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Otero College’s Student & Community Choir Present “Broadway Lights: Songs 2000-present.”

Written By: Dean Rees

LA JUNTA — If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. That’s the motto for Otero College’s Student and Community Choir as they prepare an upcoming concert entitled “Broadway Lights: Songs 2000-present.” A previous incarnation of the choir was preparing some of the same music when rehearsals stopped midway through the semester in March of 2020. Covid-19 affected so many things, including arts organizations across the country and world.

Now perseverance pays off as a new group of singers perform Broadway songs written since 2000, reviving the previous show. The concert is April 25 in the Ed Stafford Theatre at Otero College. It begins at 7 p.m. with doors to open about 6:30. Admission is free. Donations are accepted.

The music is lively and dramatic. It reflects a variety of musical styles and emotions. Broadway musicals continue an evolution towards more psychologically honest and perceptive themes and subject matter. Dean Rees, director of the choir, heartily encourages people of the Arkansas Valley community to try out some music that may not be as familiar as some but is well worth their attention. Different perspectives are experienced and explored. And…it’s so entertaining!

The concert features choral arrangements taken from the following Broadway shows (in order of performance): Waitress (2015), Shrek the Musical (2008), Matilda the Musical (2010), Ghost (2011), Newsies (2011), Anastasia (2016), Kinky Boots (2012), Avenue Q (2003), and Next to Normal (2009). Several soloists as well as a small group will sing selections from Waitress (2015), The Light in the Piazza (2005), The Color Purple (2005), Six: The Musical (2020), and Next to Normal (2009).

Probably the most familiar song is taken from Ghost the Musical. Unchained Melody was recorded by the Righteous Brothers in 1967. The song was also used in the 1990 film (starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore) that inspired the musical. Once Upon a December, excerpted from the musical Anastasia, is a lyrical and nostalgic minor-tinged tune. The music conjures up a feeling of dancing a swirling waltz in a 19th-century ballroom. Like Ghost, the musical Anastasia is based on a movie. Anastasia the film was made at Fox Animation Studios (1997), and Once Upon a December was then nominated for a Golden Globe Award.

The concert opens with the bright and catchy song Opening Up from Waitress. Heather Pidcock-Reed will sing the haunting She Used to Be Mine from the same musical, and when Heather sings… she will break your heart. Shrek the Musical features songs that are pure fun and delightfully irreverent in the same spirit as the movie. When I Grow Up from Matilda the Musical is simply charming and reflects child-like naivete in both its tune and the perspective of its lyrics. Seize the Day from Newsies serves to inspire the young paper deliverers (the “Newsies”, a group of orphan boys in 1899 New York) to stand up to the exploitive newspaper moguls. It’s a classic story of the little guy standing up to an unjust system and fighting for his or her rights. Kinky Boots has songs that were all originally written by Cyndi Lauper and the medley brings a fun, pop-music sound to the program. Kinky Boots won a Tony Award for best original musical score. The musical Avenue Q also won a Tony Award for its music. The play features four puppet characters that interact with their puppeteers onstage. The choir will sing It’s A Fine, Fine Line from Avenue Q. The concert closes with the deeply moving Light from Next to Normal. When it premiered in 2009 Next to Normal was considered groundbreaking. It fearlessly explores the ravages that one individual’s severe mental illness can bring to an entire family. But Light is all about facing those challenges and finding hope and light in the darkness. Next to Normal was awarded a Pulitzer Prize, one of two musicals to be so honored.

Other songs in the program include: The Light in the Piazza from the show of the same name (sung by Kathryn Gates); What About Love from The Color Purple (sung by James Lind, Katie Lagergren, Tracey Salzbrenner, and Mike Shima); Heart of Stone from Six: The Musical (sung by Katie Lagergren); and A Light in the Dark from Next to Normal (sung by Mike Shima).

Sally Kappel, the choir’s eminently skilled accompanist, plays the piano. Al Guadagnoli lays down the bass guitar lines. Jordan Borrego from Pueblo plays drums and Lynda England plays the flute.

Mr. Rees invites one and all to come and experience the magic of Broadway and some of its music written over the last twenty years. It’s time to light the lights!

Members of the Otero College Choir: Matthew Beard, Donna Cannon, Chris Coffield, Caitlyn Dieckmann, Grant Elliot, Lynda England, Kathryn Gates, Kristin Golding-Langston, Rebecca Grantham, Dan Haddan, Alicia Haldeman, Everlyn Hunter, Nancy Jenniges, Katie Lagergren, Kaydence Lagergren, James Lind, Janell Lorenzo, Jacob McNally, Heather Pidcock-Reed, Omayra Pumalpa, Tracey Salzbrenner, Tori Schneider, Susan Shand, Mike Shima, Dawn Smart, Kelly Jo Smith.

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