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Opera and Lyric Theatre celebrates three great composers in two cabarets

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The Ohio State Opera and Lyric Theatre will pay tribute to three composers — Cole Porter, Jason Robert Brown and William Finn — in back-to-back cabaret performances.

The branch of OSU’s School of Music is set to present the productions this weekend at The Garden Theater.

The first show, “Anything Cole’s: A Cole Porter Cabaret,” will feature selections by Porter, who composed theatrical numbers as well as radio standards from the 1920s through ‘50s. His work includes popular Broadway shows, like “Anything Goes” and “Kiss Me Kate”.

The second piece, “Hearts and Music: A Celebration of William Finn and Jason Robert Brown,” presents the work of two contemporary composers. Finn and Brown rose to prominence in the ‘80s and ‘90s, becoming well-respected artists in the theatrical community.

Brown contributed the vocal arrangements to the opening and closing numbers of Finn’s musical “A New Brain,” which inspired the the incorporation of both composers for the “Hearts and Music” cabaret.

“They are different, but there’s a similarity in their modern outlook,” said A. Scott Parry, director of Opera and Lyric Theatre in the School of Music. “You’re seeing the craft, and these are the masters of their craft, bringing music and lyrics together.”

Parry conceived and is directing the cabarets.

“My idea with pairing ‘Anything Cole’s’ with ‘Hearts and Music’ is here’s a quintessential composer-lyricist from the Golden Age, Cole Porter, and now here’s the modern crop of very current composer-lyricists today,” Parry said. “So I thought it’d be a great way to show the contrast between the older style and the modern style.”

The same 14 performers are featured in both shows. One of the OSU students involved is Kate Merryman, a second-year master’s student in vocal pedagogy.

“All of them have very unique styles of composing,” Merryman said. “There’s different styles of music, different stories, lots of ballads, lots of up-tempo, lots of dancing. There’s lots of different levels for everybody.”

Merryman is featured in the show’s ensemble numbers and will sing a solo of Porter’s “Love for Sale” from the 1930 musical “The New Yorkers.”

“Cole Porter is one of the great American song composers,” Merryman said. “He has really made an impact on later composers. He had a unique ability, he had a kind of tongue-in-cheek lyric then matched it to a sophisticated musical style. That’s what makes him so influential.”

Parry said the two shows are separate but can be enjoyed together, especially if someone wants to see the difference in styles.

“The way they capture a story, to tell a story through text and accompaniment, is very real and relatable and makes their music so fun to sing,” Merryman said. “You can relate into what they are saying very easily.”

Parry said he hopes the productions will highlight how the two different forms of music and lyrics work with each other in a performance.

“It’s a cabaret, there’s no sets, so it’s very simple,” Parry said. “So it’s focusing on this material, on how words and music work together to form the medium.”

Performances for the cabarets will be on Friday and Saturday, with “Anything Cole’s” at 7:30 p.m and “Hearts and Music” at 9 p.m. Both performances will be held in the The Green Room at the Garden Theatre at 1187 N. High St. in the Short North Arts District. Admission is free but seating is reserved. Seats are available to reserve via the OSU School of Music website.

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