EDMOND — The University of Central Oklahoma’s Broadway Tonight, a concert series that celebrates the talents of performers from Broadway to Hollywood, will shine its spotlight on a quartet of Oklahoma performers for the upcoming 17th season.
Joining previous Broadway Tonight headliners Tommy Tune, Hal Holbrook, Olympia Dukakis, Savion Glover, Liz Callaway, Tom Wopat and Gregg Edelman are 2014-15 performers KT Sullivan, Sandi Patty and Jimmy Webb. The season will also feature the world premiere of “Rising Starr,” a musical tribute to Kay Starr.
“Oklahoma has such an incredible range of diverse talents,” said Broadway Tonight producer Greg White. “KT Sullivan, Sandi Patty and Jimmy Webb were already on my short list. Once I started noticing the thread, I knew that we needed to celebrate who we are and what we’ve shared with the world.”
Kicking off the series Friday is Broadway and cabaret performer KT Sullivan. The third of eight children in a family of performers, Sullivan has been a fixture of the New York cabaret scene since 1984.
“I always tell people that cabaret chose me,” Sullivan said recently. “In 1981, someone asked if I would be interested in doing a cabaret show and I ended up performing a midnight show for over a year.
“I had planned to become a musical theater performer but I kept getting offers to do cabaret between shows. It’s a more intimate experience because the space is usually smaller. But I like that when you sing to people, you can actually see their eyes.”
While Sullivan appeared on Broadway in “The Three Penny Opera” in 1989 and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” in 1995, she’s devoted much of her time during the past two decades to being a solo artist.
“Cabaret can be anything, from Stephen Sondheim to Dolly Parton to Joan Baez,” Sullivan said. “A lot of people who are strictly cabaret singers don’t do well on the big stage. Because I’m an actress who comes from theater, I bring acting (skills) to cabaret.”
While the musical theater offers a performer the opportunity to create or re-imagine a role, the singer is limited by the scope of the part and that character’s function within the musical’s narrative. Cabaret, in contrast, has almost no musical or interpretive limitations.
“I’m so lucky to sing only songs that I love,” said Sullivan, who is also scheduled to present a master class at 10 a.m. Thursday in UCO’s Y-Chapel. “I tend to be a minimalist which allows me to go for a more realistic approach. My voice also has a lot of different colors which allows me to be a legit soprano or a belter. I love being able to do different things.”
For her Broadway Tonight concert, Sullivan will draw heavily from the Broadway stage, including hits by Rodgers and Hart (“Falling in Love with Love”), Schmidt and Jones (“Try to Remember”), Styne and Robin (“I’m Just a Little Girl From Little Rock”), Irving Berlin (“There’s No Business Like Show Business”), Jerry Herman (“And I Was Beautiful”) and Sondheim (“Who’s that Woman?”).
Sullivan also relishes the opportunity to introduce audiences to little known musical gems. Her Edmond program also will feature Cole Porter’s “The Tale of the Oyster,” Jerome Kern’s “My Husband’s First Wife,” Adam Guettel’s “Dividing Day” and Frankel and Korie’s “Will You?”
“I have to have a reason to sing a song and with me, the lyrics come first,” Sullivan said. “It’s lovely when a lyric soars with a melody and it’s wonderful to sing for people who appreciate these songs. I lead a charmed life.”
UCO’s Broadway Tonight series continues Nov. 7 with Jimmy Webb, March 13 with Sandi Patty in a program titled “Broadway Stories.” Patty will be joined by the UCO Orchestra and the Young Voices of Edmond.
The season will conclude May 16 and 17 with the world premiere of “Rising Starr,” a celebration of the music of Starr. All performances begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Mitchell Hall Theatre, 100 N University Drive.
Season subscriptions (four concerts) range from $135 to $150. Single tickets range from $35 to $50. For more information, call the UCO box office at 974-3375.