Former St. Louisan produces hit-filled cabaret revue

Farah Alvin

BY BILL MOTCHAN, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

New York native and theater impresario Scott Siegel created his popular “Broadway’s Greatest Hits of All Time!” musical revue two years ago at Feinstein’s/54 Below in Manhattan. On Nov. 3, he takes the show on the road, and St. Louis is the first stop. It’s a homecoming for Siegel, who lived in Creve Coeur in the late 1970s and early ’80s.

Siegel recently talked about how he created “Broadway’s Greatest Hits” and the importance of performers making a personal connection with the audience.  

Was “Broadway’s Greatest Hits” popular from the beginning?

The first time it played at Feinstein’s/54 Below was October 2015 and there was a hurricane watch (Hurricane Wilma). I thought, “Oh great, nobody’s going to come tonight.” About four hours before showtime, the storm veered away and the sun came out and the house filled up. It was a show that people really wanted to see, it was the songs that everybody wants to hear. We just had our 20th edition of the show last night at Feinstein’s/54 Below, and it’s booked on a once-a-month basis all the way through next summer. 

What will the audience experience for the St. Louis concerts?

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It’s designed to appeal to theater lovers wherever they are. Audience members know a lot of the songs, and it’s a great chance to revisit them because it will remind them of either the movie version or the stage version of the musical. It will have an emotional and musical arc to it, to take the audience back through the hits of Broadway, and the performers will set up each of the songs. They’ll talk about it as they go along to engage the audience, and give them a little background and history about each of the shows the songs came from.

With the popularity of the Muny here, which will celebrate its 100th birthday this summer, St. Louisans have a great affinity for Broadway musicals. Do you think that will spur interest in the show?

The Muny always brings famous, big shows. You’re absolutely right, there will be an extraordinary affinity for these songs that people remember from when they went to see these shows at the Muny when they were kids or took their own kids to see. 

Who performs in the St. Louis concerts?

William Michals played Emile de Becque in the Lincoln Center production of “South Pacific.” Many people consider him the best baritone on Broadway. He was in “The Scarlet Pimpernel.” He made his Broadway debut as the beast in “Beauty and the Beast.” He’s got a great voice and is very comfortable with an audience in an intimate room or a big concert hall. Our leading lady, Farah Alvin, also has a great voice. She has been in a whole bunch of Broadway shows, “Saturday Night Fever” and “The Look of Love: The Music of Burt Bacharach and Hal David” that David Hyde Pierce produced. 

What will the setting be like for the St. Louis concert?

It will be cabaret style, with piano accompaniment. We have one of New York’s great piano players and musical directors, Mark Hartman, from “Avenue Q.” He’s an orchestra all by himself, and the nature of these shows, it’s all about the lyrics, it’s all about the performers, not the big sound of an orchestra. It’s really the performers communicating with the audience and making these songs their own and bringing the experience of the footlights to the audience in a very personal way. 

Will there be any Jewish composers represented?

Always. I created and hosted a concert at New York’s Temple Emanuel which is like a Jewish St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where Gershwin had his funeral. We did a concert called “Jewish Broadway,” and when we did it I said, “Jewish Broadway is like Broadway without Cole Porter,” which got a laugh. And, there are an extraordinary number of Jewish composers, Rodgers & Hart, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Gershwin, Fred Ebb of Kander and Ebb, Jule Styne, Stephen Sondheim, Bock and Harnick who created “Fiddler on the Roof,” the list goes on and on. Jewish composers have contributed to the Broadway songbook, and they will be hugely represented.

What time frame will the songs come from?

We haven’t finalized it yet, but we will probably try to have a representation of different styles and eras, from the ’30s and ’40s and ’50s, songs people know from shows like “Funny Girl” or “South Pacific”or “West Side Story” that are part of our culture now.

You’ve produced more than 100 major Broadway style concerts. Do you still get excited about a new show after all these years?

Almost everything I do is a one-night event, and it’s like cooking, you make something that’s going to be served that night and consumed, and there’s no leftovers. And like those who enjoy cooking, I enjoy creating shows, and I get an extraordinary kick out of it. This one encapsulates everything people love about Broadway. It’s a great feeling to hear an audience tell you that, and the audience tells the performers every moment what they’re feeling, whether it’s applause or laughter or a standing ovation. It’s a very tangible part of it, and I love it.