Broadway songs brim with optimism

By John Benson

J. Mark McVey will forever be associated with Broadway.

Perhaps that shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Actor winner made his Broadway debut as Jean Valjean in “Les Miserables.” In fact, the theater veteran performed the popular show more than 3,200 times in his career.

Even though McVey has performed around the globe, the theater veteran remembers visiting Northeast Ohio.

“I have great memories of Youngstown,” said McVey, calling from Ridgewood, N.J. “I think it was 2014 – I did a program with the Youngstown Symphony. We had two or three singers, and we put together a piece called ‘Bravo Broadway.’

“It was a wonderful time with Broadway composers, and the event was very special. I enjoyed it very much.”

Now the singer-actor is hoping for the same feeling when he returns to the area with “The Inspiration of Broadway,” which performs April 27 at Packard Music Hall.

“This show falls under the same umbrella with regard to Broadway music,” McVey said. “Whereas that covered a gamut of variety, this is much more inspirational. I’d say that encompasses the political climate but, just in general, it seems that the press, at least, wants us to believe it’s a divided country. I don’t hold that point of view.

“People are people, and we need to be able to relate to one another. If one group puts up a sign saying that the other group’s not welcome, that causes a problem, in my personal opinion.”

“The Inspiration of Broadway” program features a slew of optimistic tunes including “Any Dream Will Do” (“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”), “Climb Every Mountain” (“Sound of Music”), “The Impossible Dream” (Man of La Mancha”), “Seasons of Love” (“Rent”), “Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat” (“Guys and Dolls”) and “Bring Him Home” (“Les Miserables”).

The show also features Grammy Award-nominated Ernie Haase and Signature Sound. The popular Southern gospel quartet has sold millions of albums, as well as appeared on stages around the globe.

McVey stressed that the production isn’t religious as much as it is inspirational.

“These kinds of messages are necessary for people to remember again and to perhaps reflect upon,” McVey said. “This is the way that relationships are forged and go forward, and they are about acceptance. They are about relationships.”

In case you can’t guess, McVey is optimistic audience members of the show will become beacons of hope and inspiration in their communities.

“We hope that they leave inspired to go back to their corner of the world and share what they may have learned from the stage, which is everyone plays a part – that they go home and share that message with others,” McVey said.

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