Lyric Opera of Chicago presents "The New Classics: Songs from the New Golden Age of Musical Theater”

Starring Gavin Creel, Nikki Renée Daniels, and Norm Lewis with Amanda Castro, Jenn Gambatese, Jo Lampert, and Heath Saunders - David Chase as music director

CHICAGO (3/24/2021)Lyric Opera of Chicago announces The New Classics: Songs from the New Golden Age of Musical Theater, a virtual cabaret starring Broadway’s Gavin Creel, Nikki Renée Daniels, and Norm Lewis, plus Amanda Castro, Jenn Gambatese, Jo Lampert, and Heath Saunders, with David Chase as music director and featuring members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra. This cabaret will premiere on Thursday, June 10 at 7:00pm CT for free to audiences on Lyric’s Facebook and YouTube channels.

The New Classics will highlight the best of new and old Broadway, featuring a combination of classic musical theater songs performed in intimate new arrangements, coupled with songs from newer shows that are the inheritors of the classic style. The cabaret will also touch on the history of the Lyric Opera House space in which some of the artists recorded their numbers, and will explore recurring themes of love and longing, journeys of transformation, and celebrations of survival. 

Songs by Lerner and Loewe, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and Stephen Sondheim will be featured, along with compositions by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, Henry Krieger and Bill Russell, Michael John LaChiusa, Jason Robert Brown, William Finn, Lucy Simon and Marsha Norman, Jeanine Tesori and Dick Scanlan, Andrew Lippa, David Yazbek, and Adam Guettel.

Leading the cabaret from an intimate backstage corner of the Lyric Opera House will be Gavin Creel (Hello Dolly!, The Book of Mormon), Nikki Renée Daniels (Hamilton, Sondheim’s Company), and Norm Lewis (Da Five Bloods, NBC’s Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert!). (See bios below.)

These three artists will be joined by Lyric musical favorites Amanda Castro (Anita/Lyric’s West Side Story), Jenn Gambatese (Maria/The Sound of Music and Carrie/Carousel), Jo Lampert (Mary Magdalene/Jesus Christ Superstar), and Heath Saunders (title role/Jesus Christ Superstar), who will perform selections from their respective homes as a part of the cabaret. (See bios below.)

David Chase, a celebrated Broadway music director/supervisor, serves as the music director and pianist for The New Classics. Chase made his Lyric debut conducting Carousel in the 2014/15 Season and has since returned for The King and I, My Fair Lady, and Lyric’s Celebrating 100 Years of Bernstein concert. He will be joined by members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra.

“The spirit of Broadway and the spirit of Lyric share a common passion for the arts and a common drive to bring music to the community during these uncertain times,” said Anthony Freud, Lyric’s general director, president & CEO. “We are delighted to offer this engaging escape into an intimate world of musical theater, showcasing these exceptional artists.”

For more information on this exciting new production, visit lyricopera.org/newclassics.

To explore Lyric's full complement of digital programming this season, including concerts, masterclasses, and more, visit lyricopera.org/newprograms.

Bios

DAVID CHASE has served as music director, supervisor, and/or arranger for nearly 40 Broadway productions. Recent Broadway shows include dance arrangements for Tootsie, Frozen, and revivals of Kiss Me Kate, Carousel, and Hello, Dolly!, along with the upcoming revivals of The Music Man (with Hugh Jackman) and 1776. Chase has made numerous musical arrangements for the Boston Pops and Tanglewood Festival Chorus (including their signature Twelve Days of Christmas), The Kennedy Center Honors, Radio City Music Hall (where he spent many years as music director), EssentialVoicesUSA (including the upcoming Washington Women), and TV’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. He is the music director and arranger for NBC’s live performances of The Sound of Music and Peter Pan (Emmy nominations for both), and the upcoming Schmigadoon!. Chase has been nominated for a Grammy Award for the cast album of Nice Work if You Can Get It. This marks his fifth production with Lyric Opera of Chicago. He previously conducted Carousel, The King and I, My Fair Lady, and Celebrating 100 Years of Bernstein.

