The history of the Broadway musical, via Paris
This article is from 2013.
Broadway – the sugary icing on the grand gâteau of musical theatre. For some the upbeat kitschness of a Broadway musical is a return to childhood. For others, it can be mindbendingly confusing, and the unwavering smiles of an all-singing, all dancing cast a bit intimidating. Luckily enough, the cast of Broadway Enchanté carry off what could have been a cataclysmic medley of every Broadway hit you’ve ever heard with surprising grace. The reason? Each and every one of them are excellent musicians.
The Parisian fivepiece, made up of Isabelle Georges (lead), Frederik Steenbrink (piano, voice), Jérôme Sarfati (double bass, piano), Édouard Pennes (guitar, voice), and David Grébil (drums), have a world of music under their belts. Celebrating the melting pot of New York in the early 1900s, Broadway Enchanté narrates the development of the Broadway musical in between energetic performances of classic songs. They explain how the timeless blend of music and drama combined with the diversity of musical genres flooding in with immigration, tracking musical history from silent films to the ‘talkies’ to jazz and beyond.
What saves the show from just being a montage of musical numbers performed at breakneck speed (‘Singin' In the Rain’ in under eight minutes, for example) is the cast’s ability to expertly change the pace and tone of each interlude. With the instrumentalists’ professional training rooted firmly in jazz music, and Georges and Steenbrinks’ powerful voices, a task that could have overwhelmed more inexperienced musicians is enjoyably pulled off. Although the show at times can feel a bit too scripted, it does not get bogged down in the necessary calculations of such a busy production.