Cynics might consider this a sneaky way to be assured a standing ovation.
No doubt the vocal cast of the first Moonlight Pops concert, in which Broadway veteran David Gaschen is one of 10 performers Friday through Sunday at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center Theatre, intend to do everything in their power to earn such an ovation.
Still, fans no doubt expecting Gaschen to perform two specific songs, one from “The Phantom of the Opera” and one from “Les Miserables,” are hereby warned that he is holding them back “just in case people want an encore.”
Just in case. Yeah, right.
Gerald Dolter, founder of Moonlight Musicals and Moonlight Broadway, indicated that the latter usually stages a family musical between the arrival of a new year and Valentine’s Day. However, when he and his staff were considering plays, they learned Celebrity Attractions already had booked a touring production of the musical “The Wizard of Oz” in February at the Municipal Auditorium. That show since has been canceled.
“We still want to maintain a presence around Valentine’s Day,” said Dolter, “and David often headlined Valentine concerts in Lubbock, so I thought he might want to take part.”
While Gaschen has chosen some of his favorite love songs, the entire concert does not have a Valentine’s theme. Rather, Dolter took to heart the number of well-wishers who mentioned over the years that they wanted to hear Moonlight stars provide a revue of show tunes, and not just from the approximately 40 musicals Dolter’s ensembles have staged. So that is precisely what will be delivered, from “Gypsy” to “Wicked” and many points in between.
Philip Mann, formerly maestro of the Arkansas Philharmonic and newly hired conductor of the Texas Tech orchestra, will direct an orchestra of more than two dozen players. With this being an inaugural Moonlight Pops, Dolter mentioned an emphasis on class, down to the “white curtain backdrop that changes with the lighting.”
Expect men to be in white ties and tails, the women in gowns.
One might assume the price tag would be reduced with a full scale musical bypassed. Dolter emphasized a need to pay for rights to each song, and also the requirement of obtaining licenses from American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers and Broadcast Music International. His budget for Moonlight Pops at the civic center will near $75,000.
Some, like Barbra Streisand, said Dolter, have an innate ability to cover a wide range of show tunes. Teaming with Justin Duncan and Donald Hogan, Doppler needed to not only pick songs he wanted his audiences to hear, but decide which songs best fit each available vocal talent, as well as the personalities of designated performers.
“We wanted each song in the hands of the vocalist who could best deliver it,” said Dolter, who himself will repeat his rendition of Inspector Javert’s “Stars,” which he sang in the Moonlight Broadway production of “Les Miserables.”
Look for Anne Marie Nichols-Burge to deliver powerhouse showstoppers “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” from “Gypsy,” and “Don’t Rain on my Parade” from “Funny Girl.” Nicole Casteel will sing the popular “Defying Gravity,” from “Wicked.”
Four male singers — Travis Burge, tenor; Duncan, baritone; Hogan, bass; and Frank Rendon, tenor — also are called Moonlighters; they participate throughout, but the quartet also harmonizes at times behind Gaschen.
Dolter previously applauded Gaschen’s ability to share intricate additions that can improve a stage performance. For Pops, said Dolter, “What David illustrates is how to be a showman, how to grab an audience intimately like you are singing in their living room
“I will never pass up an opportunity to work with David.”
Gaschen, speaking from his voice studio in Dallas, mentioned that he still hopes to be cast one day as Archibald in “The Secret Garden,” one of his favorite musicals — which explains his choice of first act duets: “How Could I Ever Know” with Casteel, and “Lily’s Eyes” opposite Joshua Reynolds.
Gaschen stressed that he never was meant to star in a one-man show, but rather be an ensemble member, a featured guest. He joked, “I think the intent was for me to sing some show tunes and some of my favorite cheesy love songs.”
His selections include intense desire expressed in “Come What May,” from “Moulin Rouge;” and “One Last Prayer,” from “Republic, accompanied only by pianist Charles Whitehead. “ ‘There’s a Hero’ may be more inspirational than romantic, and Gary Morris’ ‘The Love She Found in Me’ is the last song I sang for my mother,” said Gaschen.
Gaschen is a Lubbock native, a Tech graduate and a Broadway veteran credited with more than 1,500 performances of “The Phantom of the Opera” worldwide. In March, he will be one of three Tech alums honored as Distinguished Alumni, joining Texas country singer-songwriter Josh Abbott; and Gary Thomas, president and executive director for Dallas Area Rapid Transit.
“Every time I return to my home town, I am treated like a king, like I did something great,” said Gaschen. “It is a mutual admiration society; I love Lubbock, and want to help as much as I can. There are a lot of really talented people in Lubbock. … It was a great place for me to grow up, a great place to go to high school and college. Four of my brothers and sisters live in Lubbock. I am crazy proud of being from Lubbock. I have memories dating back to my Summer Rep’ performances under (John) Gillas on this same stage at the civic center.”
Demands for encores from Gaschen seem all but guaranteed.