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An evening with divas

September 24, 2009|By KATE COLEMAN

Broadway is coming to Hagerstown.

On Saturday, the Maryland Symphony Orchestra will present its 28th season's Pops concert - "The Three Broadway Divas" - an evening of timeless tunes from the Great White Way.

Debbie Gravitte, Jan Horvath and Anne Runolfsson will return to The Maryland Theatre to perform songs of Rodgers and Hart, Lerner and Loewe, Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber. They will sing showstoppers from "A Chorus Line," "Sweet Charity," "Funny Girl," "Wicked" and "Mame."

The orchestra will have the spotlight on overtures from "Gypsy" and "West Side Story."

Music Director Elizabeth Schulze has worked with the leading ladies in Hagerstown and other American cities as well as Hong Kong, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Israel.

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"I can't wait to bring them all together at the same time on The Maryland Theatre stage," she said. "Each of these wonderful singer-actresses is a show unto themselves, and to have them all here together is going to be fantastic fun for me."

The three divas have impressive Broadway resumes.

Jan Horvath grew up in a musical family north of Chicago. She went to New York as soon as she graduated from Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, where she had transferred to study musical theater instead of "strictly classical" singing.

"I always knew I was a singer. There was never any question about it," she said.

Horvath's Broadway credits include being a member of the original Broadway company of "The Phantom of the Opera."

She has had Off-Broadway roles and has sung the leading part of Grizabella in the National Touring Company of "Cats." She's been doing concert work for the last 15 years and loves it.

"Even if you're singing the same material, it's always different, because you're in a different city, you're with different conductors, the orchestras always bring their own feeling to the music," she said.

Anne Runolfsson is another California girl who made it to Broadway. As a teenager, seeing a Los Angeles production of "Evita" was a "life-changing moment." She had started studying voice and realized the combined power of theater and music. By the time she graduated from high school, she was "dead set" on a career in musical theater.

It happened, and Runolfsson performed the title role in "Victor/Victoria" 120 times standing in for Julie Andrews and Liza Minnelli. Other Broadway and national tour credits include "Les Miserables," "Cyrano, The Musical" and "The Secret Garden."

She returned to California two years ago, and although she's performing - 60 to 90 days a year - she enjoys teaching musical-theater voice a couple of days a week at an arts-based high school.

"The kids are diehard fans of musical theater - passionate about the medium," she said. "It's definitely a bug that people catch."

The appeal of the Broadway repertoire is strong.

Los Angeles-born Debbie Gravitte said she always wanted to be on Broadway. She received a Tony Award in 1989 for best featured actress in a musical for playing several roles in "Jerome Robbins' Broadway." Speaking by phone recently as she prepared to leave her Connecticut home for a Boston Pops gig, the mother of three teenagers said she feels incredibly lucky to be doing a lot of concert shows.

Gravitte was hard-pressed to name a song she performs that isn't from a Broadway show. She does a lot of standards, but said many of them originated on the Broadway stage.

"I think the music of Broadway appeals to audiences of all ages because it truly reflects our history and our interests through the musical vernacular of the day," Schulze said.

"There's only one Broadway," Gravitte said.




If you go ...



WHAT: MSO Pops Concert: "The Three Broadway Divas"

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26

WHERE: The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., Hagerstown

COST: Tickets cost $22 to $49 for adults; $12 to $25 for children 12 and younger and for full-time students. Tickets are available online through Friday, Sept. 25, at www.marylandsymphony.org , by calling 301-797-4000 or at the MSO box office, 30 W. Washington St. in Hagerstown.

MORE: Student rush tickets (no reservations accepted) will be available at the theater box office 90 minutes before the performance for $5. Seat selection will be at the discretion of box-office personnel.

Subscriptions for the entire 2009-10 season still are available. First-time subscribers receive a 50 percent discount off regular single ticket prices.

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