0 8 min 11 yrs


The night started with Conductor, Steven Reineke being his lively self. I have seen him at Wolf Trap before and he is very peppy and truly into what he is doing. Even though there wasn’t a huge turnout for this event, the night was a huge success for the fans who did come out. All seemed to be fans of both Broadway divas, Julia Murney and Stephanie J. Block. The ladies spent the night trading off songs and performing duets and took some breaks for costume changes, while Reineke and the NSO treated us to instrumental marvels, such as, “I Hear a Symphony”, a piece that Reineke arranged in tribute to Diana Ross. The night’s theme was woman empowerment, therefore the songs chosen were all from females in musical theatre and an occasional Top 100.

While both have played Elphaba in “Wicked” on tour and on Broadway, they are varied. Though both are belters, their tones differ from each other, which lent itself nicely when they did duets. Julia Murney has the Ethel Merman style belt and bawdy quality and can really sell the character of a song. Stephanie J. Block has more of the belt you hear on Broadway today…more melodic and a straight singer with a belt. Though I tried not to compare the two, it became difficult. Stephanie’s diction was not as good as Julia’s, but Julia has a harsher tone to her voice, that I am sure is not for everyone. You could go on all night comparing them and I think that in a casting situation, it would literally come down to preference and either one could do any character part.

Stephanie J. Block

For me however, I thought I would enjoy Stephanie better and left that night loving Julia. I found Stephanie to be amusing, but putting on an act and not really being herself. Her singing was great, but as I said, her diction was terrible and for people who don’t know the lyrics, they were not understandable. Julia was in her element and had an ease onstage, joking around and flitting about to act out her songs. People don’t realize what a talent that is and she definitely possesses this talent. She transformed into each character as she belted away. Stephanie was more of an in concert experience, which many people would enjoy. When she performed, it was watching Stephanie J. Block perform Broadway hits.

Julia Murney

When Julia performed, it was a night on Broadway. For me, I preferred Julia’s style and take. My favorite part of the evening was Julia performing, “Ring Them Bells”. The woman did it better than Liza!! When Liza sings it, she is very into it and fun, but Liza loves to be Liza. Julia became each character within the song and was fantastic. Julia is a great actor! I would definitely go see her in a Broadway show or in concert again.

As for Stephanie, I would absolutely see her in a Broadway show, depending on the part. If the show called for a very character driven part, I might not spend that money, but if it called for a belter with an ingénue quality, I would see her in a heartbeat. I would not necessarily see her in concert anytime soon.  I was a bit underwhelmed with her rendition of, “My Heart Will Go On”. You just shouldn’t tackle Celine, unless it’s a Kennedy Center Honors and you have no choice! She sang it well, but there was no chest-pounding drama. The finale was fun, but a little contrived. Since both ladies portrayed Elphaba, they flip a coin to see who will perform the iconic solo, “Defying Gravity”. Stephanie won on our night, but for me, I would have preferred a duet of the song, since the iconic version is synonymous with Idina Menzel. Yes, they played the part too, but when people think of “Wicked” and that song, it is Idina they think of and a duet would have lent itself to the unity of women theme. It would have displayed better unity of women if they sang it together in harmony.

The overall evening was a very good idea with the female theme. I’m not sure that the general public was enthralled with seeing Broadway people that they might not know as household names, judging from the lack of audience. With that being said, the audience that did attend were thrilled with the ladies and Reineke. Some even stayed after in hopes of autographs, but the ladies did not oblige, which I think was a strike against the show. There were only about fifteen people, two of which came from South Carolina, just hoping to get a picture with Stephanie. We were told that it was a timing issue, that they had to make a “connection”, but nowadays that timing should be factored in to shows. With all of the social media out there waiting to smack celebs in the face with what they did or didn’t do, that time needs to be in the itinerary. Furthermore, for fifteen people, they shouldn’t be so concerned with the “connections” because fifteen people can make a big difference in today’s online world.

Overall Concert: B-, some of the song choices were off, but some were dead on. The back and forth of Murney and Block was terrific. Letting Reineke shine was a good, but I would have liked the theme to continue with The Conductor being a female.

Julia Murney: A, great song choices for her. Boundless talent that I think actually hurt Block. Murney did a very good job of blending with Block when they were together and I felt like she made Block up her acting game, to not be outdone.

Stephanie J. Block: B, not great song choices for her and I think that it didn’t help her to be in concert with Julia, who outshines her with her talent. Her diction was not good and she was actually a little boring. I think that by herself she would show better. Julia is a big energy onstage.  I did not see Block in “Wicked” but I can say that she would have to have a less energetic Glenda in order to really shine.

Steven Reineke: A, wonderful energy. His “I Hear a Symphony” piece is really lovely.

Venue: A+, The night was a bit balmy, but that theatre is built for this type of entertainment. With the NSO and Broadway performers, it really celebrates the Filene Center.

For future info on Julia Murney, go to www.juliamurney.com

For upcoming info on Stephanie J. Block, go to www.stephaniejblock.com

For information on Steven Reineke, go to www.stevenreineke.com

For future dates for the NSO, go to http://www.kennedy-center.org/nso/

And for the remainder of The Filene Center season, go to www.wolftrap.org

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