What would Beethoven think?
I did not have to ask that question when I dropped in to a rehearsal of the Lyric Theatre Singers at a Montreal West church last month and heard the crew of 38 running through We Go Together, from the Broadway hit Grease.
The words vary from nonsense to silly, about finding romance at the high-school dance, but the music gets to you and the rising crescendo and unstoppable swing take over and make you love it.
And when it ends with a rousing and repeated “We’ll always be together,” and “wop bop a loo bop/That’s the way it should be,” you can’t resist. Songs like this one, as choreographed by Jonathan Patterson, have the 38 singer/dancers responding with smart and sassy moves.
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It is part of Journey To Broadway, the muchawaited production for a 28th year by the Lyric Singers, directed by Bob Bachelor and Cathy Burns, with three evenings performances June 14-16, and a matinée the last day.
It’s all happening at the D.B. Clarke Theatre of Concordia University, 1455 de Maisonneuve, at Bishop.
Ann Stewart, who just turned 70, beams with joy as she describes her second year with the singers, saying, “it’s easy to come back, and just so amazing to be here – the most wonderful experience of my life.” The retired teacher had been a choir member for ten years, but joined this troupe in search of something more challenging.
“I wanted to be learning a lot of new material. I love singing harmony. I auditioned, and got accepted. It’s so much fun,” she said during a rehearsal break. “The caliber is so high, so excellent – there is nothing like singing in a group of good singers.”
That kind of exuberance is what you hear when the Lyric Singers fold the multi-level harmonies into an ensemble sound.
“The first practice I came to, when the men and women got together and started singing as a group, I thought I had died and gone to heaven,” Stewart enthused.
She’s is an alto 2, and singing the Broadway material in a group “just blows me away. Every day I face a new challenge here and I come away having learned something. At my age that’s wonderful!” Her enthusiasm is reflected in the way the group rehearses, smiling and energetic, even as they repeat the same song many times over to get it just right, to the satisfaction of choreographer Patterson and pianist Benjamin Kwong.
Although she did not know most of the songs on this year’s menu, “the more you sing it the more you start to love it.”
The repertoire includes music from Anastasia, Chicago, Once on This Island Company, Rent, Titanic, Waitress, the 2017 Tony Award winning Dear Evan Hansen, and classics by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Rodgers and Hart, Kander and Ebb, and Cole Porter. Each year the group has its own sound, and the music is selected in part to reflect its strengths, and the talents of the soloists, co-director Cathy Burns explained. It’s a fast-moving show, with costume changes as it proceeds. To achieve perfection, rehearsals start in December and continue for six months.
Act One is more contemporary, starting with the classic Another Opening, Another Show, and moves into contemporary songs, Burns explained.
“We’re doing The Titanic medley — I cry every time we get to the number, We’ll Meet Tomorrow. It’s very stirring to have 38 people singing that. Our soloists are just amazing.”
“There is something for everyone, including a lot of smart and clever songs, the kind they just don’t write anymore,” Burns said.
Tickets cost $38, but there are reductions for seniors, students, groups of 15, and children, available online at lyrictheatrecompany.com or 514-743-3382.