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Deer Valley becomes the Great White Way

Kat James Of The Record staff

The third annual Deer Valley Music Festival presented the Utah Symphony and some incredibly talented vocalists Saturday evening in what has become a summer tradition — "Bravo Broadway." And, weather-wise, once again the sizeable audience dodged a bullet, with only a few drops of rain falling early on and some distant lightning throughout the performance.

The orchestra, led by Maestro Gerald Steichen, kicked off the show with Leonard Bernstein’s Overture to "Candide." The guest performers, formally attired, then took the stage — Doug LaBrecque, Kip Wilborn and, filling in for the scheduled Christine Noll, Anne Runolfsson. LaBrecque has performed in this Deer Valley event a number of times, and has ties to Utah, having attended the U of U.

Rather than an all-Broadway production, a few operetta pieces, a la Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, were also included. From Sigmond Romberg’s "Student Prince," the trio performed "Come Boys" and "Stout Hearted Men." Later in the performance, Runolfsson sang "Italian Street Song" from Victor Herbert’s "Naughty Marietta."

The entire show had a polish to it that seems hard to believe considering the limited rehearsal time. With choreographed routines and performer interaction, they never missed a beat.

Wilborn captivated the audience with "Be My Love," originally sung by Mario Lanza in the 1950 film, "The Toast of New Orleans." Coincidentally, the song is the title track of Wilborn’s newest CD.

LaBrecque stirred emotions with a heartfelt rendition of "Stranger in Paradise" from "Kismet" followed by a flawless duet with Runolfsson on "Tonight," the balcony scene from "Westside Story."

Wilborn took a turn with "O Sole Mio," in Italian, of course. This tune was recorded in 1916 by Enrico Caruso for the Victor Talking Machine Co. (amazing what trivia you can find on the Web). A comedic element came into play as Wilborn mopped the sweat from his brow with a small towel. LaBrecque joined in the song and mopped up with a bigger towel. Not one to be outdone, Steichen pulled out an even larger bath towel, once more making the point that size, indeed, matters.

The trio performed a medley of tunes from Lerner and Loewe’s "My Fair Lady." Runolfsson had a solo on "I Could Have Danced All Night," Wilborn sang "On the Street Where You Live" and all joined in on "The Rain in Spain."

Steichen introduced special guest Lisa Vroman, who will be performing in "Pirates of Penzance" next Saturday. Moving from operettas to hard-core opera, she ended the first set with the aria "O Suave Fanciulla" from Puccini’s "La Boheme."

Following an intermission, LaBrecque and Wilborn started off with "Willkommen" from "Cabaret." They were joined on stage by Runolfsson in a sassy, blue-sequined gown for a sizzling version of "All That Jazz" from "Chicago." Bob Fosse would be proud.

Wilborn, moving again from contemporary music to classic Italian opera, delivered the beautiful "Nessun Dorma," from Puccini’s "Turandot."

More guests came onboard — Vroman and other cast members of next week’s "Pirates" — who backed up LaBrecque on "Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat" from "Guys and Dolls."

Runolfsson really showed her range with the plaintive "I Dreamed a Dream," sung by Fantine in "Les Miserables," a role she played on Broadway. Judging by audience response, it was one of the evening’s highlights.

It was time for Steichen and the stellar Utah Symphony to shine in their own right. They performed Marvin Hamlish’s Overture from "A Chorus Line," with memorable tunes like "One," "I Can Do That" and "What I Did For Love."

Runolfsson, now attired in a magenta gown (one of four costumes) began the final medley with "Phantom of the Opera," joined, first off-stage, by LaBrecque and then as a duet onstage. With amazing high notes and vocal power, it only got better as LaBrecque, as the Phantom, delivered the signature piece, "Music of the Night," which he has played on Broadway.

Following a brief exit, the performers returned with their encore, "Seasons of Love" from Jonathan Larson’s "Rent."

With great music, topped off by a nearly full moon in a nearly-cloudless sky, it was an evening not soon to be forgotten.


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