman’s Way Broad Revue Debuts this Weekend at Jazz Depot
Singer-songwriter-producer Rebecca Ungerman make an impressive return to the Tulsa music scene this weekend at the Jazz Depot, debuting her new musical production Way Broad Revue on Friday and Saturday, and appearing with an entirely different show for the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame's Spring Concert Series on Sunday.
“This is my first major work since I was so sick,” notes Ungerman. “And I am so honored to have the Jazz Depot for the whole weekend, because no other artist has had that. So that means something to me; we're all just really pleased to be over there.”
Ungerman has been away from performing for several months, following an illness that culminated in gall-bladder surgery. Now, she says, “I'm doing much better. I wouldn't say I'm doing cartwheels, or that I'm a hundred percent, but I'm much better.”
Well enough, apparently, to launch a show featuring 18 other vocalists, pianist-arranger-musical director Jim Gregory, and dozens of Broadway tunes, albeit in truncated form.
“The show has seven medleys, basically, each one on a different theme,” she explains. “The medleys are bits – there's not one whole song in the entire show – and they're bookended by one pop song. So the first medley is `The Happy Medley,' and it's bookended by that now probably overplayed Pharrell [Williams] song, `Happy.' The medley starts with a bit of that song and ends with a bit of that song.
“There's also a medley called `The Candy Medley,' which is really about drugs, and it's bookended with Sammy Davis Jr.'s `Candy Man.' When they reprise it at the end, it's a little bit of a slower tempo, a groovier tempo.”
It's the same sort of structure she first employed last year, with a production entitled Narrow View? Try a Broad Way! that played the Tulsa Performing Arts Center's Liddy Doenges Theatre in August and the Jazz Depot in November.
“This is the second in what I hope will be a series of these revue shows,” says Ungerman. “I can do one on movies. I can do one on off-Broadway. It can be any theme. It could go anywhere. And I'm really excited about taking music that was written with one intent, and re-envisioning it.”
This time around, she has even more help than she did for the first show, for which she had a cast of 15, including herself.
“For that one, there were auditions, but for this one, I asked the original cast if they'd like to come back,” she says. “Most of them did. Then, there were a couple who reached out to me, and a couple I really wanted to hand-pick. I'd worked with Tabitha Littlefield and Peggy Spence Fry in the past, and I'd really been wanting to work with them again.”
In addition to Ungerman, the cast, in alphabetical order, includes Caitlin Cash, Carson Cash, Lisa Cole, Machele Miller Dill, Ashlee Elmore, Peggy Spence Fry, Patrick Hobbs, Roderick Hudson, Liz Hunt, Quintin Jones, Tabitha Littlefield, Liz Masters, Seth Paden, Jennifer Paxton, Kara Staiger, Alex Walter, Thomas Williams, and Delaney Zumwalt.
“It's exciting,” she says. “It's like a Benetton ad, my cast. All ages, and sexes, and preferences, and colors. It's great. I love it. Caitlin Cash and Delaney Zumwalt are both very young; I've been working with Delaney since she was 12, over at Theatre Arts, so I got her into this kind of stuff.”
Part of the reason for such a large cast, she adds, is that she wants to “open up stages for people.”
“I want to do that, and I love working with other people. I also love casting people who are much more talented than I am, so I can raise my game.”
As an example of the latter, she gives Machele Miller Dill, director of musical theatre at the University of Tulsa and a member of the Actors' Equity Association union. “She's a professional Equity actor, and I'm so thrilled we got permission from Equity for her to come and do this show,” notes Ungerman.
“This is going to be a heck of a night of entertainment,” she adds. “I haven't done the count yet on this show, but in the first one [Narrow View], we did 76 songs from 52 different musicals. It's fun because my brain loves writing [the medleys], Jim Gregory's brain loves stringing them together with his musical genius, and the cast loves performing them. I'm just happy and so blessed that everyone's on board.”
“Rebecca is an integral part of our musical community and she’s a part of the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame family,” said Jason McIntosh, Jazz Hall CEO. “We feel so fortunate that she is well again, and back doing what she does best—jazz.”
Rebecca Ungerman's Way Broad Revue runs Friday and Saturday, May 16 and 17, at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, located in downtown Tulsa’s Jazz Depot, 111 E. First Street. Showtime is 8:00 p.m. both nights.
Tickets can be purchased at the Depot, online, or by calling Bettie Downing at 918-281-8609. General admission is $10, table seating $20, and reserved table seating $30.
The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame is a 501(c)(3) non-profit cultural and educational organization, with a mission to inspire creativity and improve the quality of life for all Oklahomans through the preservation, education, and performance of jazz, our uniquely American art form.