This Sunday, the Broadway Voices on the Hudson musical revue will return to Congregation Emanuel in Kingston for a fourth consecutive year, with four singers and musical director Rob Preuss performing a selection of songs from the past and present along the Great White Way.
“My wife’s dad was the president of the temple, and at some point he said, ‘You know, it would be really cool if we could do a benefit concert to raise money for the temple for repairs, upkeep and stuff,’” said Preuss. “And of course we’ll do what we do, which is music. And they wanted to give it a Broadway theme because my wife, Leah [Zepel] we met doing Mamma Mia! on Broadway. It’s basically we get some friends together and put on a show.”
While most of the performers will be familiar to those who’ve been to previous Broadway Voices on the Hudson shows, Laurie Wells is a first timer. Wells has appeared on Broadway in Swing, as well as playing the role of Donna Sheridan in Mamma Mia!, and has appeared in numerous regional productions. Returning to Congregation Emanuel are Gerard Salvador from Mamma Mia!; Don Noble from Once; and Zepel, from Mamma Mia!, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and The Unsinkable Molly Brown, who will be directing and choreographing the production. Preuss, who is currently playing piano for Phantom of the Opera, was the musical director of Mamma Mia! and musical supervisor for Once.
Among the songs planned are those composed by Rogers and Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, George Gershwin, Stephen Schwartz; and the songwriting teams of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, II; and John Kander and Fred Ebb.
“It’s a nice sort of an old-fashioned place,” said Preuss. “We put up a stage, and I’ve got a keyboard there. We’ve got four singers. And we just kind of do a range of stuff. It tends to focus towards more show-tuney kind of stuff, but we put in pop songs if they’re related to Broadway. We gear it to trying to do things they’ll enjoy, but we like to step out of the box a bit and sometimes do things that are not hits in shows.”
Preuss said the relatively intimate setting allows for a congenial atmosphere conducive to storytelling alongside the singing.
“I wouldn’t say it’s casual, because we want to do a good job,” he said. “But it’s almost like a house concert in a way. For us it’s different than being on a proper theater stage. But it’s in the afternoon, and the room doesn’t get entirely dark. It’s got a homey feeling, which I really like. We sort of will tell stories, the singers will tell bits to introduce the songs. And I think that’s a part that becomes really nice and gives it a low-key, casual feeling.”
Preuss is also known for being one of actor Rami Malek’s piano coaches during preproduction on Bohemian Rhapsody, the Queen biopic for which Malek won a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury. Preuss said it was a brief but fulfilling experience.
“They were just doing preproduction for the film, and [Malek] was in the city filming Mr. Robot still,” Preuss said. “And I got an e-mail from a colleague in London who said, ‘If you want to have some work on a film project, there’s this thing … ’ And of course I’d like to take any project, and if it’s a mystery I’m even more intrigued. ‘Our actor needs piano lessons for this role,’ and they didn’t tell me anything else about it. And the next e-mail that came had some PDFs attached, and there was ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and ‘We Are the Champions,’ and I knew what it was. That was the dead giveaway. I met with Rami a couple of times down on the Lower East Side, in like a music studio. And it was like a month-and-a-half before he went off to London to start filming.”
For Preuss, it was a second opportunity to pay tribute to a musician who made a significant impact on his life.
“I worked on this film five years ago called Greetings From Tim Buckley, with this actor Penn Badgley, who played Jeff Buckley,” said Preuss. “It turns out that Jeff Buckley changed my life 25 years ago, and Freddie Mercury changed my life when I was 11. So I got to work with these films based on two guys who were super important in my life.”
Broadway Voices on the Hudson will return to Congregation Emanuel on Sunday, June 2 at 3 p.m., with attendees invited to meet and mingle with the cast and enjoy complimentary hors d’oeuvres immediately following.
Tickets are $50 for general admission, $40 for adults over 65, $25 for students and children under 13 are free. To reserve tickets, contact the synagogue office at (845) 338-4271 or order on the Temple web page www.cehv.org. The funds raised by the musical revue will be used for many of the temple’s community events, including its Christmas Feast, the Interfaith Thanksgiving Program and various speaker programs and political debates.