Review: Tulsa Sings! 2024 brings the ‘Best of Broadway’ to TCC

On April 6, the Signature Symphony held its final concert of the year, titled Tulsa Sings!: Best of Broadway.

 The concert began with Katie Sawicki, director of development and operations at Signature Symphony, coming onstage to welcome everyone and mention this season’s sponsor, TTCU Federal Credit Union.

The symphony warmed up, then launched into the rousing title number from “Phantom of the Opera.” It began with a jolt and embodied the suspense and anticipation of the beginning of the concert, with lots of good performances to come. The piece was at turns booming and lilting, brash and graceful.

Conductor Scott Seaton’s movements danced along with the moving instruments. Even without having seen the operatic musical or knowing much of the plot, one could feel the themes of love and loss, eccentricity, and grace present in the music. The first tune embodied the craziness that can go on inside one’s head. The song ended with cymbal crashes and a loud flare.

Scott Coulter, a singer from New York, served as emcee for the program. On stage, he made a joke about when “The Phantom of the Opera” opened on Broadway 35 years ago. At that time, he said, the Phantom was the only person in the theater required to wear a mask.

Coulter explained how judging of the program entries works for the concert. Three guest judges will pick one winner, and the audience votes by ballot during intermission – and then he told the audience, “If you feel like singing along… don’t.”

The first performer was Megan Davis. She grew up listening to lots of types of music with her mother and singing “Castle on a Cloud” from “Les Misérables,” while doing chores.

Davis, now a filmmaker and actress in Los Angeles, ran onstage wearing a tuxedo and top hat, and then later wore a sparkly gold dress for the ensemble songs. She sang “Feeling Good” from the 1964 musical “The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd.” It is an uplifting song, but she sang it seriously and with such a powerful voice. Davis also utilized the stage well throughout her performance.

Coulter mentioned that the order of the performances was drawn out of a hat, though contestants could switch spots if they wanted to do so, and one pair did.

Next up was Alexander Dupree, a musical theatre student at the University of Tulsa and longtime orchestra fan. He wore a tuxedo with a velvet jacket and sang “I Have Dreamed” from the Rogers and Hammerstein musical “The King and I.” He delivered the song of someone who has long imagined a relationship with the person they love. Dupree’s performance was sincere and subtly grand.

Dupree’s performance was followed by L’aria Rose Krautter, a Tulsa native and personal trainer who wore a red dress with ruffles. Her name is very fitting, as an aria is a solo vocal piece, often performed as part of an opera, and in fact, Krautter’s mother named her that in hopes that she would grow up to sing.

She had originally been slated to perform “Don’t Rain on My Parade” for the Discovery Awards (Eastern Oklahoma’s awards for high school theatre) several years ago, but COVID put that on hold. Serendipitously, she got to sing it for this concert, and did a wonderful job! Her energetic performance of the peppy big band song was reminiscent of Broadway star Sutton Foster. Krautter had a loud cheering section of friends and family.

Michael Beltran, a senior in high school who has loved singing since he was little, performed after Krautter. Emcee Coulter made the joke that Beltran has had the starring role in every musical at his school – because he is homeschooled! Beltran sang “This is the Moment” from the musical “Jekyll & Hyde,” a “seizing the day” type of song. During his piece, the halves of the stage were swathed in red and white light, to symbolize the Jekyll and Hyde duality, and Beltran, wearing a tuxedo, stood in between the two colors.

Sydney May, a newlywed, grew up in a family of many musicians who had the rule of “no singing at the dinner table.” Performing at this concert was a milestone for her after throat surgery. After that experience, she had doubts about her ability to sing solo again. Committed to her love of music, she worked with vocal coaches and practiced a lot until she felt ready.

For the performance, May wore a long silver sparkly dress and sang “Part of Your World.” She has a lifting voice and can really hold her notes!

The next singer, Rachel Miller, is a stay-at-home mom who says she is almost always singing as she takes care of her three kids. This was her second time performing with Tulsa Sings! She was a finalist at last year’s “American Jukebox”  concert.  This time around, Miller wore a purple mermaid-style dress and sang “I Dreamed a Dream” from “Les Misérables”with a lovely, rising voice.

The seventh performer was Regan Clapper, who was introduced to “ The Phantom of the Opera” at age three by her mother, and watched it constantly as a kid. Now Clapper is a college graduate with a degree in musical theatre who wants to help people find joy in music like she did. She wore a green ballgown-style dress and sang “Maybe This Time” from “Cabaret,” a ‘comeback,’ ‘keep going’ type of song. Her spangled, distinct voice matched wits with the orchestra in the booming song.

