Best songs, best singers come to Grand Rapids Pops stage for Blockbuster Broadway, Jan. 26-28

The great Broadway shows have staying power. If you see it once and fall in love with it, years later you’ll feel the same.

That’s why shows such as The Phantom of the Opera, The Sound of Music and A Chorus Line return again and again.

The same is true for singers and actors who bring the shows to life. When a show is revived, sometimes you see the same faces and hear the same voices again.

Jessica Hendy was a young actress, fresh from college, when she joined the chorus of the original Broadway production of Cats in 1999. Though it debuted in 1982, the musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber still was going strong when she served as an understudy for Grizabella, the Glamour Cat, on Broadway as well as on the national tour that ended in 2000.

When Cats was revived in 2016, Hendy was cast again as an understudy and replacement for Grizabella after years of living and acting regionally in her native Cincinnati.

“Getting back on Broadway is kind of the great affirmation that I made the right choice,” Hendy told WCPO-TV in Cincinnati in July 2016.

Hendy, who has appeared previously with the Grand Rapids Symphony’s D&W Fresh Market Picnic Pops, returns to West Michigan for Blockbuster Broadway, a salute to show-stopping tunes from Broadway’s biggest hits.

The Fox Motors Pops series show is 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, January 26-27, and at 3 p.m., January 28, in DeVos Performance Hall.

Four stars of the Broadway stage and New York City cabaret will join the orchestra for songs from Wicked, Annie, Jersey Boys, Chicago and Cats among others.

Associate Conductor John Varineau leads the Grand Rapids Pops in tunes you love in three performances at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Jan. 26-27, and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 28, all under Associate Conductor John Varineau.

Tickets start at $18 adults, $5 students. For tickets and more information, call the Grand Rapids Symphony at (616) 454-9451 ext. 4 or go online to

The cast includes Scott Coulter and Kelli Rabke. Like Hendy, who also has starred on Broadway as Amneris in Elton John’s Aida, Rabke recently revived her career.

A native of West Orange, New Jersey, Rabke has appeared on Broadway in 1994-95 as Eponine in Les Misérables and as the Narrator in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. On television, Kelli played the recurring role of Bernadette on The Young and the Restless and can be seen in countless commercials. After taking time away from show business to start a family, Rabke returned to the stage with No Place Like Home, her cabaret debut.

“I was definitely nervous,” she said to New Jersey Stage Magazine in September 2016. “And I still am. Every time I get on stage I’m nervous and I think that’s a good sign. It shows that you continue to care. The day that I’m cavalier about standing in front of people and singing, I’ll probably need to sit back down.”

Scott Coulter has performed all over the world in the revue Stephen Schwartz & Friends with Schwartz, and with  Debbie Gravitte, who has performed previously with the Grand Rapids Symphony; and Liz Callaway, whose sister, Ann Hampton Callaway, appeared last season on the Grand Rapids Pops stage.

Coulter, who has received five awards from Manhattan Association of Cabarets & Clubs and five Bistro Awards, was director and star of A Christmas Carol: The Symphonic Concert with the Baltimore Symphony, the Emmy-nominated PBS production that premiered in December 2013.

Coulter has performed previously in West Michigan at Farmers Alley Theater near Kalamazoo in March 2012. But her first appearance was in 1991 when he spent the summer in Kalamazoo, playing Jack in a production of Into the Woods with Kalamazoo Civic Theatre.

In 2012, Coulter told MLive that his years in theater in shows such as Into the Woods influence his cabaret work.

“I think of my style as musical storytelling. I do pretty familiar material, but people often tell me they felt like they head the song for the first time or in a new light,” he said. “I love hearing that.”

Posted by Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk at 8:00 AM
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