‘American Spirit’ Soars

Concert association celebrates patriotism and history with next performance

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With original music and parodies of familiar songs, on-point material about life and work, and superior comedy writing, The Water Coolers will perform at 7 p.m., Friday, March 16 at the Payson High School Auditorium.

The Tonto Community Concert Association, in conjunction with Live On Stage, Inc., presents the musical “American Spirit,” as the 2011-2012 concert season continues.

Award-winning show producer Matt Davenport Productions will present its newest touring show, “American Spirit” at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 28 at the Payson High School Auditorium.

The production will feature a soloist from Payson High School and members of the Payson Choral Society. Concertgoers are encouraged to show their own American spirit by wearing red, white and blue attire to this unique event.

Initially inspired by the 10-year anniversary of the events of September 11, 2001, the “American Spirit” show concept developed by writers Matt Davenport and Scott Seidl has evolved into a montage of the moments, memories and music that embody the American spirit.

More than a patriotic show, this fully costumed and choreographed production show, with a cast of 10 performers, will take the audience down memory lane through eyes of a slightly befuddled Mayor of Hometown, USA remembering the American Revolution, Civil War, jazz, Broadway, spirituals and more — America’s heroes on the battlefield and ball field rubbing elbows with entertainers and politicians alike.

“I saw something in my friends and neighbors that I recognize as uniquely American in the days and weeks after that infamous day, we wanted to put that pride — that shared history — at center stage,” says Davenport.

Matt Davenport Productions has produced award-winning box office success across the United States since 1992.

The Tonto Community Concert Association is committed to bringing quality entertainment to the Rim Country through an annual concert series and support of the fine arts in Payson schools. This series is intended as an enriching cultural experience for the people of Payson and those in surrounding communities.

Single tickets are $35 as available. Children and youth, grade 12 and under, will be admitted free when accompanied by a ticket-holding adult. For more information, visit the association’s Web site at www.tccarim.org or call (928) 478-4363 or (928) 474-4189.

The remaining 2011-2012 TCCA season will include:

The Water Coolers

• 7 p.m., Friday, March 16

With original music and parodies of familiar songs, on-point material about life and work, and superior comedy writing, this cast of five New York City comics and singers, with piano accompaniment, celebrates the insanity of everyday life. Each performance is a high-energy, hilarious session of song and sketch comedy, kept fresh by the ever-changing challenges of modern life. The Water Coolers turn headaches and hassles into hilarity.

Do you ever feel like you’ve got all your eggs in one basket, six balls in the air and 7,000 e-mails to return? Well, gather ’round The Water Coolers for a high energy, laugh-out-loud evening of award-winning song and sketch comedy.

For anyone who’s ever been held captive by a help line (“And Hold Please”), stalked by a sales parent (“Who Will Buy — This Crap for My Kid’s School?”), or found themselves judged by how many words a minute they can type with their thumbs (“Blackberry”), The Water Coolers take a hilarious look at what we go through just making every week happen.

Simply put — it’s your life, but killer funny.

First presented off-Broadway in 2002 by Steven Baruch, Marc Routh, Richard Frankel, Tom Viertel, Pete Herber, Ross Meyerson, Ken Gentry and Rodger Hess, it received 2009 Ensemble Entertainer of the Year Spotlight Award from Event Solutions Magazine.

The Performers

Based in New York City, The Water Coolers has become a working home for some of the finest and most exciting comics and singers in professional show business.

Resumes among current cast members include performances at top comedy clubs like Igby’s, the Improv, the Comic Strip, The Broadway Comedy Club, and the Icehouse, and either the Broadway or Broadway touring production of such shows as “Rock of Ages,” “The Drowsy Chaperone,” “Spamalot,” “Wicked,” “The Lion King,” “In The Heights,” “Les Miserables,” “Mamma Mia,” “Grease,” “Nine,” “Fiddler On The Roof,” “Saturday Night Fever” and many more.