Dionne White, born in St. Louis, moved to Tulsa when she was in kindergarten. She grew up listening to her mother sing, and now has a 10-year-old daughter of her own. White is studying for a doctoral degree from Oklahoma State University, and said she was excited to fulfill another longtime dream – performing with the Signature Symphony!

She wore a tea-length black and gold dress as she sang “She Used to Be Mine” from the musical “Waitress.” The song was mostly quiet, with some moments of louder intensity. White’s voice filled the auditorium during her soul-charged performance that had a small bit of a capella at the end.

The ninth performer was Brandon Collins. In addition to serving as a singer and band director, he is the game director at Shuffles Board Game Café. He also has a twin brother who is also a band director and singer. (Coulter joked that he was not sure which Collins brother would be coming out onstage, but it was supposed to be Brandon.)

Collins wore a navy suit and sat on a stool to sing “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables,” another song from “Les Misérables.” He really embodied the voice and countenance of Marius, a character in the musical, who sings the song after his revolutionary friends die in battle. Collins performed as if he were only singing the song for himself. Just like someone acting in a play or musical, he did not react to the audience until he was done singing.

The last finalist to perform was Ashtyn Marshall, a Tulsa native who grew up singing in church, playing various instruments, and developing a passion for musical theatre. She now studies at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York. Marshall wore a poufy green dress and gave an amazingrendition of “Defying Gravity” from the musical “Wicked.” It was this reporter’s favorite performance of the night!

For the Act 1 Finale, the contestants all came onstage together to sing “The Circle of Life” from “The Lion King.” Each finalist took turns singing a line or two, but of course, they sounded best when they were all lifting their voices together at the conclusion of the song.  

The 10 Tulsa Sings! finalists performed both solo and as a group during the concert on April 6. The contestants are (l-r) Megan Davis, Michael Beltran, Alexander Dupree, Brandon Collins, Dionne White, L’aria Krautter, Sydney May, Regan Clapper, Rachel Miller, and Ashtyn Marshall, with conductor Scott Seaton behind. (Photo by Sarah Ray)

During the show’s intermission, audience members got ballots and voted (either online or on paper) for their favorite finalist. At the same time, the three guest judges worked together to choose a winner. This year’s judges were Carmela Hill; Joel-lyn Alicia McCormick, J.D.; and Scott Black.

Hill is a talented performer who has worked in the banking, energy, and nonprofit industries. She now runs her own entertainment and event company, performs as a vocalist with Carmela and the Band, and is the manager and co-owner of La Belle Restaurant and Events.

McCormick has a legal career in public service and a passion for music. She is an Assistant U.S. Attorney for Oklahoma’s Northern District and has a secondary degree in music with a focus on piano. McCormick also volunteers her time in the music department at Mt. Zion Baptist Church.

Black, managing director of Tulsa Ballet, has worked in the performing arts industry for over 20 years, either in the role of director or producer or as a performer. He has been involved with several Broadway and off-Broadway shows, as well as local and regional theatre productions.

The second act began with the warbling of the brass section, then the symphony launched into “Chicago,” the jaunty, rip-roaring, big band-style song from the musical of the same name set in the 1920s. The song also allowed Seaton to showcase his signature dramatic conducting.

Then the audience got to hear Scott Coulter’s rendition of “Tomorrow” from “Annie.” And that man can really hold a note! Afterwards, he joked, “Isn’t it nice to hear a bald man singing songs from Annie?”

For the next few songs, Coulter invited the first-ever winner of Tulsa Sings!, Allison Walden, onstage. She wore a gold tiered dress and sang a very applicable song – “The Winner Takes It All” from “Mamma Mia!”

Then Coutler and Walden celebrated a special musical occasion. April 5, the day before the concert, was the 50th anniversary of the Swedish band ABBA winning the Eurovision contest with the song “Waterloo,” which put the band on the map. So, in celebration of that, Coulter and Walden sang ABBA’s enduring hit “Dancing Queen,” and invited the audience to get up and dance along with the symphony. Several older couples and groups of young people accepted the invitation and got up to jive in the aisles.

Then they performed “For Good” from the musical “Wicked” to thank everyone involved in the making of the concert. Coulter and Walden took turns singing the song’s two parts and then sang together at the end.

After that, the winners were announced. The audience favorite winner was Michael Beltran, who won by two votes! And the judges’ choice was Rachel Miller! Coulter spoke about the importance of sharing your talents with others, then all the finalists, plus Coulter and Walden, joined together and sang “The Impossible Dream” from the musical “Man of La Mancha.”

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