The annual Broadway concert is a highlight of the Music With a Mission series at the North Windham Union Church each summer. This year’s show, featuring performers Matthew Small and Kelly Caufield, with Dr. Laura Artesani accompanying on piano, did not disappoint.
Caufield and Small have a natural rapport and the close friendship they share is obvious as they work together. From the moment they took the stage, the room was filled with a sense of fun. They entered the room with a song and smiles, and this positive energy continued throughout both acts.
Interspersed with funny quips and anecdotes about why each song was chosen, the two entertained with a wide range of music that showcased their considerable talents.
The versatility of the performers was impressive. From touching ballads to silly show tunes, both Small and Caufield stepped from one character to another effortlessly. Many of the pieces had a personal connection for the performers, such as a song from the first musical Small ever saw, or a rendition of a song that inspired a deep emotional reaction in Caufield. It’s this personal touch that helped make the show a dynamic success.
A show titled Broadway & Beyond must, of course, include plenty of show tunes. And it did, from some easily recognizable songs like Climb Every Mountain and Tomorrow to lesser known tunes like the hilarious “Just One Step” from Songs For a New World. I’m a big fan of show tunes, and all of the selections for this year’s performance were great. But the real show stoppers were from the “beyond” selections. From Adele to Patsy Cline to the Indigo Girls and more, these selections were touching, heartfelt and powerful. The placement of these pieces was well thought out, balancing the lighthearted show tunes with the more serious songs to create a smooth flow.
Even with the inevitable glitches that come up when a performance is planned from afar and the performers have limited practice time together, nothing about the show disappointed. Neither Small nor Caufield took themselves too seriously, and their ability to laugh off a forgotten lyric or missed cue made those small issues easy to overlook. Small and Caufield encouraged audience participation in a couple of the songs, and made the whole evening feel somewhat like an impromptu gathering in someone’s living room.
The mark of a great show is when the audience clamors for more. Such was the case after the duo finished what was to be their last song, “Wheels of a Dream” from Ragtime. Amid a standing ovation and shouts for one more, the pair gladly complied, launching into a lively version of “Suddenly Seymour.”
The local cause supported by this show, Special Olympics Maine, is a personal one for both Caufield and Small, who each have a family member who competes in the Special Olympics. Caufield’s brother, Sean, and Small’s sister-in-law, Caroline, each took to the stage for a few minutes during the show. The pride they felt in their accomplishments was apparent, and highlighted the importance of the opportunities that Special Olympics is able to offer to athletes.
Broadway & Beyond was the 36th concert in the Music With a Mission series sponsored by the North Windham Union Church, UCC. To date, the series has raised close to $37,000 for support for the church and other community organizations. The final two concerts for the 2016 season are the Bellamy Jazz Band on September 17th and Schooner Fare on October 8th. For more information, visit the website www.mwamconcerts.com.