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A wish list of show tunes

Broadway Center staff on Broadway

"NEIL BERG'S 100 YEARS OF BROADWAY": It's a jukebox full of show tunes. Courtesy photo

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Broadway nerds are in for a treat Friday. Neil Berg's 100 Years of Broadway Song & Dance will consume the Pantages Theater's stage with songs from hit musicals through the past century. Four veteran Broadway stars and an equally all-star New York band will perform some of the most well-known tunes and choreography from heavy hitters like The Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables, CATS and Chicago.

Broadway producer, lyricist and composer Neil Berg is no stranger to Tacoma. He has been here before in 2007 and 2009, bringing with him revamped arrangements from Broadway past and present. He's back with an all-new lineup that now includes dance numbers, and four new Broadway veteran performers - Ron Bohmer, Jeffry Denman, David Elder and Sandra Joseph. I now take you inside the Broadway Center of the Performing Arts where the team that brought Neil Berg's 100 Years of Broadway Song & Dance is busy preparing for Friday's show. Take it away, Mr. Announcer. ...

ANNOUNCER: Welcome, folks. As the show title suggests, Neil Berg has drawn from 100 years of Broadway hits for his two-hour show Friday. What songs will you hear? Hell, I don't know. With so much Broadway history to draw from, all I can do is cross my fingers and hope my favorite show tune makes it. In the studio with me are Broadway Center Executive Director David Fischer, Deputy Executive Director Benjii Bittle and Director of Marketing Lacey Leffler - the team that brought Berg's show to T-town. I thought it would be interesting to hear what they hope Berg brings to their stage.

DAVID FISCHER: I'm looking forward to Oklahoma! because it changed Broadway musicals forever by incorporating the narrative into the music.

ANNOUNCER: Nice. Originally opening in 1943, Oklahoma! ran for more than 2,200 performances. It was the first musical to completely integrate the songs and dance into the action of the story. It also introduced musical motifs - those repeating phrases of music that tie the show together.

FISCHER: Any Cameron Mackintosh show because he changed the enthusiasm for the Broadway musical in the modern age.

ANNOUNCER: Cameron Mackintosh is a musical theater god on par with Andrew Lloyd Webber. He produced such amazeballs creations as Les Misérables, Phantom of the Opera and Mary Poppins.

BENJII BITTLE: I am a sucker for a great opening number, like those in Sweet Charity, Cabaret or the current movie version of Les Mis.

ANNOUNCER: The most recent version of Les Misérables - and the stage show too - open with the "Work Song," complete with toiling prisoners on a chain gang. It's not catchy or upbeat, but is an emotional dredge that pulls you right into the performance.

LACEY LEFFLER: Hands down, I'm hoping for "Defying Gravity" in Wicked. It gets me every time - goose bumps and the pure magic of theater. Wicked is my all-time favorite!"

ANNOUNCER: Yes, Wicked is a retelling of the witches of The Wizard of Oz, with an emphasis on the Wicked Witch of the West. Turns out she can really hit those high notes. Who knew?

BITTLE: Ah, Wicked. My favorite shows are dark comedies where geeks rule the world like Wicked, Little Shop of Horrors, Rent and Book of Mormon. I have a gothic streak so the Grand Guignol of Sweeney Todd and Threepenny Opera is like crack to me. If I had to choose one show to live with and listen to forever, it would be Sweeney Todd.

ANNOUNCER: Grand Guignol was originally a gruesome little theater in Paris. The term is now used to describe Tim Burton-esque productions, such as Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, the tale of a murderous barber.

FISCHER: That's all fine. The trio in A Little Night Music, entitled "Now," "Soon" and "Later," is what I hope hits the stage. In fact, I most look forward to the Steven Sondheim songs.

ANNOUNCER: Composer and lyricist extraordinaire Sondheim has work spanning across both movies and the stage. Some of his most famous works include Sweeney Todd, West Side Story and songs on the Dick Tracy movie soundtrack.

BITTLE: I seldom hear the classics from the Golden Age. I hope for songs from Carousel, South Pacific and Fiddler on the Roof to be performed. There's too much irony in the world. I want sincerity to have a strong comeback in 2013.

ANNOUNCER: Both South Pacific and Carousel are musicals by popular duo of yore Rodgers and Hammerstein. You may recognize them from song titles like "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair," in which you will find no irony at all. Back to you, Kristin.

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There you have it. If Fischer, Bittle and Leffler had their way, you would enjoy a four-hour show Friday night, and if my hunch is right, a post-show discussion over wine and Bittle's gourmet talents.

PANTAGES THEATER, NEIL BERG'S 100 YEARS OF BROADWAY SONG & DANCE, FRIDAY, JAN. 11, 7:30 P.M., $29-$64, 901 BROADWAY, TACOMA, 253.591.5894

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