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Pops goes the MSO

September 16, 2004|by KATE COLEMAN

katec@herald-mail.com

Maryland Symphony Orchestra Music Director Elizabeth Schulze had a lot of experience with symphony pops concerts before she came to Hagerstown. Now in her sixth MSO season, Schulze has programmed pops performances that featured big-band and Dixieland music as well as a couple of Broadway concerts.

The Broadway programs seem to be everyone's favorite, she said. "It's a wonderful tradition. The music is very fine."

And, she added, people go out whistling the tunes.

The MSO is headed back to the Great White Way on the evening of Saturday, Sept. 18 - with "Broadway Nights."

The program will feature Craig Schulman, who also created and produced the concert series. Schulman, who grew up on Long Island, N.Y., said he knew he wanted to be a performer since his earliest memories. He sang operetta and opera. Although he had no Broadway experience in 1987, an agent who'd heard him sing suggested he audition for the first national touring company of "Les Misrables."

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Good idea. Schulman sang the role of Jean Valjean nearly 2,000 times - on the Broadway stage and around the world. He also has performed the leading roles in "Jekyll & Hyde" and Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Phantom of the Opera."

"Broadway Nights" is a perfect blend of Schulman's talents. Classically trained with Broadway experience, he said it wasn't "rocket science" for him to realize he should be "doing symphony stuff."

The MSO audience will have a chance to hear music from shows dating back to the 1920s, tunes from "Showboat" to "Jekyll & Hyde," said Anne Runolfsson, who will share The Maryland Theatre stage with Schulman. He described her as a "charming and beautiful" and versatile artist - as comfortable in cabaret and jazz as she is on the Broadway stage.

"I think we have a wonderful chemistry," Runolfsson said of their collaboration.

The California native began her musical studies at age 14 and after college, went to New York with a "couple of hundred dollars" on a friend's dare. Her first Broadway show was "Les Misrables," as understudy for the role of Fantine. She will sing Eponine's "On My Own" with the MSO. Runolfsson stood in for Julie Andrews and Liza Minnelli in "Victor/Victoria" and said she enjoyed being called "the most beautiful woman in Paris," when she portrayed Roxanne in "Cyrano."

Schulman and Runolfsson will sing solo, and they will sing together.

People have asked Schulman if he has costume changes for the different roles he'll sing.

Costume changes aren't necessary.

"It's about the acting," he tells them.

The songs tell stories, Runolffson said.

Singing Broadway songs is musical storytelling, Schulman agreed, adding that's what he likes about the genre.

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