GAVIN CREEL received a Tony Award as Cornelius Hackl/Hello, Dolly! starring Bette Midler. Creel made his Broadway debut originating the role of Jimmy Smith/Thoroughly Modern Millie, receiving his first Tony Award nomination. He has since earned acclaim on Broadway as Claude/Hair (second Tony nomination), Jean-Michel/La Cage Aux Folles, and Stephen Kodaly/She Loves Me (Roundabout Theater Company production, filmed live and available on BroadwayHD). In London, Creel most notably originated the role of Elder Price/The Book of Mormon (West End production, Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical). He also starred as Bert/Disney’s Mary Poppins and reprised Claude/Hair. Other stage credits include starring in Waitress opposite Sara Bareilles (Broadway, West End), The Book of Mormon (Broadway, also originating the first national tour), and the world premieres of Prometheus Bound (A.R.T.) and Stephen Sondheim’s Bounce (Goodman Theatre, Kennedy Center). Creel co-starred alongside Julie Andrews in ABC’s Eloise at the Plaza and Eloise at Christmastime. He has released three original albums: “GoodTimeNation,” “Quiet” (which landed on “Billboard’s Top Heat Seekers”) and “Get Out.” His single, “Noise,” raised money and awareness for marriage equality. Creel was a co-founder of Broadway Impact, the first and only grassroots organization to mobilize the nationwide theater community in support of marriage equality. A native of Findlay, Ohio, he is a proud graduate of University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre and Dance. 

NIKKI RENÉE DANIELS recently portrayed Angelica Schuyler in Hamilton at the CIBC Theater in Chicago. On Broadway she has appeared in Company (Jenny), The Book of Mormon (Nabulungi), The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess (Clara), Les Misérables (Fantine), Anything Goes, Promises, Promises, Aida, Nine, Little Shop of Horrors, Lestat, and The Look of Love. Daniels made her New York City Opera debut as Clara in Porgy and Bess. Other New York credits include Martha Jefferson in 1776 at City Center Encores, Rose Lennox in The Secret Garden at David Geffen Hall, and Tracy in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. Her television credits include Chappelle's Show, Madam Secretary, and The Sound of Music: Live. Daniels has performed as a soloist at Carnegie Hall and with numerous symphony orchestras across the country and in Canada.

NORM LEWIS can currently be seen starring in the SAG, Critics Choice, and NAACP Image Award-nominated Netflix film Da 5 Bloods by Spike Lee and in the Hulu miniseries, Mrs. AmericaHe was previously seen in the NBC television special, Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert! alongside John Legend, Sara Bareilles, and Alice Cooper. He recently appeared in the Broadway revival of Once on This Island and as Sweeney Todd in the Off-Broadway production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street at the Barrow Street Theatre, receiving the AUDELCO Award for his performance. In May of 2014, he made history as The Phantom of the Opera’s first African American Phantom on Broadway. On television, he has appeared in five PBS specials and can be seen recurring in the VH1 series, Daytime Divas, alongside Vanessa Williams. His additional television credits include Better Things, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Bull, Chicago Med, Gotham, The Blacklist, and Blue Bloods, as well as in his recurring role as Senator Edison Davis on the hit drama ScandalLewis received Tony, Drama Desk, Drama League, and Outer Critics Circle award nominations for his performance as Porgy in the Broadway production of The Gershwins’ Porgy & Bess. Other Broadway credits include Sondheim on Sondheim, The Little Mermaid, Les Misérables, Chicago, Amour, The Wild Party, Side Show, Miss Saigon, and The Who’s Tommy. In London’s West End he has appeared as Javert in Les Misérables and Les Misérables: The 25th Anniversary Concert, which aired on PBS. His additional film credits include Magnum Opus, Winter’s Tale, Sex and the City 2, Confidences, and Preaching to the ChoirHe has recorded two solo albums, "The Norm Lewis Christmas Album" and "This is the Life.” Lewis is a proud founding member of Black Theatre United, which helps protect Black people, Black talent, and Black lives of all shapes and orientations in theater and communities across the country.

