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Sunday, August 2, 2015

A Night of Broadway returns - By Elizabeth Richards


The Music With A Mission (MWAM) series at the North Windham Union Church continues this weekend with a reunion of five great friends, and one special guest. “A Night of Broadway, The Reunion” brings local favorites Kelly Caufield, Bryan McLeod, Jennifer McLeod and Matthew Small with Daniel Strange, musical director and pianist, back to the stage. Strange’s wife, Ashley Liberty, will be a guest violinist for parts of the show. 
 
A Night of Broadway originated in 2001 as part of the Windham Hill UCC’s Music on the Hill concert series, and became a best selling show for nine consecutive years. What started as a one-night only performance grew into three sold-out shows over the course of a weekend each July. “It was something that people looked forward to every year,” said Strange. “It became this thing that was on the calendar. Somewhere in mid July the Night on Broadway crew was going to be doing their thing.”

Life took the members of the group in different directions, and six years ago they made the decision to end their Night of Broadway performances at Windham Hill. A couple years later, the Windham Hill UCC discontinued their music series. 

MWAM Committee chair Jim McBride said that the success of the series was part of the inspiration behind the MWAM series. “There was a strong community of people that loved music,” he said, and their larger facility and parking capacity made a series at North Windham Union Church a little more workable. Not wanting to step on any toes, they checked in with people at Windham Hill, and went forward with their blessing said McBride.

The community beneficiary from the MWAM series is always chosen by the performers, and the Night of Broadway reunion group chose to benefit the Windham Hill UCC. “The idea was that even though we wouldn’t be performing at Windham Hill we wanted to honor the Windham Hill congregation by having the mission proceeds from the concert go toward their capital fund,” said Small. 

The performers are excited to be coming together once again. “Ever since we decided to reunite, I have been anxiously awaiting this day,” said Caufield. “Matthew, Jennifer, Daniel, Bryan and I have been friends for a very long time and our lives have grown in so many different directions. But, when we get together to sing it's like we get to go back in time and relive our friendships over again.”

Small agreed. “This is our first time performing together as a group in six years. I’m really excited about the chance to spend quality time with my friends, and the happy by-product of that will be a concert that, hopefully, people will enjoy.” 

It was a group decision six years ago to end the show, said Strange, and it was a group decision to come together for a reunion. “If one had said no, we wouldn’t have done it,” he said. But when he sent out an email presenting the idea, within ten minutes everyone has said yes. “It just feels right now,” he said.
The group is very cohesive, and Strange said that while discussions can get intense when everyone has input and opinions on how the show should be presented, there are no egos involved. “That’s what keeps us really good friends. Nobody is trying to outdo anybody,” he said. The concert is more than just the songs performed, he added, and needs to feel like one continuous show rather than a collection of songs from twenty different shows. “This reunion show is more of a tribute to what we did for nine years,” said Strange. “People are going to hear some new songs but they’re going to hear a lot of things that they heard and fell in love with from these performers.” 

While there are certainly challenges in putting together a show while cast members are spread across several states, the group has a rhythm and rapport with each other that has been built through the years and can’t be replaced with other people, said Small. “There really is a special quality to this group. We’ve become more of a family - our Night on Broadway family,” he said. 
 
The group built a loyal following in their years of performing at Windham Hill UCC. “People know us from coming, and our audience feels like part of that Night of Broadway family too,” said Small.
Strange agreed, saying that the group is putting on the show for the community that gave them so many opportunities. “It’s my way of saying thank you for everything you did for us – for your applause, for your donations, for your time, for your attention to what we were doing, and being so vested.” 

Four of the cast are from Windham, and were in the Windham Chamber Singers when in school, and Caufield is from Gorham, and was in the Gorham Chamber Singers. Though they weren’t all in school at the same time, members of the group have also collaborated locally in their younger years in Windham Center Stage productions and at the Schoolhouse Center for the Arts. 

 Caufield said that putting together a concert has its share of challenges. “We've been so fortunate to have the support of Music With A Mission,” she said. “They have been invaluable in organizing, planning and publicizing, which is a huge part of making this concert happen.”

Dr. Richard Nickerson, director of music for the North Windham Union Church said this is a special performance. “I think it’s going to be a great thing for the community,” he said. He said he would encourage people to get tickets ahead of time to avoid being disappointed at the door. “We’ve already sold a third of the tickets. For a concert like this that’s pretty incredible,” he said. 

Tickets are $12/$10 for students and seniors at the door. Tickets can be purchased online at www.mwamconcerts.org.







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