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An Encore of Broadway favourites

Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Mavis John and John Henry Smith in a touching moment from Encore—Live from Broadway.

In a spectacular two-evening debut, First Instinct Productions gave T&T a back-to-back variety concert of classic, show-stopping Broadway excerpts in Encore—Live from Broadway. The show was a massive recital for the performing company, which rocked the Central Bank auditorium stage and delighted all patrons who attended last weekend. The command of musical pieces by the orchestra and cast, along with the synchronised lighting, technical, costume and staging design proved that First Instinct has the capacity to stage the complete version any one of the truncated works featured. The Encore—Live from Broadway concept was created from collaboration among executive producer John Henry Smith, producer Trevon Jugmohan, director Raymond Choo Kong, musical directors Lorraine Granderson and Gregory Wong Fo Sue. Smith gave the backstory on how the concept came together. 


The surprise of the evening was Mavis John’s performance of Broadway hits. In her segments she put her own spin on Broadway with her distinctive vocal style including a rendition from Andre Tanker. According to Smith, “We wanted to do something local, but you know there are no real local Broadway works so we brought in Mavis and we used Morena Osha and transported it into Broadway.” John is an outstanding vocalist who is well-known for performing national songs of T&T and has also been part of theatrical productions. In the second half of the programme, she stunned the audience with an emotional and poignant performance of Try to Remember from The Fantasticks, which she performed in a duet with John Henry Smith. Against a back drop of digital, black and white images of Port-of-Spain, the raising of the flag at Independence and other events in the 1960s John and Smith evoked memories of a past era and nostalgia for a return to those special moments in time.


According to Smith, the rationale behind the show also included a desire to showcase the undeniable talent of the cast of performers among who were Kearn Samuel, Marvin Smith and principal singer/actress Tova Miller. The story behind the flow of the selections carried particular significance for Miller. “It starts with a little girl, growing up. She had a dream and the dream fell apart, then she got an opportunity to do something wonderful. So if you go through [the programme] there is a pattern and there is a story to tell.” When asked if the story told was similar to her own, she demurely declined to comment. Miller’s performance was one of the show’s most memorable highlights. Her versatility shone with her easy transitions between the different moods and dynamics of major characters such as Anna Leonowens from The King and I, Maria from the Sound of Music and Fantine from Les Miserables. All the pieces performed by Miller were incredibly demanding with regard to the emotional and vocal intensity required. An additional level of difficulty was present in the quick costume changes required between scenes.


Also commanding the stage were Samuel and Marvin Smith, who came together on stage for a moving duet of Love Changes Everything from  Aspects of Love and were backed by the Bishop Anstey High School. The orchestra comprised pannists who were also from the school, along with members of the Police Band on brass, wind and percussion instruments. Later in the programme, Samuel and Smith captivated the audience with their acting ability while supporting Miller in the renowned love triangle between Raoul, Christine and The Phantom in Phantom of the Opera. The rousing finale from Phantom stole the show and had the audience rising to its feet with resounding applause for the passionate performances of these young singers. After the concert, some audience members speculated on whether The Phantom of the Opera would be the company’s next major production. However, John Henry Smith confirmed that First Instinct was considering many options. 


Encore—Live from Broadway continues for a second run. 
Central Bank Auditorium
Show times 
Tomorrow—Saturday—7.30 pm
Sunday—6 pm
Adults: $200 and senior citizens and children under 16: $150
Tickets and info from Central Bank box office: 623-0845. Patrons can also call 376-8277/461-4033.


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