Ten talented performers who are launching musical theater careers in Chicago will be showcased in Porchlight Music Theatre's New Faces Sing Broadway 1969 at the Skokie Theatre.
Michael Weber, Porchlight's artistic director, is co-creator and dramturg of the series, which focuses on a different year each time, offering performances of musical numbers as well as interesting details about the shows from which they came.
"The inspiration came from a series on Broadway from the late '30s to the late '60s called 'New Faces,'" Weber said. "Out of that particular revue were discovered many, many stars that we know today — people like Henry Fonda, Madeline Kahn, Maggie Smith and Paul Lind." Audience members at Porchlight's series may well be seeing stars of the future.
Porchlight added other elements to the original concept to involve the audience. "We do sing-alongs, and we have trivia contests and music theater trivia games," Weber said. "It's evolved into a very unique program."
Adrian Abel Azevedo directs the 1969 version; David Fiorello is music director.
"We collaborate in picking the songs for the show, looking at all the shows of the season, both the Tony winners and the flops," Azevedo said.
This is the third time that Fiorello has served as music director of a Porchlight New Faces show. He considers part of his job, "knowing these shows backwards and forwards."
Several factors are considered when the pair select songs. "It's not just the most popular songs," Fiorello said. "Because we're doing it in a cabaret setting, a lot of times it's what's the song that stands up by itself the best? What's the song that has enough dramatic action for a performer that's trying to showcase themselves?"
It helps that Fiorello has a huge cast recording database.
The Music Director declared that 1969 was "a great season. '1776' won the Tony and anything that's political is big for business right now. You've got shows like 'Hair,' which changed the Broadway landscape. You've got shows like 'Promises, Promises' where you've got Burt Bacharach writing songs. There's a show that was starring Muhammad Ali. It's such randomness involved in the season."
The revue also includes songs from "Zorba," "Canterbury Tales," "Dear World" and "Come Summer," among others.
Azevedo also collaborates with Weber on locating performers. "I, with Michael, look at young Chicago talent and pick who's coming up in the Chicago theater scene and who we feel needs to have a little spotlight on them."
That's how the cast is selected. They also choose a known-name to serve as host. This time it's acclaimed musical theater star E. Faye Butler, who will appear in "Chicago" later this month at Drury Lane Oakbrook.
Azevedo wrote the script for the host. "Like so many other people in the city, I have such a love for the art form that I also love the history and I also love knowing where it started, where it came from," he said, jokingly adding, "If you put me on 'Jeopardy' and gave me the musical theater category, I would win the round."