The Lexington Opera House was overflowing with talent, local and Broadway, last Saturday at the premiere event for The Lexington Theatre Company (The Lex), an aptly titled Concert with the Stars.
It was a stripped down and intimate production (only a three piece stage band was present) that was as much old style revue of the established performers as a showcase for the affectionately termed “newbies.”
Lexington’s own Laura Bell Bundy kicked the night off with a great set of tunes. Sporting a flapper-girl dress and heels, she shimmied her way through a retrospective of her career and some surprisingly off-kilter impersonations of performers who influenced her, the highlights being her older (less sober) Judy Garland and putting the dress to good use with a fun rendition of Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary.”
Bundy could not leave the stage until she belted a tune “Legally Blonde,” the Broadway show that made her a star, and she didn’t disappoint.
Singer-songwriter and Broadway performer Mara Davi gave us a musical retrospective of her time working as “Cinderella” at Disneyland and gave a beautiful performance from her own album of original music, the song “When I.” I would think by now my wife has downloaded it from ITunes.
Jonathan Groff, who had already stolen the heart of every tween theater girl there just by existing, was the closing headliner and he belted out a few of his favorites. But anyone looking for “Reindeers Are Better Than People” from Frozen were left disappointed (darn it). He kept it strictly Broadway, with tunes from “Hair” and “Annie Get Your Gun” among others.
However, he couldn’t let his time on “Glee” get away without mention, giving the audience, and one swooning teenager named Shelby a dream medley from the show.
On the home-front, the regional and local talent that filled out the night held their own with the stars. Lindsey Austin, who studied journalism in college, is brimming with beauty and raw musical talent that made her performance of “The Wizard and I” (Wicked) a real tear-jerking, heart-stopping treat.
For my money though, the performance of the night belonged to Darian Sanders. His performance of “It All Fades Away” (The Bridges of Madison County) had to be one of the best singular performances I have ever seen at the Lexington Opera House and of all the talent he has the makings of a breakout star. His gift from above was a gift to us all Saturday.
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Producing and Artistic Directors Lindy Franklin Smith and Jeromy Smith have promised with The Lexington Theatre Company to combine the talents of up and coming local talent with established theater professionals. They plan on kicking off with the company’s first production with the classic “42nd Street.”
If the show, which is scheduled to premiere in July, matches the bar set by Saturday’s show, The Lexington Opera House is going to truly become the place to be in Lexington. I look forward to it.
James Halcomb is a self-described “desk jockey” at the University of Kentucky Hospital. The Lexington resident has spent much of his 40 years of life with his nose in a book, his eyes staring at a screen, ears covered by earphones or his mouth stuffed with food. As a result, he is an avid film nerd, TV geek, food snob and book buff. He is a member of the Appalachian Writers Association and contributing writer for The Good Men Project. He somehow lucked into meeting the love of his life, Tammy, and married her. They also have a 5-year-old-son, Quinn.