WESTFIELD, NJ — This New Year’s Eve at 7 p.m., several lauded guest soloists will join the New Jersey Festival Orchestra for “Dancing the Blues Away,” a revue of American musical theater classics by such composers as Berlin, Bernstein, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Kander, Herman, Styne, LeGrand, Lloyd Weber and Mandel.
“This is an event for the whole family,” Music Director and Conductor David Wroe said. “It's a friendly cabaret-style concert that gives insight into the wacky, the tender, the comic and the tragic elements of musical theater. Adults can reminisce to songs they all know, kids will learn about some of the more peculiar characters to grace the Broadway stage and we can all revel in the musical genius of some of America's finest composers.”
The NYE concert, held annually at Westfield High School, is one of the NJFO’s most popular programs.
“It is the 'perfect storm' of celebratory, popular music with great stars from the Broadway stage in a casual yet accessible venue, mixed with a time when people are wanting to celebrate with their friends and looking for just this kind of activity,” Wroe said. “People want safe, familiar and uplifting events to bring in the New Year, the NJ Festival Orchestra has built a tradition of being the place to be on this special night. It also fits perfectly in people's plans — the 1,000-plus audience either coming directly from a dinner, or leave the concert heading directly to their final dinner of the year.”
Wroe had a hard time pinpointing his favorite moment in this year’s program.
“There are so many,” he said. “This is a sampling program of the greatest songs drawn from both the ‘Great American Song Book’ and Broadway — songs made famous by Judy Garland, Sinatra, Andy Williams, Barbara Streisand, Johny Mathis and many more, and also drawn from the great musicals of the 20th Century. The fun of this program also comes from our artists and orchestra interacting with each other and this great repertoire. Its music that calls for dramatic interpretation, drawing comedic, heartbreaking, passionate and exhilarating performances from the NJ Festival Orchestra and stars invited.”
The performance will feature top-notch soloists, he said.
Hailed by The New York Times as being “At the Head of Her Class” and “enthralling,” multi award-winning vocalist and dancer Jennifer Sheehan is the first performer to star in the new WNET-PBS TV series “66th and Broadway.” She has also performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Caramoor, Savannah Music Festival, Feinstein's, Guild Hall, 54 Below and many more venues around the United States and in Europe.
Renowned for her “tender acting and fine singing,” soprano Leah Horowitz recently appeared on Broadway as Young Heidi in the acclaimed revival of “Follies” and as Cosette in “Les Miserables.” Other Broadway credits include roles in “White Christmas,” “Woman in White,” “Fiddler on the Roof” and “La Cage Aux Folles.” Horowitz has performed leading roles regionally and was a part of Steve Martin and Edie Brickell’s new musical “Bright Star at the Old Globe” in San Diego. She has been seen on TV as a sassy nun in NBC’s “The Sound of Music Live,” and at Madison Square Garden performing with Phish in their New Year’s Eve concert. She has been heard in numerous commercial jingles, including singing “Mm Mm Good!” for Campbell’s Soup.
Tenor Ian Patrick Gibb is a New York-based actor most notably known for touring with the critically acclaimed 25th Anniversary Production of “Les Misérables,” where he played Jean Prouvaire and Marius. Most recently Ian played Lt. Frederic Charlus and understudied the role of Quasimodo in the American premiere of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” at Paper Mill Playhouse and La Jolla Playhouse. Gibb has performed for audiences from coast to coast and has recently released two albums — “Fill in the Words” and “The Time of Year for Miracles.”
Barritone Michael Maliakel enjoys a diverse career in musical theatre, opera and sacred music. A recent first prize winner in the NATS National Musical Theater Competition, the New Jersey native’s recent musical theater credits include Roger in “A New Brain” and Sky Masterson in “Guys and Dolls.” On operatic stage, Maliakel’s appearances include the title role in Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro” and Raimondo in Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor.” Maliakel also performs regularly with several of NYC’s finest ensembles including the Voices of Ascension, Musica Viva of NY and Musica Sacra.
The concert is made possible through the generous sponsorship of The NJ State Council on the Arts and The Westfield Foundation.
“Audience members are advised to make reservations as soon as possible, as tickets are selling fast and last year’s concert was a sell-out,” Wroe said.