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7 June 2007
A Belle and a Tenor:
Broadway comes to Music at McClellan

By Shawn Ryan
Star Entertainment Editor

Reprinted here in its entirety.

For vocalists, singing outdoors can be a wondrous blend of beautiful weather, festive crowds, lovely music — and bugs in the mouth.

“Oh yeah, I've had that happen,” says New York-based tenor Sal Viviano.

“The lights attract them,” LA-based vocalist Susan Egan says with a perky laugh, “so you've sort of got to keep one eye on the conductor and one eye on the bugs.”

Egan and Viviano will be dodging whatever bugs may flit into view Saturday night when they perform the “Bravo Broadway” concert as part of this week's Music at McClellan series. But the pair, who've performed together many times in the past, say the joys of singing outdoors far outweigh the danger of chomping down on crunchy critters.

“I like doing the outdoor shows,” Viviano says. “It offers a whole different source of elements. People are usually in a very festive mood.”

“I love them, love them, love them,” says Egan, who received a Tony Award nomination for the role of the original Belle in Broadway's Beauty and the Beast.

Although both spent years onstage on Broadway and regional theater, they say they're concentrating on concerts these days because they have families and the scheduling is less stressful than the day-in/day-out task of a stage production.

“(Concerts are) pretty much my full-time job the last 10 years,” Viviano says. “My wife is an actress and we have kids, and both of us doing eight shows a week on Broadway is more taxing on our family life than is good.”

Viviano, who has two sons, ages 7 and 10, says he does about 40 symphony concerts a year and usually is booked a year or two in advance. In the past, he has performed on Broadway in The Full Monty, Romance/Romance and City of Angels as well as doing TV work on Law and Order and such soaps as One Life to Live, All My Children, and The Guiding Light. He also has appeared on “57 or 58” different CDs, he figures, including the Lost in Boston and Unsung Musicals series, A Broadway Christmas, Shakespeare on Broadway and his own recordings.

Egan says she was averaging about 100 concerts a year — with symphonies, corporate shows and solo shows — but has cut back to about 40 since becoming pregnant with her first child, daughter Nina, born four months ago. After spending years playing such Broadway roles as Belle, Sally Bowles in Cabaret and Milly in Thoroughly Modern Millie, Egan says she's ready for the next chapter of her life.

“I've been really lucky,” she says. “I did my first show at 23 and I've basically done eight shows a week for about eight years, with a few breaks in there. I've really gotten my fill in the sense of those roles.

“The last thing I played was Milly and she's 22 and I am not 22,” says Egan, who also was the voice of Meg in Disney's animated film Hercules and now is the voice of Belle on Disney's “Princess” collection CDs. “I'm looking forward to getting a few years with my children — we hope to have another one real soon - and then move on to the leading-lady roles instead of the ingénues.”

Symphony concerts are a perfect fit for their lives, Egan and Viviano say. As part of the “Bravo Broadway” company, a group of about 15 Broadway-seasoned performers, they may be singing Rodgers and Hammerstein songs one weekend, doing their own material the next, then taking on the music of Jesus Christ Superstar or Hair.

“It's a little different with every orchestra,” says Viviano. “Some orchestras want to set a season way in advance. They may say they're doing a program honoring great composers so they'll do a Rodgers and Hammerstein program or a Lerner and Lowe program … in those cases, they might choose the repertoire. Other times they're just taking the show that you have.”

“What's fun about it is we tailor each show to each venue, so we're constantly coming up with new material,” Egan says. “We can't just ride on our own coattails.”

And it's especially fun doing the shows with someone with whom you've performed before and who has become a good friend, they say.

“Susan and I have worked together many times; I think the world of her,” Viviano says. “I don't think we've ever done the same concert twice.”

“Sal is the funniest man I have ever met,” Egan says. “He is like a mix between the most beautiful tenor voice and some kind of comic in the Catskills.

“We pick on each other and joke with each other and that comes through onstage in a fun, brotherly/sisterly kind of way,” she says.

Music at McClellan

What: Bravo Broadway with Susan Egan and Sal Viviano and the Alabama Symphony Orchestra.
When: 8 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Longleaf Park, McClellan.
How much: $20 advance, $25 at gate, $5 children ages 4-12, free children under 3.
Contact: 310-0852.

About Shawn Ryan

Shawn Ryan is the travel editor and entertainment editor for The Star.

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