This summer brings a cool oasis of cosmopolitan live musical entertainment to the Workhouse. No need to traipse to New York City or drive to Washington, D.C., to enjoy talented singers belting-out or crooning the Great American Songbook of classic Broadway show tunes, Tin Pan Alley hits and bold new contemporary lyrics.
“Broadway Showdown: Classic vs. Contemporary!” is arriving at the Workhouse for two performances this weekend. And the audience has a part in the competitive showdown proceedings.
The show’s song playlist is be a bit of a surprise. But “Broadway Showdown” will include classic show pieces like “So in Love” from Cole Porter’s “Kiss Me Kate,” Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s “Something Coming” from “West Side Story,” Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein’s “Can’t Help Loving that Man” from their stage musical, “Showboat” to name a few.
Contemporary Broadway trendsetters will include a selection from Jason Robert Brown’s heartfelt “The Last Five Years,” Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater’s youthful high-energy “Spring Awakening” as well as the propulsive “Footloose” anthem, “I Can’t Stand Still” with music is by Tom Snow, lyrics by Dean Pitchford along with Kander and Ebb’s “Kiss of the Spider Woman.”
It is essential to know that the audience will be much more than just sitting in the dark, listening and perhaps lip-synching along. The audience votes for and selects the “winners” for the evening’s friendly reality-show type competition at “Broadway Showdown.”
How will it work? At the end of the show there will be a vote by the audience for its preferences. A single song will then be selected to be the evening’s grand finale, according to producer Mary Payne Omomaryo. She is a D.C.-area performer who has appeared at venues such as Fall Church’s Creative Cauldron, the Olney (Md.) Theatre Center, and Signature Theatre in Arlington.
Vocalists include local favorite Que Thanh Le (Annandale) who has appeared in previous Workhouse cabaret events and at the Ernst Theater at Northern Virginia Community College with “Heartsongs: Tam Tinh Ca.” With her sister she created an quarterly open mic for Vietnamese-American performers and songwriters in Northern Virginia that plays at Café Montmartre in Reston. She will be paired with Workhouse newcomer Michael Omohundro to bring the classic Broadway tunes to life,
Contemporary show tunes will be performed by Helen Hayes Award recipient Stephen Gregory Smith, a veteran D.C.-area actor, singer and Signature Theatre regular who has been featured in the likes of “Hairspray,” and “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” and many more musical productions. He will be paired with chanteuse Karissa Swanigan-Upchurch (Sterling), who appeared in the Creative Cauldron’s production of “Nevermore” and more recently in the Mash-Up Theater festival from the boundary-breaking Landless Theater Company.
The musical accompanist will be Jacob Kidder, who has played at Alexandria’s Metro Stage and Arlington’s Signature Theater, to name two recent venues.
Beyond the singing, there will be plenty of saucy chatter from the performers aimed at giving the audience a good time. “It’s a fun time, the atmosphere is intimate and informal,” said Thanh.
Something singular about the Workhouse cabaret is that it features an emerging young artist from a Fairfax County public high school. Forrest Browne from West Springfield High School, a rising sophomore, is the emerging featured talent for “Broadway Showdown.” He has performed at the Lazy Susan Dinner Theatre in Woodbridge as well as with area community theaters.
The “Broadway Showdown” music promises to be captivating as it moves from smoky to smooth, romantic to ironic, up-tempo to ballads, solos to duets as the entertainers provide their own personal touches. And all in the 100-seat Workhouse Theater, where the audience can feel close and connected to the performers.
Indulge yourself — you earned it. Relax and take in a diverting evening of high-quality supper-club live music and song. Go get your musical fix with live cabaret entertainment at the Workhouse.