By Tammy Scileppi
“I’m lucky to have worked in theater all over the world, but there’s something magical about Broadway. The audiences are smart, they’re educated. They go in ready and they’re up for it, they’re up for the party.” — Hugh Jackman
There’s something extra-magical when Broadway comes to Queens, especially when local theatergoers have an opportunity to watch a unique show that features a stellar cast of wonderfully talented actors performing at Queens Theatre — actors who are real-life Broadway couples.
With musical direction by Eugene Gwozdz, “Broadway Valentine” promises an evening or afternoon filled with an entertaining mix of lively music and singing across the spectrum of Broadway, pop, the American songbook and country, punctuated with personal stories from the cast and a question-and-answer session with the audience. Performances are at 8 p.m. Feb. 17 and 3 p.m. Feb. 18 at the theater, 14 United Nations Avenue South in Flushing Meadows Corona Park,
“It’ll be a great date night for theater lovers,” said executive director Taryn Sacramone. “Many of Queens Theatre’s audience members are big fans of Broadway and musical theater. Presenting this show is my way of sending a love letter to them.”
The three performing couples are Tony nominee Erin Dilly (“A Christmas Story,” “Nice Work if You Can Get It,” “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”) and Stephen Buntrock (“Evita,” “A Little Night Music,” “Grease”); Kyle Dean Massey (“Nashville,” “Pippin,” “Next to Normal,” “Wicked”) and Taylor Frey (“How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” “Finian’s Rainbow”); and Alysha Umphress (“On the Town,” “Bring It On,” “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”) and Cody Williams (“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “On the Town,” “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella”).
Whether you celebrate Valentine’s Day or not, chances are you’ll be feeling the love in spades, because these three couples love what they do and love making their audiences happy.
“I think that we feel a connectedness with each other when we experience live performances together – seeing and feeling that happen is very exciting to me,” said Sacramone, who decided to feature married couples — some married longer than others — because she thought there would be “something particularly fun about knowing that the couples who you are watching onstage are real-life couples, with their own love stories.”
“It certainly guarantees that the cast will have chemistry,” she said.
Since coming aboard in August 2013, Sacramone said, she wanted to continue to support and offer some of the programming that Queens Theatre audiences had appreciated for more than two decades: world-class dance companies, theater that was both presented and produced in-house, performances highlighting and celebrating cultural diversity, and the development of plays by emerging writers from diverse backgrounds.
In addition, she wanted to introduce new shows and performers that exemplified the values behind those programming decisions — what is exciting now, in 2018.
She also wanted to make use of all three spaces at Queens Theatre, inviting Titan Theatre Company, a young company that produces classical plays, to make its home in the Studio Theater, for example, and bringing the play-reading series New American Voices to the intimate cabaret space.
“What I aim to do is to provide shared experiences for a diverse audience,” Sacramone said. “I love seeing people from all over this exceptionally diverse borough in particular, in the theater together, being moved by an extraordinary dance performance or a thought-provoking play.”
Sacramone lives with her husband (a Queens native and restaurateur) and two children in Whitestone. “Both of us love this borough,” she said.
A local resident who once lived just across from Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Stephen DeAngelis said he’s “thrilled” to be producing (and hosting) his first concert exclusively for Queens Theatre. “The most fulfilling part of producing a concert like ‘Broadway Valentine,’ ” he said, “is being able to create something truly unique for the audience, utilizing the full range of the cast’s talents and connecting with the audience.
“These combinations of performers have never worked together previously, so I anticipate multiple ‘lightning in a bottle moments’ coupled with the energy of an opening night.”
Mark your calendars. DeAngelis will be returning to the theater with an all-new concert, “Broadway Kids,” set for March 24 and March 25.
Ideal for audience members of all ages, this original musical revue will feature young actors who were child performers in Broadway shows. Audiences are sure to enjoy talkbacks with the cast after each performance.
The talented producer has also served as casting director for the theater’s productions of “The Miracle Worker,” “In the Car with Blossom and Len” and “Jimmy and Carolyn.”
In addition, he has produced more than 250 Broadway concerts at venues in New York and across the United States. featuring a multitude of Broadway stars, including many Tony Award and Drama Desk Award winners and nominees, stars from hit television series and films whose roots are on stage, and Broadway’s fastest-rising young performers.
“We are fortunate to be working with Stephen DeAngelis, who has produced many musical revues in the past, and always works with top talent,” Sacramone said.
Over the years, he has cast more than 3,600 network television and radio commercials for Manhattan’s leading advertising agencies, for clients including Olive Garden, Cover Girl and Advil. DeAngelis has also cast the six-time Emmy-Award-nominated Playhouse Disney series “Johnny and the Sprites,” starring Tony Award nominee John Tartaglia, which was seen on the Disney Channel.
His work has been seen in New York and regionally in 300-plus theatrical productions. Coming productions include the New York premiere of the new musical “Unexpected Joy,” by two-time Tony Award nominee Bill Russell and Janet Hood, and the Off-Broadway production of “Texas in Paris.”