“In America arts groups are folding everywhere. It is so great to come to Manitoba and perform for such large audiences who are here to support this wonderful organization behind me”, said Christiane Noll gesturing to the members of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.
Christiane, whose performance of Defying Gravity from Wicked was just lovely, was one of three award-winning Broadway stars who sang a bevy of hits from musicals like Phantom of the Opera, Mamma Mia, Hairspray and The Lion King as part of the Broadway Rocks performance at the Centennial Concert Hall last night.
I attended with my sister. My thoughtful husband Dave had arranged the evening, since he knew he would be away and had given the tickets to us as Christmas gifts. On nights like these I am so happy to be living downtown in the Exchange District. I had an excellent pre-concert dinner with my sister at Blue Fin Sushi which happens to be on the main floor of my building. Then we walked over to the concert hall just a few short blocks away, and after the concert I walked home in five minutes.
The concert also featured LaKisha Jones who came in fourth during the 2007 season of American Idol. She was a single Mom, a bank teller in Maryland, when her daughter encouraged her to try out for Idol. She’s since had a role on Broadway in The Color Purple and has released an album called So Glad To Be Me.
LaKisha has quite a voice! I especially enjoyed her rendition of I Will Survive from the musical Priscilla Queen of the Desert. I have the Gloria Gaynor version on my I-Pod and that song always puts an extra bounce in my step when I’m walking or inspires me to pick up the pace when I’m housecleaning or exercising at the gym. LaKisha certainly did the song justice last night.
The soloists which included Doug LaBrecque were backed by a very enthusiastic adult choir called The Rainbow Harmony Project. Winnipeg Free Press reviewer Holly Harris commended them for “singing their hearts out.” I had never heard of the group before so I went to their website. Directed by Victor Hooper, the former Music Coordinator for the St. James Assiniboia School Division, the group does many performances each year in churches, at banquets and at community events. They have won awards in music festivals and have sung in concerts across Canada. Rainbow Harmony Project is a volunteer choir established in 1999 to foster spirit and pride in Winnipeg’s gay, lesbian, bisexual,transgender and two-spirit community through singing.
I had never heard the term ‘two-spirit’ before but my sister explained it comes from the First Nations people. In the past it was used to describe people who had a male body but female intuition. They were considered blessed and often were spiritual advisors. Now it is used to refer to First Nations people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
The Rainbow Project Choir as well as the three Broadway soloists all came on stage in 60’s hippie outfits at the end of the show to perform a rousing version of Aquarius from the 1967 musical Hair. The enthusiastic audience was on their feet clapping and singing along by the end of the number. It was a great ending to a very enjoyable concert.