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Top of the world: A traveling tribute to The Carpenters comes to Popejoy Hall

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Jen Burleigh-Bentz, left, and John Trones are two of the lead singers in a touring tribute to The Carpenters.

Jen Burleigh-Bentz, left, and John Trones are two of the lead singers in a touring tribute to The Carpenters.

The Carpenters cemented their place in music history with their music.

During the 1970s, the duo – made up of siblings Richard and Karen Carpenter – amassed nearly a dozen top-10 hits, with about half reaching either No. 1 or No. 2 on the Billboard charts.

They went on to become one of the best-selling artists of all time and have sold more than 100 million copies of their music.

With such a big presence in music history it was only a matter of time that a traveling show with their hits would appear.

“This is something that I’ve been working on for a long time,” says composer Jim Brickman. “I’ve been a fan of their music and that’s what I wanted to celebrate.”

Brickman is the producer behind the traveling show “Yesterday Once More: A Musical Tribute to The Carpenters.” The production will make a stop at Popejoy Hall on Saturday, April 5.

The Carpenters amassed hits such as “Yesterday Once More,” “We’ve Only Just Begun,” “Top of the World,” “Rainy Days and Mondays” and “Close to You.”

But the duo’s career stopped short in 1983 when Karen Carpenter died of heart failure caused by anorexia. She was 32.

Richard Carpenter released his solo album, “Time,” in 1987 and featured Dusty Springfield and Dionne Warwick on the album. He also has worked on documentaries on The Carpenters.

Brickman says he’s always wanted to do a show like this, but it took some time.

From left, Jim Brickman, Michelle Carter, John Trones and Maria Stukey are in the cast of “Yesterday Once More: A Musical Tribute to The Carpenters.”

From left, Jim Brickman, Michelle Carter, John Trones and Maria Stukey are in the cast of “Yesterday Once More: A Musical Tribute to The Carpenters.”

“I wanted the show to be about the music,” he says. “The Carpenters didn’t write a lot of their music. It was written by the best writers during that era. Carole King, Burt Bacharach, Paul Williams were a few of the writers who wrote these great songs.”

While the traveling show is everything Carpenters, John Trones says not to expect the performers to portray Richard or Karen. Trones is one of the singers in the production and also travels with Brickman during his solo shows.

“I grew up listening to The Carpenters and they were my first huge influence in music,” Trones says. “Being able to be a part of this is amazing. I have favorites from the duo, but then I realize how many great songs they put out. Some of them were cover songs that they made their own.”

Brickman says “Yesterday Once More” was originally designed to be performed with a symphony. But as the show, which is now in its fifth year, traveled to cities around the United States, Brickman found that some venues couldn’t accommodate a full symphony.

Karen and Richard Carpenter were top recording stars in the 1970s until their career was cut short by Karen’s untimely death.

Karen and Richard Carpenter were top recording stars in the 1970s until their career was cut short by Karen’s untimely death.

So Brickman and crew decided to work on a smaller show that could fit into many other venues.

“We rearranged it and basically made it work,” he says. “The funniest thing I always get asked is ‘Which one was Karen?’ None of the singers are portraying the two stars. We are paying homage to the music.”

For singer Jen Burleigh-Bentz, being part of the show is a great opportunity to do something different. Burleigh-Bentz – a Broadway veteran and record store owner – jumped at the chance to be part of the show. She has worked with Trones on previous productions and is grateful to be on tour.

“Broadway and this show are very different and I can’t compare the two,” Burleigh-Bentz says. “There’s an anxiety that comes with Broadway because everything is sketched out. With this, it’s more about the music and the memories that have been created. To be working with John again is amazing because we’ve built this great relationship together.”

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