By Rob Klevan
The 2014 CSU Summer Arts program is well underway at CSU Monterey Bay and there have been plenty of incredible events highlights for visitors lucky enough to be in attendance. Most recently, and of special interest to music fans, were the stellar performances by five-time Grammy Award nominee John Santos and Brazilian drum master Mario Pam on July 7th, as well as the July 10th musical theater concert featuring Broadway star and Tony Award nominee Susan Egan. (photo by Javier Naval)
The July 7th event, “Percussion Discussion”, was more of a presentation of the African Diaspora and its influence on the music of the Americas. Dr. Umi Vaughan, CSUMB Professor and Course Coordinator for the Summer Arts Drum Workshop, served as moderator for the discussion, translator and additional performer. With Vaughan providing the beat on claves, Santos and Pam were able to demonstrate the importance and power of the drum as a musical force in countries such as Brazil, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the United States and other cultures throughout the world. At the end of the evening’s discussion/demonstration, the two world-renowned drummers presented a spirited dialogue and stellar performance on the drums, and judging by the standing ovation given by the nearly packed house, demonstrated why they are considered to be two of the leading experts in the field.
The concert of July 10th was in a markedly different format from the drum demonstration but was just as spectacular. Susan Egan, who was the original “Belle” in the Broadway production of Beauty and the Beast and also starred on Broadway as Sally Bowles in Cabaret for more than 700 performances, stepped onto the stage with a medley of songs that set the mood for an extremely enjoyable evening of musical theater. There is a reason why Egan has enjoyed such a successful career on the stages of Broadway. She is as much an entertainer as an actress/singer, and is obviously extremely comfortable in front of an audience. Her show featured some of the most recognizable tunes from Broadway and beyond, many of which were aptly arranged by composer—and the evening’s musical director and piano accompanist—Jarod Sheahan, a musician of considerable talent. On several occasions, Egan brought to the stage the forty or so students participating in the CSU Summer Arts Broadway Boot Camp who were as much a part of the production as the star herself. She recreated scenes from various hit shows and sang duets, trios, and more with the rising young talent of Summer Arts, allowing the students to demonstrate their highly developed abilities.
The show was beautifully choreographed by Brian Coe, and the students received on-stage tips from Summer Arts acting coaches Andre and Molly Garner, Sarah Underwood Saviano, Roma Maffia, and Joanne Gordon who served as director of the production as well as Course Coordinator for the Broadway Boot Camp. Overall, the show was as crisp, professionally done, and entertaining as any I have seen produced on Broadway. The production concluded with the title song from Beauty and the Beast,
with Ms. Egan center stage accompanied and supported by the rest of the cast. The standing ovation from the 300-plus in the audience encouraged an encore which was an up-tempo rollick from the musical Hairspray. It was hard to believe that these performers had been together only a few days and were able to piece together such an incredible performance in such a short period of time.