The creative team is a unique combination of NY comedy writers, directors, and business people from around the country working together to create a funny, smart, authentic take on work and life. The team includes: director/writer Thomas Michael Allen, who co-created “Tony and Tina’s Wedding” (the record-smashing, longest running comedy in New York theater history), voiced the role of Peanut on the acclaimed animated comedy series Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law and has appeared in hundreds of commercials; SmartMoney Magazine editor and columnist, Matt Heimer (writing team); former CEO and investment banker from Dallas, life-long composer, E. Andrew Sensenig (writing team); successful sales manager from Northern Virginia, Joe Allen (writing team); actor and comedy writer who has sung with Paul Simon and The Manhattan Transfer, Marya Grandy (writing team); composer of off-Broadway’s “The Great American Trailer Park Musical,” David Nehls (writing team); and choreographer Timothy Albrecht, who has also served as associate choreographer of The Rosie O’Donnell Show and choreographer for The View.

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The American Tenors will bring their captivating show to town at 7 p.m., Thursday, April 19 at the Payson High School Auditorium.

The American Tenors

• 7 p.m., Thursday, April 19

Formed in 2002, The American Tenors have delighted audiences across the United States and Europe with their captivating show. As individuals, Marcus McConico, Nathan Granner and Ben Gulley boast impressive credentials, having accumulated an array of awards and performed in opera and theater productions from Italy to Hawaii. Accompanied by piano, their clear, buoyant voices join to enthrall and inspire audiences. The American Tenors truly represent “a new generation in American singing.”

The American Tenors

The American Tenors, founded in 2002, began their journey with a PBS special recorded at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, following a signing by Sony Classical. The group has delighted audiences across the U.S. and Europe with their combination of splendid voices, humor and choice of material. From “Nessun Dorma” to “West Side Story,” and from the Great American Songbook to Neapolitan favorites, and evening with The American Tenors is guaranteed to thrill, to entrance and above all, to have audiences screaming for more.

The group includes Marcus McConico, Nathan Granner and Ben Gulley.

McConico recently sang Alfredo in “La Traviata” with Augusta Opera, Opera Roanoke and Baltimore Opera, a role he debuted in the Italian American Festival Duluth in April 2004. In April 2006 McConico sang Rodolfo in “La Bohème” for Minneapolis Opera Theatre with performances in Minneapolis and Duluth. The 2004-2005 season saw his debuts with Virginia Opera, as Faust, and with North Star Opera in St. Paul, Minn., as Eisenstein in “Die Fledermaus.” He has worked as an apprentice with numerous opera organizations including Central City Opera, Knoxville Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera and Baltimore Opera. McConico made his Baltimore Opera debut as the Coachman and Nihilist Teacher in “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk” in 2003. With Baltimore Opera, he has also performed Don José in “La Tragédie de Carmen,” (Peter Brooks’ adaptation of “Carmen”), Ruiz in “Il Trovatore,” Bruno in “I Puritani,” Ruggero in Puccini’s “La Rondine,” and prepared the title role in “Faust,” Alfredo in “La Traviata,” and Pinkerton in “Madama Butterfly.”

Other roles in McConico’s repertoire include Il Duca in “Rigoletto,” Roméo and Tybalt in “Roméo et Juliette,” Rinuccio in “Gianni Schicchi,” the title roles in “Werther” and “Albert Herring,” and Florville in “Il Signor Bruschino.”

Internationally, McConico has made concert appearances in Palermo, Italy, and Tel Aviv, Israel, as well as domestic concerts with the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra and the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, and recitals in Duluth, Minn., Bay View, Mich., and Lynchburg, Va. As a member of The American Tenors, Marcus has appeared in Hot Springs, Ark., and Auburn, Ala., and with the Redlands Symphony in California and with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

In 2006, his engagements included Pinkerton in “Madama Butterfly” with Duluth Festival Opera, Il Duca in “Rigoletto” and Ferrando in “Così fan tutte” for the Sieur Duluth Arts Festival, and Abdallo in “Nabucco” for Baltimore Opera. Marcus performed Frederic in “The Pirates of Penzance” for Opera Carolina in April 2007.

McConico holds a master’s degree in vocal performance from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s in vocal performance from the University of Minnesota Duluth, and he currently studies voice with Arthur Levy in New York.

