New Faces Sing Broadway 1961 Review – Bringing 1961 to 2021

Tom Vendafreddo and Nicole Barth in NEW FACES SING BROADWAY 1961 - Photo courtesy of Porchlight Music Theatre
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Are you a Broadway musical buff? Then NEW FACES SING BROADWAY 1961 is the show for you. Porchlight Music Theatre’s series returns with a musical journey from start to finish of an entire Broadway season – in 75 minutes. Hosted by Kelvin Roston, Jr., and directed by Brianna Borger, NEW FACES SING BROADWAY 1961 has a foot in both history and the present moment. Artistic director Michael Weber takes the audience on a tour of Chicago’s theater district ending in Chicago’s historic Studebaker Theatre, where this production was filmed.

Clare Kennedy – Photo courtesy of Porchlight Music Theatre

But more about the “new faces” in the title of the presentation. While host Kelvin Roston, Jr., tells the tales of Broadway’s 1961 legendary musicals, he also offers the audience a chance to see and hear some current talents who perform those unforgettable show tunes introduced 60 years ago by many of the icons of Broadway. Nostalgia abounds as these new faces in Chicago musical theater sing their hearts out to melodies that will never die. Some of the shows highlighted – Camelot (Tommy Thurston sings “If Ever I Would Leave You”), Bye Bye Birdie (“Put on a Happy Face” singalong), Irma La Douce (Chloe Howard and Abraham Shaw harmonize with “Our Language of Love”), How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (Izzy Jones, Maurice Rex Randle, and Nicole Barth remember that “It’s Been a Long Day”),  and Do Re Mi (Kelvin Roster, Jr. wants to “Make Someone Happy”) – to name just a few. Music Director Tom Vendafreddo also tickles the ivories with “Willow, Willow, Willow.” To give credit where credit is due, other favorites are performed by newcomers Marcus Canada, Lexie Bailey, and Clare Kennedy. With talents like this, Chicago musical theater is in for lots of very good years.

Tommy Thurston – Photo courtesy of Porchlight Music Theatre

Wistful reminiscence accompanies this medley of 1961 Broadway favorites, and – if you were lucky enough to live through that time period – you will surely be humming along with gusto. For the younger crowd, this production offers a painless and often pleasurable introduction to Broadway history. NEW FACES SING BROADWAY 1961 is not a profound production with new insights every moment – but it is an innocuous, easy-going way to spend 90 minutes. Kind of like the simpler world of 1961. This reviewer’s only critique? Sadly, the songs selected from these show were often not the well-known and familiar tunes. True, the music would resonate with a genuine Broadway buff. But for the general audience, the selections might not give a fleshed-out picture of 1961’s Broadway powerhouses.

Marcus Canada – Photo courtesy of Porchlight Music Theatre

NEW FACES SING BROADWAY is available for streaming beginning at 12 p.m. (CST) on Friday, April 16, 2021. The show runs on demand through Sunday May 16, 2021. Tickets range from $25 to $50. For more information and reservations, call the Porchlight Music Theatre box office at 773-777-9884 or go online.