The Spirituality of Broadway Musicals

DLW and Broadway

Rev. Dwight Lee Wolter and the cast of The Spirituality of Broadway Musicals

It was my pleasure to perform at The Spirituality of Broadway Musicals. The latest in an ongoing lecture-concert series titled, The Spirituality of Popular Music, conceived and produced by Rev. Dwight Lee Wolter, Pastor of the Congregational Church of Patchogue.

The idea for the series, which covers the funding for the church’s weekly soup kitchen, which has served more than 100,000 meals over its 25 years of operation, was conceived when Rev. Dwight, as he is known to all, was stuck in traffic on the Long Island Expressway and rather upset about it. All of a sudden a favorite tune came on the radio and his mood instantly changed. With this, he realized how much power the medium of music has for all of us. Indeed, in a time when many rarely attend regular church services, our secular music has become our guide, our inspiration, and a reflection of the moral compass of our society.

Thus, The Spirituality of Popular Music was born. Over the last four years, The Spirituality of… Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, The Beatles, U2, The Blues, Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, Johnny Cash, Prince, Bluegrass and now Broadway has made up for the lack of any governmental funding for the soup kitchen.

These are wonderful evenings spent in the company of friends and neighbors of varied ethnic and religious backgrounds. The event itself is not “religious” but rather a look at the inspiration of the composers and lyricists and what those messages can mean to us.

Last night was just as spectacular as any concert you might see in the metropolitan NYC area. Many of the performers are regulars on both the regional, concert, cabaret, and Off-Broadway stage and well known in the theater and music scene on Long Island.

Each performer brought something special to the evening, the warm encouraging voice of Rochelle Schmidt opening the show with Getting to Know You, the sexy alto of Kathy Maguire Lyungqvist giving the warning to Turn Back O Man, the crooning tenor of Paul Wurtz yearning for Somewhere, the seductive soprano of Ashley Siever calling us to Bali Ha’i, the commanding bass of Michael Douglas Jones bringing us to the Mississippi for Old Man River, the lyrical soprano of Kirsten Maxwell urging us to Climb Ev’ry Mountain, the impassioned tenor of Bob Arndst pleading to Bring Him Home, the soaring range of Janelle Primm over the ensemble in Season’s of Love, the powerful baritone of Dondi Rollin’s Jr. as he portrayed the King of the World, the comedic tenor of Jim Sluter entertaining us with I Believe, the formidable bass of Bill Pauwee on The Impossible Dream and my own dramatic mezzo belting out Believe in Yourself from The Wiz and then taking a more legit turn on You’ll Never Walk Alone.

I would be remiss if I did not mention Craig Coyle, pianist, organist and choir director of the church. Craig did an amazing job teaching choir parts, putting together the trio that accompanied ALL of the songs, running our single rehearsal run through the previous Sunday, and calming my nerves because I hate high G.

The members of the Congregational Church of Patchogue Choir who acted as the chorus ensemble Patricia Harrup, Barbara Bailey, Betsy Pauwee Choate, Melissa Coyle, Deirdre Russell, Edie Ruggles, David Ludin, Sean Wisniewski, Titus Kana, Charlie Rohde and Stephen Martin raised their voices in rich soulful harmony.

The crowd of approximately 350 people were enthralled with the choral finale of Make Them Hear You from Ragtime, featuring Michael Douglas Jones. No one seemed to want to leave after the closing remarks. I believe they expected an encore.

It was a spectacular night of storytelling which is what musical theater is at its heart. Storytelling, pure and simple. Turning black dots on a page into a human experience is a gift I am truly grateful for.

Thank you for attending!

If you missed it, be on the look out for The Spirituality of Broadway Musicals Part 2! We just need to talk Rev. Dwight into it!

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