Opera Young Artists deliver annual musical theater revue

Prepare for VIP status with “Backstage Pass: Heart and Music,” the first musical theater revue performance this season from the Chautauqua Opera Company’s Young Artists at 10 p.m. tonight in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall. A repeat performance will take place on Aug. 4.

“The show is set backstage prior to the last performance of a musical, and we are in what’s called a touring house,” said co-director Andy Gale. “The group of performers have been on a national tour together, and this is the final night.”

The show begins with the musical performers checking in backstage to get ready for the show. The audience witnesses interactions between the performers, who then go off to perform, which the audience doesn’t see. The singers then return. The emotions are intense because everyone will part ways after the performance.

“In show business, we all have to be closely connected to do what we do really well,” Gale said. “This set gives us the opportunity to do a variety of material that makes sense amongst a group of people who have been together for a while.”

Studio Artists will perform theatrical pieces displaying a variety of the human experience. A total of 12 artists — six men and six women — showcase romance, friendship and disagreements, giving the audience a sense of relatability.

“We created this show on the Young Artists so they are themselves — they are not playing a role,” Gale said. “Part of what you want to do with a cabaret or revue is give the audience the experience of getting to know the artist.”

Music director Rick Cordova, co-director Teddy Kern and Gale handpicked the selections in the revue. Specific pieces were selected to bring out qualities that these singers have so they all get a chance to shine, Gale said. All artists are featured in solos, duets, trios and numbers that use the entire company.

“It’s really an ensemble performance, so no one person is more important than anyone else,” Cordova said.

Assigning the right songs to artists was an intricate process. Gale, Kern and Cordova sat with each artist and tried songs on them. Gale compared the process to being fitted for gowns.

“If someone were picking out a gown, they wouldn’t just take it off the rack and buy it. They would want to try it on,” he said.

Kern said the songs didn’t have to only fit their voices but their ability to sing the type of music from “The Great American Songbook.”

During the vocal coaching process, Cordova made adjustments to the music as needed. For example, if everything about a song was great for an artist, but the high notes didn’t fit his or her voice, the key could be changed to fit the artists vocal range.

The songs in the revue were sampled from productions such as Gypsy, The Apple Tree, The Scottsboro Boys and many more. Some featured composers are Tom Lehrer, Jerry Herman, Cole Porter and Stephen Sondheim.

“We’ve got standards: songs from famous musicals and songs from revues that might be less known,” Gale said. “There is something that everyone will be able to hook into and the great thing, the audience is introduced to new material that we hope they love as much as we do.”