Neil Berg’s “100 Years of Broadway” comes to Hard Rock Event Center at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fla. on Thursday, Nov. 8, at 8 p.m. “100 Years of Broadway” features the incredible voices of Craig Schulman, Natalie Toro, Danny Zolli, William Michals and Rita Harvey.
Presented by Neil Berg, “100 Years of Broadway” recreates the greatest moments from the finest shows of the century featuring the stars from “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Les Misérables,” “CATS,” “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Jekyll & Hyde.” Neil Berg presents brilliantly revived arrangements of Broadway classics as well as thrilling numbers from the newest hit productions.
It was a pleasure to sit down with Neil and his wife (and also performer) Rita Harvey, who just celebrated their 19th wedding anniversary.
Neil – When did you start composing?
As soon as I started sitting at the piano when I was a kid. I wrote my first song when I was 11 years old. It was a natural progression of wanting to create, rather than just playing other people’s songs. As I started getting better my piano teacher, Robert Prince, told me he thought I had a gift of putting melody and music together. My favorite things to play were all about story telling. While in college, I was approached to write a musical and my whole life changed.
Rita – When did you start performing?
I think I have always wanted to as I can’t remember a time I didn’t have the dream to sing and dance and perform for people. I started taking voice lessons in 8th grade, but I was performing way before that. The first song I sang for anyone was “The Sun Will Come out Tomorrow” from Annie, and I was hooked. It’s been full steam ahead ever since.
Neil – What has been your favorite composition?
I just composed for the premiere of Grumpy Old Men. This was a great challenge and I loved every second of it, but I think any composer will tell you their favorites are the shows that you write from your own ideas. So for me I have 2 shows I love the most: “The 12” which is a rock musical, which took me back to the music I grew up with. I had a chance to write it with Pulitzer Prize and Tony Winner Robert Shenkin. The Second is “The Man Who Would Be King.” I wrote it with DJ Salisbury. That was a traditional yet ethic story and very sweeping.
Rita – What has been your favorite role?
You fall in love with every one of them for various reasons. Christine in Phantom was a lot of fun, but my favorites was Diana in Next To Normal, which completely changed my life. It was one of the most challenging roles I have ever played, as she is bi-polar. I also got to stretch myself vocally and dramatically and it was incredibly rewarding.
Rita what is your fantasy Role?
I have to say the Mother in Ragtime, as I love that show: the music, the scope and at this point in my life it’s my dream.
Neil – How did you come up with “100 Years Of Broadway”?
When I was in college I became very good friends with all the performers. I was also a performer and performing in Brigadoon. I just fell in love with all this great theater music. I lived in this dorm and they needed to raise money, so I put together variety shows (called Ice Cream Parlors at the time), and I would hire all the best performers in the school to do the shows.
After school, I couldn’t understand why people didn’t bring New York Type shows out of New York. So I started producing them and people started coming. I then started doing it at the corporate level. I then decided to take it national. It was a progression.
Rita – how did you get involved with the project?
Neil is my husband, so I didn’t have a choice….Clearly I am joking…I am his biggest fan and when the opportunity came about I jumped at it.
Neil and Rita – why should our reader come see “100 years of Broadway”?
Rita – you have five of some of the best singers who have played these roles on Broadway and they are recreating those moments. They are performing the big songs that people are going to know and recognize. We are doing them without costumes but as if we are in the show…in character. Neil is great at programming an evening and there is always momentum. Neil plays the piano and introduces the songs and tell interesting stories, He is really the glue that ties the songs together.
Neil – if you like Broadway, this is Nirvana and we celebrate the history of Broadway.
To purchase tickets ($35, $50, and $65) for Neil Berg’s “100 Years of Broadway” at the Hard Rock Event Center at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, go to: seminolehardrockhollywood.com.