(Cast members Kaitlyn Karns, Lexie Farrer, Sarah Fontaine and Rachel Kaiman singing during The Broadway Bunch at Rockstar Music Hall in Windsor, Ontario on Friday, January 31, 2020. Photo above by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.)
Friday night’s Broadway Bunch, at Windsor’s Rockstar Music Hall, was all about the voices. Organizer and cast member Sara Fontaine assembled a phenomenal troupe of the region’s most accomplished singers and let them loose either individually or in groups with their interpretations of some of the most beloved theatrical musical numbers.
It is a rare night to have so many accomplished singers on one stage able to hit every note, whether high or low, just as it would have been sung at a popular theatre in New York’s prized theatrical district.
Holding it all together, and a fine singer as well, Master of Ceremonies David Burrows provided considerable background on each number, although sometimes tongue in cheek to the delight of the audience. He talks of the discussion he had about which song to sing with Sara Fontaine, and thought Beauty and the Beast might be good. They settled on something else.
This is the fifth year of what is now an annual night of exceptional vocalizing. The past three have been at Rockstar Music Hall. It started when a number of local singers had been booked for an event which later fell through. Sara Fontaine tells Eyes on Windsor, since the singers had nothing else planned, they decided to assemble their own show. The next year, and for the past four, Fontaine has been the organizer.
Almost all of the songs performed are from past and beloved Broadway musicals, like Chicago, to some of the most recent. Pierre Bayuga talked of how the song Michael in the Bathroom, from the hit musical The Great Comet of 1812, was a story that hit close to home. He remembers a lunch meeting with a famed Broadway choreographer but when he arrived seeing his lunch partner with a few of his Broadway heroes, along with Cyndi Lauper, and decided it was best just to hide in the bathroom.
This year’s musical extravaganza, with the clever title of the Broadway Bunch, offered non-stop incredible music that, as Fontaine says, was all put together with but one practice session. The nine Broadway Bunchers, and special guest Matthew Dumouchel, really know their business and have developed particularly stellar reputations locally and globally.
Pierre Angelo Bayuga shared the Princess of Wales Theatre stage with the other original cast members of Miss Saigon and has also performed in Germany, Los Angeles, San Francisco and many other cities including Windsor where his talent was exposed in KordaZone Theatre’s Next To Normal, Windsor Light Music Theatre’s RENT and Cardinal Music Productions’ Songs for a New World.
Classically trained Eric Branget is no stranger to music with a voice that was made for the stage and which he has polished with opera and jazz performances. He has also been spotted in advertisements for such commercial organizations as Visa and Schick and most recently played with distinction the role of Katurian in Post Production’s the Pillowman and as the beloved late-night host in Tall Tale Company’s The Love of Late Night. In his spare time, he also co-produces the horror podcast Night Terrors.
Kingsville’s Benjamin Joseph Doncom is no less than a worldly performer after appearances at the likes of the Edinburgh, Scotland and Hamilton, Ontario Fringe Festivals. He also has gone mainstream with his own EP released last year to much acclaim and has spent time with such rockers as Stiletto Fire and Toronto wedding band, Yours Truly. But front and centre for him right now is the full-scale production of The Music Man at his hometown’s Migration Hall, a project he is working on with Branget.
Lexie Farrer spends most of her time these days at Wayne State University working on her BFA Acting Major and lists her favourite roles to date as Wednesday Addams, in the Addams Family, Sophie Sheridan, in Mamma Mia, and Serena in Legally Blonde.
Sara Fontaine has succeeded in a number of genres including jazz, choral, folk, music theatre and has performed as a soloist with the Windsor Symphony Orchestra and as a member of two local bands, The Fontaines and The New Standard. On the theatrical front, her roles have included Helen, in Fun Home, Phyllis in Follies, Cathy, The Last Five Years, and Maureen in RENT. While not performing she is a vocal tutor and a mother to Ava and Juliet.
Rachel Kaiman’s credits include such prestigious theatrical productions as West Side Story, a Chorus Line and Nunsense at theatres across the country and America too. Her voice coach was Dodi Protero of the famed Julliard School. Right now, she is the lead in one of the most important roles of a lifetime in the never ending play Super Freakin’ Mom 24/7. Once the play closes, and who knows when that will be, she plans to spend more time singing which is nothing if not good news for music lovers.
Kaitlyn Karns is currently completing her University of Windsor Masters of Education program. Her thesis plan is to examine the relationship between creative arts and post-secondary education. She is no stranger to the bright lights of Windsor stages. She has excelled as the Addams Family’s Alise, Fun Home’s Alison and Into the Woods’ Cinderella.
Nick Palazzolo is working his way through the University of Windsor’s BFA Acting program and is well known as a singer in musicals which have included Heathers, Les Miserables and Hairspray. Theatre is his game and he brings to each role a sustained force of youthful energy matched with an endearingly popular voice.
David Burrows has taken on leading roles for such prestigious local theatre companies as Windsor Light Music Theatre, Theatre Alive, Theatre Intrigue, Korda, Post and Cardinal Music Productions to name a few. His directorial credits include Fun Home, Company, Mary Poppins and others.
Providing the soundtrack for the evening is the three piece band featuring keyboardist Nicholas Morvay, bassist Ryan Fontaine and drummer Vanessa Harnish. And never a night was finer, with such remarkable singing generating memories in the extreme.
Article by Robert Tuomi
For over a decade, Robert has covered local news and community events. Initially as a contributor to CBC Radio’s local morning show and then as the long-time producer and host of CJAM’s The Rest of the News and as a journalist at the Windsor Square. A graduate of the Nikon School of Photography he enjoys illustrating his reports with what he sees through his camera’s lens.