DE PERE, Wis. (WFRV) – The one, the only, singular.
That has a nice ring.
And so it is in the middle of “Spring Showcase” of the Knights on Broadway of St. Norbert College that the troupe pays tribute to the greatest-of-all-time Broadway composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim.
Twelve songs give a glimpse of the late (R.I.P. 10.26.2021) wizard of musical theater.
The display is something no other entity in this neck of the woods can do. None.
Director Kent Paulsen has the knowledge pool and the practiced performers and the venue and the reason to “page through” an aural memory book for an audience to admire.
And all around that section are 22 other songs in a program that continues for two more performances in the college’s Dudley Birder Hall.
Thursday’s opening-night performance received a standing ovation.
Songs are selected to suit a singer’s voice in featured elements, but the students seldom sing alone for long. Many songs build as more voices arrive, with added movement, to become a story. All the songs have meaning within the musical they come from, and some have other meanings in life for all – “Louder Than Words” making a statement.
Black is the dominant color of the 14 students’ stylish wear – suits for the men and crisp yet flowing dresses for the women, each wearing a sparkly necklace and earrings.
Each song, source and singer(s) is introduced on a screen at the back of the stage. Prior to the performance, the singers are seen on the screen in behind-the-scenes moments on campus and around performances.
In the show, Kent Paulsen is at the piano laying the groundwork for another song, another style, another few thousand notes to make a singer or the troupe sound/look good.
Interesting moments abound – Sarah Gregory letting rip in big notes in “Once Upon a Time,” Trent Larson singing to pin-drop audience attention in “Maria,” Daphne Johnson and Daniel Scaife flashing a swing dance in the midst of “Nobody,” Marki Hietpas expressive in practically every note, the men unleashing taut harmony in “Bui-Doi” and, time after time, teaming in sound, look, movement and storytelling.
And then, in “Tribute to Stephen Sondheim,” it’s mining the gold mine of a master with bunches more quality singing/storytelling from humor to drama. The section ends with “Being Alive,” which Stephen Sondheim was for 90 years.
Running time: Two hours
Remaining performances: 7:30 p.m. May 13 and 1 p.m. May 14
Creative: Director – Kent Paulsen; assistant director, costumer – Linda Feldmann; technical director, light designer – Brittney Fritz; audio engineer – Alex Sudbrink; administrative specialist – Josh Fields
Kent Paulsen, piano
Logan Enger (Little Chute)
Sarah Gregory (Green Bay)
Marki Hietpas (Combined Locks)
Emma Hutter (Fond du Lac)
Megan Jasen (West Bend)
Daphne Johnson (Green Bay)
Evan Larson (Green Bay)
Trent Larson (Greenville)
Anton Maslowski (Madison)
Seth Mayrer (Mosinee)
Mary Mitchell (Milwaukee)
Daniel Scaife (Madison)
Sam Skiff (Fond du Lac)
Annie Yamamoto (Hoffman Estates, Ill.)
“Spring Showcase” musical selections
+ “You’ve Got a Friend” from “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” – Daphne Johnson, Annie Yamamoto, all
+ “Time Stops” from “Big Fish” – All
+ “Bright Star” from “Bright Star” – Anton Maslowski, all
+ “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” from “The Phantom of the Opera” – Megan Jasen
+ “By My Side” from “Godspell,” Marki Hietpas, women
+ “I See Stars” from “Mean Girls” – All
+ “Stop the World” from “Come from Away” – Emma Hutter, Sam Skiff, all
+ “Once Upon a Time” from “Brooklyn the Musical” – Sarah Gregory, all
+ “Morning Glow” from “Pippin” – Trent Larson, all
Tribute to Stephen Sondheim
+ “Comedy Tonight” from “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” – All
+ “Something’s Coming” from “West Side Story” – Daniel Scaife
+ “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” from “Gypsy” – Sarah Gregory
+ “Giants in the Sky” from “Into the Woods” – Anton Maslowski
+ “Getting Married Today” from “Company” – Marki Hietpas
+ “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd” from “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” – All
+ “Agony” from “Into the Woods” – Logan Enger, Sam Skiff
+ “Losing My Mind” from “Follies” – Mary Mitchell
+ “Not While I’m Around” from “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” – Evan Larson
+ “Not a Day Goes By” from “Merrily We Roll Along” – Megan Jasen
+ “Maria” from “West Side Story” – Trent Larson
+ “Being Alive” from “Company” – All
+ “Nobody” from “Bandstand” – Daphne Johnson, Daniel Scaife
+ “One of the Great Ones” from “A Bronx Tale” – Logan Enger
+ “Mama Who Bore Me” from “Spring Awakening” – Sarah Gregory, women
+ “Bui-Doi” from “Miss Saigon” – men
+ “When I Grow Up” from “Matilda: The Musical” – All
+ “Everything Changes” from “Waitress” – Annie Yamamoto, all
+ “Louder Than Words” from “tick… tick… BOOM” – Seth Mayrer, Evan Logan, Mary Mitchell, all
+ “When the Chips are Down” from “Hadestown” – Annie Yamamoto, Emma Hutter, Daphne Johnson
+ “The Best of Times” from “La Cage aux Folles” – Megan Jasen, all
+ “I Wish I Could Go Back to College” from “Avenue Q” – all
+ “One Day More” from “Les Misérables” – all
+ Senior Song: “Our Time” from “Merrily We Roll Along” – Annie Yamamoto, Trent Larson, Megan Jasen
+ “Freak Flag” from “Shrek” – All
THE VENUE: Dudley Birder Hall at St. Norbert College is located in the former St. Boniface Church at the corner of Fourth and Grant streets in De Pere. Following renovation at a cost of $1.7 million supported by donors, the hall was dedicated and opened Feb. 14, 2013. Much of the work inside the church involved the installation of professionally designed, custom-made acoustical materials for state-of-the-art sound quality. The space is multi-purpose space. Seating accommodates approximately 200 persons. The walls and towering arches of the former church are painted cream white. Above are acoustical clouds. The raised stage is spacious and airy. The St. Boniface building dates to the late 1800s and is a landmark for its classical exterior and clock tower.
THE PERSON: Known for an outgoing personality, enthusiasm and attention to detail, Dudley Birder started on the St. Norbert faculty in 1958. He founded Music Theatre in 1962. The Collegiate Chorale and the Swinging Knights show group were his other creations. Dudley Birder produced musicals for the college and community into 2017 and concerts into 2018. After Birder retired from teaching, he continued as conductor of the Dudley Birder Chorale of St. Norbert College and artistic director of Music Theatre of St. Norbert College. He fully retired June 1, 2018.