‘Lost Songs of Broadway: 1970s’ at Signature Theatre by Julia Exline

954810_10151674344644493_1155982436_nSignature Theatre presents Lost Songs of Broadway: 1970s, a cabaret comprised of 16 ‘forgotten’ Broadway tunes, conceived and directed by Matthew Gardiner, with Music Direction and Piano by Howard Breitbart.

Nova Payton. Photo courtesy of Signature Theatre.
Nova Y. Payton. Photo courtesy of Signature Theatre.

Mr. Breitbart begins the show with a lively medley of better-known 70’s-era show tunes, as singers Austin Colby, Chelsea Packard, and Nova Y. Payton take the stage, surrounded by reflective streamers and disco-balls of various sizes. Lighting Designer Erin Pritchett uses soft pink and blue hues alongside the dappled effect from the disco balls to enhance the intimate space. The trio is well-dressed for the evening, and the women are as striking as their surroundings in sequined gold and shiny black dresses.They are here to breathe life back into old, forgotten show tunes that had either been cut from certain productions, or were a part of a short-lived, lackluster musical (and in some cases, both). With each song comes a brief introduction, including fun facts about Broadway in the 70s, particularly its risky nature. Of course, with risk comes failure…and it is this that they are bravely celebrating.

Austin Colby. Photo courtesy of Signature Theatre.
Austin Colby. Photo courtesy of Signature Theatre.

They begin with a welcoming rendition of “You Can’t Win,” a song cut from The Wiz.  What follows is a compilation of songs, the majority of which are solo performances. Nova Y. Payton shows remarkable range with the song “I Got Love,” from the musical Purlie. Austin Colby’s voice is deceptively charming and smooth in “Marking Time,” a callous song about an underwhelming relationship cut from Pippin. Chelsea Packard’s heartbroken, frustration-driven “Wherever He Ain’t” from Mack and Mabel was one of my favorite songs, and was powerfully delivered.

Now, given that these songs are categorized as “failures,” good-natured joking at their expense is a given. “So Long, Dude” from Dude (The Highway Life) was particularly hilarious, as each line ended with…you guessed it, “dude.” Chelsea joked as she finished the song, “that one was really hard to memorize!” Nova and Chelsea share a memorable duet with the punchy “Solid Silver Platform Shoes,” from The Magic Show, and the trio brings playful choreography into the number “Truckload,” the title song from the musical of the same name. Yes, some the lyrics are corny, and one can see how it could very well be a disaster, but when lighthearted teasing is paired with powerhouse voices, the result is a respectful rendition of a song that no longer seems like much of a joke. From silly show tunes to deep, soulful solos, the selected numbers for this show made a fantastic collection.

Chelsea Packard. Photo courtesy of Signature Theatre.
Chelsea Packard. Photo courtesy of Signature Theatre.

I had a wonderful time at this show! The singers were phenomenal, and they made you feel welcome. At a mere 60 minutes, Lost Songs of Broadway: 1970s offers an hour of quality entertainment, amazing singing, and a bunch of laughs. I highly recommend it!

Running Time: 60 minutes, without an intermission.

Lost Songs of Broadway: 1970s plays through this Saturday, June 1, 2013 at Signature Theatre – 4200 Campbell Avenue, in Arlington, VA. To purchase tickets, call (703) 820-9771 or order them online.


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