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‘Wizards of Broadway’ Production to Showcase Lyric Stage at MC’s Finest Musical Performers March 4

Maria Guay and Daniel Bunting are looking forward to performing established Broadway classics by Sondheim and Schwartz at Duling Hall in Jackson.
Maria Guay and Daniel Bunting are looking forward to performing established Broadway classics by Sondheim and Schwartz at Duling Hall in Jackson.

Legendary composers and lyricists Stephen Sondheim and Stephen Schwartz are considered by many to be the most important figures in 20th-century musical theater.

From “West Side Story” and “Gypsy” to “A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum” and “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” Sondheim’s music and lyrics helped reinvent the American musical.

“His use of sweeping melodies, combined with great dissonance and leitmotif, set him apart from other traditional song and dance theater composers and align him with the likes of operatic greats such as Wagner.”

Schwartz may be even more commercially popular. The three-time Academy Award and Grammy Award-winning composer has written such beloved musicals as “Godspell,” “Pippin,” and “Wicked” and has contributed lyrics to a number of popular movies, including “Pocahontas,” The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” and “Enchanted.”

“His melodies are pop-based, toe-tapping, and really groove,” Perna said. “They are two very successful giants whose music is vividly unique.”

Small wonder, then, that the composers’ works form the basis of a show dubbed “Wizards of Broadway” a collaboration between Lyric Stage at MC and Opera Mississippi, scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday, March 4, at Duling Hall in Jackson.

Perna said MC’s best performers will be featured during an evening of Broadway hits that will include touching fan-favorite songs such as “Maria” from “West Side Story,” popular selections from “Into the Woods,” poignant moments such as “Send in the Clowns,” and a smash hit from “Wicked.”

“Since this is a show that features Lyric Stage outside the walls of MC and since it will be presented to the greater Jackson community, we selected our top-notch musical theater singers for this performance,” he said. “They were hand-picked based on their audition last November as our absolute shining stars.

“Each of them has a solo song and they will all be in four ensemble numbers as well.”

Opera Mississippi approached Perna about Lyric Stage at MC serving as a featured act in its “Creating Connections” series, which supports the education and professional training of student and emerging artists from educational institutions throughout Mississippi.

He said the opportunity for outreach into the larger Jackson metropolitan area couldn’t be missed.

“This is all about exposure of what we do with both the Opera Mississippi audiences and the greater Jackson metro area,” Perna said. “So often, getting audiences to come all the way to Clinton is our greatest challenge for Lyric Stage, but once they do come, they keep coming back because we present an excellent product.”

The opportunity to perform elsewhere gives additional theatrical experience to MC students like Maria Guay and Daniel Bunting. The veteran Lyric Stage at MC performers can’t wait to take their considerable talents “on the road” to nearby Jackson.

“Performing with Opera Mississippi at Duling Hall will bring in an audience that won’t be familiar with MC or what’s happening on campus,” said Guay, a senior English writing student from Ponchatoula, Louisiana, who has appeared in four other shows for Lyric Stage. “This outreach to a new audience not only brings exposure to Lyric Stage at MC, but also to Mississippi College as a whole.

“This is a great opportunity for us to show the larger Jackson area that, although we are a small school, we have exceptional programs – like our Music Department – that offer students the chance to not only express themselves, but also grow in their talent and skills. Lyric Stage is growing in size and talent with every show we do.”

A member of Opera Mississippi’s Young Artist Program, Bunting is looking forward to showcasing his talents alongside the talented Lyric Stage cast and MC’s music faculty.

“Opera Mississippi has so many talented singers and I’m blessed to work with all of them,” said the second-year graduate student in MC’s School of Music from Virginia Beach, Virginia. “It’s a great chance to reach people who don’t often get an opportunity to be exposed to opera or musical theater music within the larger Jackson area.

“It is great to see performance organizations in the area I’m a part of come together to make a great show.”

Bunting, who will be singing a solo, “All I need is the Girl,” from “Gypsy” and a duet with Guay, “In Whatever Time We Have,” from “Children of Eden,” said the new setting is the most challenging aspect of his performance.

“The stage and the audience at Duling Hall are much closer, so feeling comfortable and confident in that environment is what I’m working toward,” he said. “I want the audience to see how much fun we’re having together on stage. When the performers look engaged, the audience is able to pick up on that and enjoy the performance with us.”

Guay, who also will be singing “Meadowlark” from “The Baker’s Wife,” and other ensemble numbers, said she will be challenged by the range of Schwartz’s piece.

“’Meadowlark’ is quite a difficult song to sing,” she said. “I’ve been singing this song for about a year now, and each time I sing it, I discover something new. Being able to keep up with the vocal demand while also conveying the emotion and story is challenging.”

In addition to Guay and Bunting, other Lyric Stage at MC performers will include Salih Kavruk (“Maria” from “West Side Story”), Abigail Hughes (“Take Me to the World” from “Evening Primrose”), Chloe Newton (“Miller’s Son” from “A Little Night Music”), Ainsley Marler (“Lion Tamer” from “The Magic Show”), Sarah Pigott, adjunct faculty in the Department of Music (“Not a Day Goes By” from “Merrily We Roll Along”), Jamie Ertle, adjunct faculty in the Department of Music (“Finishing the Hat” from “Sunday in the Park with George”), Viola Dacus, associate professor of music (“Send in the Clowns” from “A Little Night Music”), Maggie Triplett, Cez Anne Carino, and Annalee Crawford (selections from “Into the Woods”), Zachary Templeton (“Beautiful City” from “Godspell”), Brelyn Hayes and Chloe Newton, accompanied by all students (“Defying Gravity” from “Wicked”), and Perna and Mandy Spivak, former adjunct faculty in the Department of Music (“Move On” from “Sunday in the Park with George”).

Guay said she would like the audience to experience a performance that reminds them of their love for music and theater.

“Patrons will hear a range of songs from Sondheim and Schwartz,” she said “I hope that they hear songs they love, but also are introduced to new ones. I hope they will see that Lyric Stage at MC is producing some high-caliber shows in Clinton.

“I am consistently blown away by my castmates and am honored that I get to work alongside these students who have such promising musical careers ahead of them. We want to show the audience why the arts in schools are important.”

General admission tickets cost $38 each or $25 for military personnel and $10 for individuals under 20. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the Opera Mississippi website.