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Zia Singers concert honors women of Broadway

The Zia Singers perform next weekend at the James A. Little Theater. (Courtesy of The Zia Singers)

The Zia Singers perform next weekend at the James A. Little Theater. (Courtesy of The Zia Singers)

SANTA FE, N.M. — Santa Fe’s women’s choir will pay homage to the women of the Great White Way in its spring concert next weekend.

The Zia Singers’ “The Leading Ladies Who Stopped The Show” highlights songs from Broadway musicals with female leads, ranging from old classics like “Hello, Dolly!” to modern hits including “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.”

According to director Aaron Howe, the concert is a preview of sorts for the Zia’s 2020 season that will celebrate “the year of the woman” for the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage.

Howe said that for the Broadway-themed concert, with songs from shows from different eras, what unified them for him is the complexity of the various musicals’ female characters.

“I wanted to feature women who had very interesting and different kinds of stories,” he said, “besides your typical heroine, I guess, that in some musicals and stories where she’s just a young girl that gets married. I wanted to avoid that if we could.”

So the Zia Singers concert includes women like Rose from 1959’s “Gypsy,” an overbearing single mom who is pushing her kids into show business. The choir will be kicking off the show with “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.”

The program also includes “Big Spender” from 1966’s “Sweet Charity,” sung by a main character ambiguously referred to as a “dancer-for-hire.” Another on the list is the title tune from 2005 Tony Award-winning “Light in the Piazza.” That show, based on a 1960 book, follows a mother and daughter in the 1950s who are traveling in Italy. The trip gets complicated when the daughter falls in love with a local.

“She has a mental disability because she was kicked in the head by a horse,” Howe said of that musical’s main character, Clara. “She definitely is a very different character.”

Throughout the concert, the Santa Fe group will sing medleys from musicals like the new “Waitress” – based on the 2007 film starring Keri Russell with songs by Sara Bareilles – and 1920s-era comedic musical “Thoroughly Modern Millie.”

According to Howe, the singers will do tunes from all three musicals based on the “Wizard of Oz” story: the namesake musical, “The Wiz,” and “Wicked.” Rounding out the set list is a multi-musical medley with the powerhouse songs from “The Sound of Music,” “Evita,” “Wicked,” and “Funny Girl.”

The choir will also incorporate more dancing and acting performance elements than they have in the past, Howe added. For example, in their rendition of “The Cell Block Tango” from “Chicago,” the group will perform a rendition of the famous dance number, choreographed by Bob Fosse in the original production, as well as the monologues from the show’s murderess characters.

“Although I don’t know if we’ll have fishnets,” Howe said with a laugh, a nod to a staple piece of “Chicago” wardrobe. “But we’ll see.”

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