By: Dale King Contributing Writer
Shari Upbin, Boca Raton’s own stage producer/director, kicked off 2019 with a show called To Life, a tribute to Jewish musical originators, which drew sellout crowds and demands for a sequel.
She has follow-up with To Life 2, more stories and music celebrating the contributions of Jewish composers to the Golden Age of Broadway, playing through Feb. 2 at the Willow Theatre in Sugar Sand Park, 300 S. Military Trail, Boca Raton.
“I’m delighted to have the opportunity to direct Part 2 of To Life,” Upbin said. “These Jewish composers and stars of Broadway have shaped the form of musical theatre from the outset.”
“Jewish contributions to the Broadway musical have been phenomenal,” she added. “In fact, Jewish composers and lyricists created the Broadway musical. Children of immigrants, called outsiders – people who struggled for acceptance in mainstream society – created the greatest American shows in history. Show Boat, West Side Story, My Fair Lady, Fiddler on the Roof, Gypsy… and scores more!”
A talented cast does a top-notch job of delivering the goods in the intimate, 155-seat performance hall. All are familiar faces to Boca Raton audiences.
Among the vocalists is Wayne LeGette, back for his second To Life. He worked with Upbin in Broadway Life and Hollywood Life. He recently created the roles of Renfield/Dr. Westfeldt in Dracula: A Comedy of Terrors at the Maltz and played Bela Zangler in Crazy for You at the Wick.
A fellow performer in Dracula, Mallory Newbrough brings her dynamic voice to the stage. Recipient of a Carbonell Award for her performance of Janis Joplin songs in Beehive at the Wick, she is perhaps best known for portraying Belle in Beauty at the Beast, also at the Wick, and Sally Bowles in Cabaret, at Lake Worth Playhouse. She reprises that tune in To Life 2.
Amy Miller Brennan, also vocally blessed, has performed locally, in New York City, nationally and internationally. She directs Performance Edge 2 Voice and Theatre Academy in Boca Raton.
Michael McKenzie recently appeared as Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha for MNM Theatre, at the Rinker, and reprises “The Impossible Dream” from that musical. Not only has he appeared in stage shows near and far, but has racked up a list of TV and movie credits, appearing in House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Law & Order, Blacklist and Babylon 5, among other shows.
Actor/signer Jeffrey Bruce is also master of ceremonies and narrator, offering a bevy of tidbits about Jewish composers and offering inside jokes for the audience, many admittedly from New York. He also presents an excellent rendition of “Kids,” performed by Paul Lynde in the musical, Bye, Bye Birdie.
Pianist Paul Reekie excels on keyboards and shows it as musical director of To Life 2.
Musical selections include “The Man that got Away (Amy, Mallory),” “Hello, Dolly (all),” “Don’t Rain on My Parade (Amy),” “If I Were a Rich Man (Wayne)” and “Embraceable You (Michael),” among many others.
This second iteration of last year’s favorite picks up where the previous show left off. It highlights the works of Marvin Hamlisch, John Kander and Fred Ebb, Dorothy Fields, George and Ira Gershwin and Jerry Herman, among others.
Hy Juter from Jupiter Theatre Co. is the producer, and, during the show, Bruce prods him into putting together To Life 3 for next year. This production was created and written by Scott Siegel, a well-known pop culture critic who covers film, theatre and cabaret with his wife, Barbara, writing “The Siegel Column” for TheatreMania.com and “The Two of Clubs” column for Talkin’Broadway.com.
Tickets are $40 or $35 for groups of six or more. Call 561-347-3948 or visit https://sugarsandpark.org/life-2.