IN THE SPOTLIGHT: An orchestra, some college students, and Sondheim…

Tonight was utterly remarkable watching a stage filled with some of the Miami Valley’s most exceptional performers gathered to celebrate the genius and the music of Stephen Sondheim. On the Schuster Center stage was assembled the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Patrick Reynolds, and performers from Wright State University’s Department of Theatre, Dance, and Motion Picture supplemented by choral students of Wright State University’s Department of Music.

Saturday, January 21st, you still have an opportunity to grab your tickets for this 7:30 PM repeat performance. I am trying to figure out if I can revisit the program again.

For the past twenty years, I have seen countless professional performers on the Schuster’s stage in musicals and performing with the DPO. Tonight, I didn’t see students from Wright State University’s theatre department, I saw performers just as capable as those professionals who pass through on national tours. There was a beautiful balance of artistry shared by Wright State University theatre students and the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra.

There were some powerful moments throughout the program that overpowered several disappointing sound operation gaffes. “Our Time” from MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG and “Sunday” from SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE closed both acts with WSU choral singers joining the theatre students for high-quality choral singing under the direction of the new director of choral activities, Nathan Nagir. “A Weekend in the Country” from A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC lit up the stage, as did “Get Married Today” from COMPANY. “Not While I’m Around” from SWEENY TODD with soloist Ben Ohnemus and Alexis Ariana singing “Send in the Clowns” from A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC gave me chills. But there were a number of other soloists and small ensembles that made me love, all the more, what Wright State University contributes to our world of musical theatre.

Stage directors, Joe Deer and Greg Hellems, along with musical direction from Wade Russo and Matt Ebright are several of the personnel and education examples that demonstrate why those students were so extraordinary. Rather than the usual concert protocol of waiting for a performer to enter or exit the stage before beginning the next selection, the transitions flowed seamlessly between numbers.

There was one moment I found very touching. After the mass of Wright State performers bowed and departed the stage, conductor Patrick Reynolds called them back for an unexpected final acknowledgment from the enthusiastic audience. From the top balcony, you could feel Mr. Reynold’s pride and fondness for these young performers. I think we all shared his sentiment.

Dayton, Ohio. Yes, this took place in Dayton, Ohio. Our magnificent orchestra and a remarkable local university musical theatre program blended to honor a renowned artist. I think Mr. Sondheim would have wiped away a tear or two for such a tribute.

If you don’t believe me, grab Saturday evening’s performance at The Schuster Center for the Performing Arts.

About Wright Flyer Guy

Darin is a single adoptive father, a teacher, playwright, and musical theatre director from Kettering, Ohio.
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