Granner’s old school timbre and natural abilities are distinctive and rare. His voice has been described as buoyant, compelling, clean and resonant. Combining these qualities of tone with his exuberance, versatility and daring, he makes a captivating figure on any stage in every performance.

A native of the Midwest, Granner now lives in Kansas City, Mo. He has made principal debuts with Wolf Trap Opera Company, Opera Theatre Saint Louis, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Tulsa Opera, Tampa Opera and the Pittsburgh Opera Center. He has performed with Glimmerglass Opera, Utah Festival Opera, Opera in the Ozarks, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Irish Radio Orchestra, and the National Symphony Orchestra. Granner has also collaborated with the Kansas City Ballet to bring three world premiere performances to life. He was the featured soloist with the Kansas City Symphony for Maestro Michael Stern’s debut performance as music director.

Furthermore, Granner was the tenor soloist in “The Messiah” with the quintessential Handel/Haydn Oratorio Society under the baton of Maestro Grant Llewellyn.

During the fall of 2005 and spring 2006, Granner produced a successful double national tour, performing for nearly 33,000 patrons in 35 American cities with classical guitarist Beau Bledsoe and with soprano Lisa Williamson. Granner and Bledsoe’s second CD Departure, released in the fall of 2005, showcases an amazing array of classical, folk, flamenco and gospel music.

A family man and a congenial colleague, Granner is currently leading and producing, “I Do! I Do! A Musical About Marriage.” He is also working on a CD of hymns and sacred music in honor of his grandmother. The arrangements by Bradley Cox are a collection of traditional American spirituals from hymns and gospel songs passed down through shape notes, oral traditions, folk song and some current renditions newly written with wise hands.

The up-and-coming American tenor, Gulley is a 2008 graduate of the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory with a bachelor’s in vocal performance.

Gulley has been hailed “as an outstanding tenor … with a voice as seamless as simple speech” by the TulsaWorld.

Gulley is the recent winner of the Metropolitan Opera’s National Council district and regional competitions and a national semi-finalist. Other awards include the winner of the Hellam Young Artists’ Competition, Florida Grand Opera voice competition finalist, Richard Tucker Foundation finalist, Silver Medalist and People’s Choice Award from the Tulsa Rotary Clubs 10th Annual Annual Crescendo Music Competition, and a finalist for the prestigious Palm Beach Opera Competition among others. He has also received awards from the Gerda Lissner Foundation and Shreveport Opera’s Singer of the Year, including the Audience Favorite Award and Encouragement Awards.

He has recently been seen on the stages of Cedar Rapids Opera as the fourth Jew in “Salome” (his first HD broadcast), UMKC as the title role in Britten’s Albert Herring, Kansas Concert Opera as Turridu in “Cavalleria Rusticana,” Lt. Pinkerton in “Madam Butterfly,” the Lyric Opera of Kansas City’s productions of “La Boheme,” Die Zauberflote as the “First Armored Man,” and as a priest in “Aida.”

Other appearances include Tony Esposito in UMKC’s “The Most Happy Fella,” Lt. B.F. Pinkerton in “Madam Butterfly,” Sam Polk in “Susannah” at Opera in the Ozarks, as Stromboli in the world premiere of Stephen Schwartz’s new musical “Gepetto and Son” with the Coterie Theater. Gulley was an apprentice with the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival, singing as Jason in “A Grand Night for Singing” and as Ludwig in the World premiere of the opera “Nocciolina.” He is also the current tenor apprentice with the Lyric Opera of Kansas City. Gulley was recently seen on the PBS televised event “Celebration at the Station” with the Kansas City Symphony under the baton of Michael Stern.

Future Engagements include singing Borsa in LOKC’s production of “Rigoletto,” chorus in “Don Giovanni,” joint recitals with up-and-coming bass Scott Conner, tenor Kevin Westring and others. He is currently a student of Professor Dale Morehouse. A CD project with SONY Classic internationally recognized pianist Jura Margulis is in the works and is slated to be available soon.

Gulley joined The American Tenors in 2010.

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