(The cast and director of the inaugural New Voices Concert Series’ King Of The Word, a partnership between 401 Productions and Post Productions, at Rockstar Music Hall in Windsor, ON, on March 9, 2019. In front David Burrows, back from left Benjamin Doncom, Sara Fontaine, Kaitlyn Karns, Nathanael Judah, Michael Roy and Florine Ndimubandi. Photo above by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.)
Six of Windsor’s top vocal talents dazzled their audience during the inaugural show in the New Voices concert series, King of the World – The Songs of Jason Robert Brown, last Saturday (March 9) at Rockstar Music Hall. This show in the concert series, created in partnership between 401 Productions and Post Productions Windsor, featured the career of the Tony-award-winning composer and lyricist, including material from Broadway, off-Broadway and the world of pop music.
The multi-talented singers, all with live theatre credits to their name, included Benjamin Doncom, Sara Fontaine, Nathanael Judah, Kaitlyn Karns, and Florine Ndimubandi with a special appearance by Michael Roy. The live band led by Music Director Nicholas Morvay on piano – best known for his work with Windsor Light Music Theatre and St. Clair College productions – included Ryan Fontaine on bass, Erik Ingalls on guitar, and Vanessa Harnish on drums.
The music of Jason Robert Brown is familiar to Windsor audiences, thanks to local productions of his shows Songs for a New World and The Last Five Years. In fact, University of Windsor Jazz performance piano major Sam Poole, boldly took on all aspects of producing Songs For A New World early last February as part of his graduation project.
During intermission, 401 Productions’ and show Director David Burrows took the time to talk with Eyes On Windsor. Burrows has been a performer and director in the Windsor area for over 20 years, with recent directing credits including Legally Blonde, Mary Poppins, Company and Fun Home. “My friend Sam Poole and I were talking about a series like this,” explained Burrows. He was doing his grad recital in a show called Songs For A New World, which is by the same composer as tonight’s show. I thought why not extend that into something like this and then extend it beyond that.”
The New Voices concert series is designed to showcase the work of contemporary songwriters, while also providing a stage for young local talent. Coming up in June will be the second entry in the series, The Greatest Showmen, shining a spotlight on the work of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Burrows says their Broadway credits include “Dear Evan Hansen, and their songs have been featured in films like The Greatest Showman, and La La Land. On TV they were featured in Smash, off-broadway in Dog Fight and Edges. So there’s lots of shows to choose from.”
The third New Voices concert series production, Unsung Heroes, will take place in the Fall. “It’s going to focus on names you don’t recognize from the hot new shows right now like Legally Blonde, Hamilton, and Waitress,” Burrows told us.
One of the challenges in producing King Of The World was selecting songs from Jason Robert Brown’s huge catalog. “One of the challenges of preparing for the show was choosing what songs to incorporate because Jason has a 20-year catalog of songs to choose from,” explained Burrows. The flawless performance by the cast on Saturday night from solos, duos, and the full cast harmonizing together, is testament to the skillfully selected songs. From performers to the venue, the songs chosen by the producers fit well in the context of the show.
While the cast all have performed in theatre productions, King of The World, was not a musical nor was it a play, it was a night of incredible singing. The show opened with the full cast taking the stage singing, solo and all together at times, State Road 21 from Bridges of Madison County. Song selections also came from Songs for a New World, 13, Honeymoon in Vegas, The Last Five Years, Parade, and some of Jason’s solo recordings. One song, powerfully performed by Florine Ndimubandi, Jason’s Song (Gave It Away), was written by Jason for and with pop star Ariana Grande, who recorded and released the song. The last song performed, Wait Till You See What’s Next, from Jason’s most recent and second solo album, How We React and How We Recover, was well performed by the full cast including special guest Michael Roy (Windsor Light Music Theatre).
While the cast thrilled the audience with their vocals they are known for their lead roles in local theatre productions: Benjamin Doncom most recently starred in Heathers, Catch Me If You Can (Cardinal Music Productions), and was the winner of the Raise Your Voice singing competition His first single and music video Chasing Ghosts was just released with a the full EP set to come out on March 18; Sara Fontaine has performed with the Windsor Symphony Orchestra, Windsor Light Music Theatre, and most recently starred in Company and Fun Home (Korda Artistic Productions). Her band The New Standard performs modern hits with a jazz twist; Nathanael Judah is a third-year student at St. Clair College, where he has performed in The Boy Friend and will be in the upcoming production of Into the Woods in April; Kaitlyn Karns is best known for her starring roles in The Addams Family (Cardinal Music Productions) and Fun Home (Korda Artistic Productions); Florine Ndimubandi wowed audiences last season in Dreamgirls, and is poised to do the same this year in The Wiz opening on March 22nd (Arts Collective Theatre).
The New Voices concert series is an opportunity for local theatre companies to work with together. “Although Post Productions and I are working together, people on the stage are in other companies like Windsor Light Music Theatre, ACT Windsor, and Korda,” explained Burrows. “They’re all here up on stage together, it’s about promoting all the arts in the city and supporting each other. In the audience you might recognize some faces.”
Some of the recognizable faces in the audience included Michael K. Potter and Fay Lynn (Post Productions), Chris Rabideau (ACT Windsor), and Becca Silvius who recently choreographed and played Sarah Brown in Migration Hall’s production of Guys and Dolls.
King of The World runs for one final performance on March 16th – at Rockstar Music Hall, 2418 Central Ave, in Windsor, Ontario. Performances begin at 7:30pm, with the doors opening at 7:00pm.
Tickets are $20 for General Admission seating, and are available online at Eventbrite, or by email at 401ProductionsWindsor@gmail.com. Tickets will also be available at the door on performance nights – first come, first served – one half hour before each performance begins. This is an all ages show. Minors are welcome, provided they are accompanied by an adult.
About 401 Productions
David Burrows says, “401 Productions started a few years back, as I planned to launch a new company in Windsor to stage new plays, small scale musicals and even cabaret-style events. In the intervening years, new companies began to arise to fill that niche, such as Post Productions, Ghostlight Players, The Edge and others. In such a crowded field, it seemed like a better idea to partner with other companies to help bring a shared vision of community theatre to the stage. I put those plans on hold for a bit while I was directing a couple of shows at Korda Artistic Productions (COMPANY, FUN HOME), but then saw an opportunity to stage a series of shows featuring some of Windsor’s top musical talent. I brought the idea to Post Productions as a co-production, and they were eager to be involved. This became the New Voices series.”
“My wife and I are the key partners in 401 Productions, though we are assisted in a number of ways (administrative, design, marketing, production) by several others. This will change from project to project, as the nature of the shows we produce will embrace a number of genres. It is early days for the company, but we do have big plans.”