Fans of Broadway Music, are in for a treat this August 13 as The Colombo Tea Traders Association presents “To Broadway With Love” at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel. The gala performance will feature world class opera singers Karen Usha Grey and Adam Jon. They will be accompanied by Soundarie David Rodrigo. The show will also [...]


Remembering those Broadway classics


Fans of Broadway Music, are in for a treat this August 13 as The Colombo Tea Traders Association presents “To Broadway With Love” at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel.

The gala performance will feature world class opera singers Karen Usha Grey and Adam Jon. They will be accompanied by Soundarie David Rodrigo. The show will also include guest appearances by ‘Soul’ with Ravi Bandu Vidyapathy and Soul Sounds. The Mirror Magazine caught up with Karen and Adam just as they prepare to take on Colombo.

Adam Jon

Karen was born and raised in Colombo. Her musical journey began when she was five, at the Mount Lavinia Methodist Church. It was her mother, encouraged by Karen’s Sunday school teacher, who pushed her to pursue her talent of singing and performing.

Sooner she took up vocal lessons under the late Lyle Godridge, who encouraged her to take formal vocal training. This she did with Christine Perera. Later, as her voice matured, she joined the MaryAnne Singers andworked on productions and events staged by Andrew David, Jith Peris, Jerome De Silva and the late Rohan Joseph De Saram.

“I knew at a young age that my voice was my special talent, I felt the happiest when I was singing and found that performing in front of an audience came very naturally to me,” she tells us adding that singing in the shower was not an option. With her mother’s nurturing, Karen knew that her passion for all things musical had to be pursued.Her debut performance in Sri Lanka was at the International Festival of Song held at the BMICH in 1986. She was eight at the time.Karen opened the show with “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.”

Karen’s musical journey has taken her from signing in choirs to all Island singing competitions and stage shows. In 1993, she was honored with two Island Music Awards for Most Outstanding Artist and Most Promising Artist. Her musical achievements that year also qualified her to represent Sri Lanka at the International World Scholar Games (Voice Category) in Rhode Island USA. “This was an amazing event comprising 2000 students, singing alongside Aretha Franklin,” she recalls.

Today Karen continues her musical journey in Toronto, Canada. As part of her professional work in music, she also conducts music programs for children and people with special needs. We talk about her last performance in Sri Lanka, before she migrated. This was a spectacular event with Rohan Joseph De Saram and the Philharmonic Orchestra at the Colombo Hilton. “I sang for the Merry Widow and Puccini’s O Mio Babbino Caro, I am thankful for such treasured memories,” she recalls.

Karen explains that returning to the Sri Lankan stage after many years, will be an emotional experience for her. Her performance will be nostalgic, based on her repertoire selection, she mentions.“I am very excited to perform in my homeland and I’m looking forward to serenading the audience with my interpretation of beloved selections from Broadway.”

Karen will also be joined by Adam Jon, who will be performing in Sri Lanka for the first time. Adam’s professional experience is both an interesting and an exciting one, we find out.

From being the slightly eccentric and odd Dr. Frederick Frankenstein in Mel Brooks’ ‘Young Frankenstein’, to the tormented and menacing Thuy in Boublil and more recently playing the Captain of the Guard, Ferrando in Giuseppe Verdi’s Il Trovatore, he is no stranger to the stage.
“Each character has challenged me to work on different accents, sing in different tones, styles and utilizing different techniques. I believe that by doing these varied roles it has enabled me to gain more experience and knowledge in the industry whilst becoming a better performer,” he explains.

Adam grew up in a musical household, back in Australia. As a kid, he always dreamt of becoming a singer, but did not act on it, until many years later. It was his love for classical music, which drew him to operatic performances. “Although I commenced performing onstage in music theatre I am most fond of operatic repertoire as there is something about it that is timeless and extraordinary,” he explains.

Adam has had vocal coaching from both contemporary and classical teachers over the years. However, as he learnt classical techniques, Adam felt more of a connection between the operatic music and his voice. This pushed him to focus more on that area.

Karen Usha Gray

Our conversation moves on to his musical inspirations. He shares that a few years ago he started listening to composers such as Stephen Sondheim, Stephen Schwartz, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Alan Menken. This further moved on to Verdi, Puccini, Massenet, Mozart and artists Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Robert Merrill and Ettore Bastianini. It’s these musicians, who Adam aspires to be like, as a performer. Adam shares that he has been working tediously towards his performance in Sri Lanka. “I run through each piece of music and work on the emotional connection with the lyrics, whilst I am learning the music,” he explains.

His repertoire for the evening, includes a few songs from musicals such as The Lion King, Wicked, Les Miserables , Beauty and the Beast and much more.

Adam will also be performing a duet with Karen and the pair have been rehearsing via Skype, we find out. “I have not performed with Karen before however we have connected over Skype and have been going through our duets. We are both looking forward to performing in Sri Lanka,” he says.

From the traditional Broadway styled songs that everyone loves, coupled with few surprise pieces and much more, ‘To Broadway with Love’, promises something for everyone to enjoy. It’s definitely not a show to be missed.

All proceeds from the show will be to provide educational facilities for the children of estate workers, sponsored by the tea board of Sri Lanka.
Tickets priced at Rs.4500 and Rs.5000 are available at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel.

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