PROVO — I had the pleasure of attending Frank Wildhorn’s concert at BYU as part of BYU’s BRAVO Performing Arts Series. I must admit that I have been an admirer of Frank Wildhorn and his amazing music and songwriting since high school. The Scarlet Pimpernel was the first show I ever saw on Broadway when I went with my high school show choir on our New York City trip. Since that time I have acted in and attended numerous Wildhorn productions such as Jekyll and Hyde and The Civil War. Though his shows have received mixed reviews from critics, it is undeniable that his talent for writing and creating memorable and beautiful ballads is a remarkable talent that few composers have achieved. He also had three shows playing on Broadway at the same time which is a feat achieved by few, and had not happened since 22 years prior.
Accompanying Wildhorn in his visit to BYU were three talented Broadway actors including Jackie Burns (Wicked, Rock of Ages), Darren Ritchie (Dracula, Wonderland), and Adrienne Warern (The Wiz, Bring it On). Together with Wildhorn at the piano, they performed a variety of well know and a few not-so-well known Wildhorn numbers from pop songs to Broadway musicals. Between each number, Wildhorn discussed details about each show and work in a biographical format, ranging from his creation of Lucy for his ex-wife and vocalist Linda Eder in Jekyll and Hyde to the first Broadway musical he wrote, which was Victor/Victoria. He recounted a comical story of him receiving a call from Julie Andrews asking if he would step into the role of composer to complete the music due to the death of composer Henry Mancini and him thinking it was a friend playing a prank.
Wildhorn also shared some great successes with songs he wrote for Whitney Houston, including “Where do Broken Hearts Go?” to a never recorded song that he wrote for Houston which would have been one of her last songs recorded. Unfortunately, Houston failed to arrive at the studio and her untimely death soon followed. The audience got a rare treat to listen to Adrienne Warern perform this number. Other standout performances of the evening included Ritchie’s “Sarah” and Burns and Warern’s duet “In His Eyes.”
Wildhorn shared the honor of being asked to write the title song of the 2002 US Winter Olympics here in Salt Lake City entitled “Gold.” He also shared how the producers wanted him to cut “This is the Moment” from Jekyll and Hyde, and how it went on to be recorded by more than 1,000 artists to date, including its performance by Jennifer Holliday at Bill Clinton’s inauguration, and he said “this song pays my mortgage.”
I personally was delighted to meet with Wildhorn before the show as part of Utah Repertory Theater’s Utah Premiere of his latest work Bonnie & Clyde in which I will be playing Clyde Barrow. His insight into the creation of Bonnie and Clyde as heroes of their time and passion for each other was a fascinating approach in exploring what are some of the most famous serial killers of U.S. History.
It was a rare and remarkable memory that I will always be grateful for. Seeing one of the greatest contemporary musical theater composers and hearing his story, watching him perform and feeling his passion onstage was truly inspiring.