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Strand Theater hosts toe-tapping history lesson

By Carrie Humphreys
Coastal Observer

The Swamp Fox Players are predicting full houses for "Broadway's Best," a musical anthology showcasing 23 songs from 19 Broadway shows. The tuneful tribute was the idea of Bob Gauss.

"This show will make you smile and want to sing along," said Gauss. "It's going to be a spectacular show."

The show contains solos from "Cats," "Evita," "South Pacific," "A Chorus Line," "Phantom of the Opera," "Guys and Dolls," "Chicago," "Hair," plus many more.

Gauss is very familiar with Broadway, he said.

"I did the sound and lighting on Broadway for over 18 years. You don't see me – the technical director – but everything you see happening on stage and everything you hear is because of me."

With a little help from his thespian cohorts, of course, including wife, Clare, Laura Flint and Jack Luber, who had a hand in writing the script.

The show revolves around Luber, who plays a retiring newspaper vendor named Jack, whose newsstand sits on the corner of Broadway and 42nd Street.

"It's my last day on the job, so I reminisce about all the great shows and the stars over the years while I had the newsstand. There is a slight plot, but mostly the script just segues into the great musical numbers from all the great shows. As I talk about the songs, they come alive."

Luber opens the melodic caper with "Lullaby of Broadway," and then continues through nearly a decade's worth of history.

"Songs from the 1920s to the current day. All songs that people have heard," Luber said.

An experienced performer, Luber has appeared in numerous musicals – everything from "West Side Story" to the "Rocky Horror Picture Show." He said most of his work was in New Jersey.

Gauss chose the cast of crooners. He said the level of experience varies, with some having decades of experience, while others sing infrequently, perhaps only in church.

Cast members hail from all over the county and beyond, from Little River to Georgetown. The talented songbirds include: Luber, Flint, Clare Gauss, Suzanne Cerami, Terry Langstrom, Jeff Crowe, Kelvin Smith, Robert Kerson, Meredith Thompkins, Eugene Windsor, Faith Luber, Rennie Manning, Josie Thames and Warren Umstead.

As musical director, Clare Gauss said her job was to tweak the vocals. An accomplished singer, she touted the ability of performers and the cutting-edge technical effects.

"We've tried to recapture not only the vocals, but how they were originally produced. Like in "Phantom," for example, there's fog – smoke and lighting effects."

She's hoping that this production marks the beginning of more musicals for the Swamp Fox Players.

Something about those Broadway tunes, she quipped. "They take your stress away."

The chore of staging the production went to Flint.

A physical therapist by trade, she said singing is her greatest love and she has yet to give up the dream of starring on Broadway.

Until then, she will sing "Someone To Watch Over Me" in "Broadway's Best" and perform at Conway's Theater of the Republic.

She would also like the Swamp Fox Players to do more musicals.

"Although the Strand doesn't have a stronghold with musicals, like the Theater of the Republic, I think because of the wonderful caliber of the house and how intimate it is, they should do more music-oriented things. The theater just speaks to it."

"Broadway's Best" continues at the Strand Theater on Nov. 4-6 and 11-13 at 8 p.m., and Nov. 7 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $15. Call 527-2924 for information.

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