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If you go
What: Philharmonic Pops “Behind the Mask”
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Embassy Theatre, 125 W. Jefferson Blvd.
Admission: Tickets start at $28; call 481-0777 or go to www.fwphil.org

Lead vocalist calls Philharmonic’s ‘Mask’ thrilling

Stanley
Viviano

Vocalist Sal Viviano says nothing beats singing some of Broadway’s finest work with a full orchestra behind you.

A theater veteran, Viviano has spent the last 15 years performing in an array of Broadway Pops concerts for 150 orchestras nationwide and abroad. As he joins the Fort Wayne Philharmonic on Saturday for the “Behind the Mask” Pops concert, there’s only word he uses to describe the live music experience: “It’s just thrilling.”

“As a Broadway actor, you’re used to doing what you prepared in a live setting with a small orchestra, which is now probably 20 pieces,” Viviano says by phone from New York City, where he currently resides. “To be with a 60-piece orchestra, you have this great round sound. It’s really the last handmade artform.”

The Philharmonic’s “Behind the Mask” will bring Broadway’s greatest hits from “Les Miserables,” “Chicago,” “A Chorus Line” and “Wicked” to the Embassy Theatre stage. Viviano will perform with vocalist Elizabeth Stanley, an Indiana University graduate who has performed in Broadway’s “Million Dollar Quartet,” “Cry-Baby” and the Tony Award-winning revival of “Company.”

“I’m a big fan of hers,” he says. “She is so talented. Fort Wayne will be very happy.”

The program will also be dedicated to the works of composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, the creative mind behind Broadway’s “Phantom of the Opera” and “Cats.”

Viviano says he actually met Webber preparing for his lead role as Joseph in the 1989 production of “Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat” at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia.

“To know this songwriter as a working colleague is a privilege. I love to sing his things, and his music leaves great room for interpretation,” he says. “A guy with that much success, doesn’t really have to work, but he continues to work on his craft. He’s a very bright guy who loves the theater and loves to write for the theater. That kind of longevity has only happened for a handful of songwriters.”

Viviano says the evening will be filled with songs that take on an entirely new life on stage than what is heard through recordings.

“(Live music) is an endangered species. Nowadays, when we go to concerts, so much of what we hear is recorded. There are a few live musicians onstage, but a good deal of the backup tracks are recorded, and now even some of the lead tracks are recorded,” he says. “We have the opportunity to sing a load of great songs from Broadway and remind them why these songs are so great. Show them why they are in fact some the modern standards of the Broadway repertoire.”

For Viviano, it was the live aspect of performing that first drew him into the theater. A Detroit native, Viviano began his career opening for comedy acts and working as an actor in Chicago while completing his education at Eastern Illinois University. Moving east, Viviano made his Broadway debut in the 1984 production of “The Three Musketeers.”

He has had roles in Broadway shows like “Romance/Romance,” “City of Angels” and “The Full Monty”; he has also performed in Off-Broadway shows, “The Big Time,” “Golf the Musical” and “Hamlet.”

Viviano says it’s always important to treat every performance like it is opening night.

“When you perform, you don’t want the audience to feel like you’ve done it seven times already this week. If it begins to feel like that, it’s time to leave the job,” he says. “As a generation of theater performers and musicians, we’re here to remind every generation of our heritage. It requires them to see it live because there is a whole other side to it. There’s drama, there’s an opinion, there’s a story that has to be told.”

kcarr@jg.net

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