Thursday, January 3, 2008

Three Mo' Tenors

  The Tenors’ latest is not just fabulously entertaining, but it’s spiritually uplifting as well. It has been nearly two years since I saw one of their shows -- way too long. I could see them every two months!

As usual the show includes their amazing range of opera, Broadway, jazz, gospel, soul, spirituals and blues, to name seven of their 10 different musical styles. It begins with Verdi, and soon the music of Motown, Ray Charles and Usher has the tenors grooving on stage, and the rest of us in the audience.

I was especially moved by what they did with “Bring Him Home,” the prayerful hit from “Les Miz.” This song always touches me, and two Broadway Jean Valjeans -- J. Mark McVey and Dudu Fisher -- told me it touched them every time they sang it, even through eight shows a week for years. What the Tenors did that was special is that while James N. Berger Jr. sang lyrics like “bring him home,” Sean T. Miller harmonized with “bring her home” or “bring them home.” Mr. Berger had prefaced the song by saying this is a time for prayers, and hearing the inclusion of her and them gave a deeper poignancy to the song. It wasn’t just a lovely Broadway show tune, it was a reminder of all those who are now risking their lives in the Middle East conflicts. It was a very special moment in the show.

I also was touched by the new spiritual medley, which was a strong reminder of God’s love and our call to praise him with our lives. It was just what I needed to hear last night. I left the theatre feeling healed. The Tenors’ singing isn’t just soulful, it’s soul-filled.

“Three Mo’ Tenors” was conceived, directed and choreographed by Marion J. Caffey. Because of the extraordinary vocal demands, the show features six tenors, who rotate three at a time in alternating performances. Duane A. Moody rounded out the trio last night. Kenneth D. Alston Jr. Ramone Diggs and Phumzile Sojola sang at Broadway Blessing.

It didn’t surprise me that the evening was special. It’s true these men are exceptional singers, but they are backed up by Willette Murphy Klausner, a producer with the highest of standards. I was fortunate to interview her for “The Jewish Week” in early 2006 and felt I was talking to a warm woman with much character. When I told her how much I enjoyed the Tenors and would love to have them perform at Broadway Blessing, she worked hard to get them to us, succeeding last September when they wowed our audience with their singing and their style. Franny Sternhagen was sitting next to me and I asked her if she had ever heard them before. She said yes, adding that she not only loved their show, she loved their name as well.

The name is, of course, a play on “The Three Tenors” concerts that featured Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti. The mission of “Three Mo’ Tenors” is “to have an African-American tenor at the top of the opera world” within a decade, Ms, Klausner says.

“A black tenor goes to school and learns, despite the fact there’s no future for him,” she told me during the “Jewish Week” interview. “There are lots of black tenors who have never been heard of. We want to shine a spotlight on these gifted young men.”

Since the tenor is the lead in an opera, pairing a black singer with a white woman is something directors have been reluctant to do. “It’s as much visual as anything,” Ms. Klausner said. “The tenor is the rarest of all voices. As the star, he must get the girl. Our tenors are rarely heard in opera. It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack.”

For this reason, the theme of the show is “Make Them Hear You,” the powerful song by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty from the musical “Ragtime.” When the Tenors sing it, you’re ready to go out and tell the world.

So now I’ve told you. Go out and see this show. For information, visit

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