AMANDA CASTRO previously appeared in Lyric’s 2019/20 production of West Side Story as Anita, a role she also recently played at Atlanta Opera and The Glimmerglass Festival. She has also portrayed Consuelo/West Side Story (Lyric Opera Kansas City, Houston Grand Opera). Castro has appeared widely in the U.S. and abroad (London, Germany, South Africa). A California Institute of the Arts alumna, she was a principal dancer of the renowned Brooklyn-based company Urban Bush Women for four years. She is the 2016 champion of the "Run the Night" competition at New York’s Highline Ballroom, and placed second in 2017 with Soles of Duende, her all-female percussive trio. Other New York credits include a recently completed year-long creative residency with Soles of Duende at Dixon Place Theatre; assisting choreographer Nick Kenkel at BC Beat; working as a model and movement specialist at New York’s Fashion Week; and dancing at Radio City Music Hall for the Ellie Awards. Castro was dance captain at the Geva Theater (Rochester, NY) for In the Heights. Choreography credits include the American Dance Awards, several works for Urban Bush Women, and multiple set pieces for Northeast competition studios.

JENN GAMBATESE made her Lyric debut portraying Maria/The Sound of Music (2014) and returned as Carrie Pipperidge/Carousel (2015). Gambatese has starred in eight Broadway shows: Mrs. Doubtfire, School of Rock, Is He Dead?, Tarzan, All Shook Up, Hairspray, A Year With Frog & Toad, and Footloose. She has traveled the country by bubble as Glinda/Wicked,  guest-starred on TV in Law & Order SVU and The Good Wife, and sung with some of the country's greatest symphony orchestras. Her ongoing role as pandemic homeschool teacher may be her biggest accomplishment to date.

JO LAMPERT has been seen Off-Broadway in Hundred Days (New York Theatre Workshop), Joan of Arc: Into the Fire (title role at the Public Theater, Lucille Lortel Award nomination), Rimbaud in NY (Brooklyn Academy of Music), New York Animals (New Ohio), Iphigenia in Aulis (Classic Stage Company), and Dance, Dance Revolution (Ohio Theater). Selected regional appearances include Mary Magdalene/Jesus Christ Superstar (Lyric Opera of Chicago), Marie Antoinette (American Repertory Theatre/Yale REP), Prometheus Bound (A.R.T.), and The Last Goodbye (Williamstown Theater Festival). She was seen in Japan in Elizabeth Swados’s The La Mama Cantata and on the 2014 tUnE-yArDs world tour in support of their album Nikki Nack. Lampert’s film and television credits include Amazon’s Transparent: Musical Finale, Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, Hulu’s The Path, The Tonight Show, Conan O’Brien,and the upcoming season of HBO’s BETTY.

HEATH SAUNDERS is an actor, composer, multi-instrumentalist, director, teacher, and diversity dramaturg. All of their free time has been devoted to readings, workshops, and new works, and their new world is mostly populated by aural experimentation. They provided the music and the sound design for a recent digital reading of the genre bending horror play The Things are Against Us by Susan Stanton at MCC. They were featured on the original-cast recording of Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater's new musical Alice By Heart. Saunders spent much of 2018 involved in Jesus Christ Superstar, including at Lyric Opera of Chicago, as Jesus, and in Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert on NBC. They made their Broadway debut in Great Comet, and their musical Newton's Cradle won Best in Fest at NYMF 2016. Saunders’ EP "Does Not Play Well With Others (I Hope You're Not 'Others')" can be heard wherever you stream music.

About Lyric

About Lyric

Lyric Opera of Chicago is committed to redefining what it means to experience great opera. The company is driven to deliver consistently excellent artistry through innovative, relevant, celebratory programming that engages and energizes new and traditional audiences.

Under the leadership of General Director, President & CEO Anthony Freud, Music Director Sir Andrew Davis, Music Director Designate Enrique Mazzola, and Special Project Advisor Renée Fleming, Lyric is dedicated to reflecting, and drawing strength from, the diversity of Chicago. Lyric offers, through innovation, collaboration, and evolving learning opportunities, ever-more exciting, accessible, and thought-provoking audience and community experiences. We also stand committed to training the artists of the future, through The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center; and to becoming increasingly diverse across our audiences, staff, programming, and artists—magnifying the welcoming pull of our art form, our company, and our city.

Through the timeless power of voice, the splendor of a great orchestra and chorus, theater, dance, design, and truly magnificent stagecraft, Lyric is devoted to immersing audiences in worlds both familiar and unexpected, creating shared experiences that resonate long after the curtain comes down.

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The New Classics: Songs from the Golden Age of Music Theater is generously made possible by Shure Incorporated and Crowe LLP.