Visalia Education Foundation
Visalia Education Foundation Presents:
"An Evening with Betsy Wolfe"
Betsy Wolfe Returning to Hometown
Copied from the Fresno Beehive with a special thanks to Donald Munro
August 16, 2016 11:15 AM
On a special night, Betsy Wolfe tips her hat to Visalia
The setting: the L.J. Williams Theatre, which was filled Saturday evening with that rarest and giving of audiences: a hometown crowd about to celebrate one of its own.
The entrance: Betsy Wolfe, who appeared on this stage at age 11 in the musical “Annie,” walks on to thunderous applause, the kind suffused not just with appreciation and anticipation but genuine affection. It’s one thing to laud a professional performer because of her talent; it’s another to have memories of her as a girl and teenager singing her lungs out.
The event: This is yet another hometown benefit performance offered by Wolfe, who over the years has made it a habit to visit her family and raise money for a worthy cause. (The Visalia Education Foundation is this year’s lucky recipient.) Wolfe, who has forged a career on and off-Broadway in such shows as “The Last Five Years,” “110 in the Shade,” “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” “Bullets Over Broadway,” is here with Andrew Resnick (her uber-talented music director in “The Last Five Years”) for an intimate evening of voice and piano.
The opener: Wolfe shares a song that probably no one in the audience has heard, “Please Like Me,” by Robert Lopez. The tune was cut from the musical “Up Here,” which Wolfe starred in during its world premiere in San Diego. Yes, Betsy, no question: This audience likes you.
The program: Wolfe mixes in well-known songs (a tender version of Jason Robert Brown’s “Stars and the Moon” and Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich’s chipper “Taylor the Latte Boy”) with some behind-the-scenes goodies (a sweet dedication of “More Than Just a Spare,” cut from the movie version of “Frozen,” to Wolfe’s sister, Katie). Her sense of humor is well represented: In the song “A Summer in Ohio,” from “The Last Five Years,” she’s a little looser and more wry than her version on the cast album. (I always laugh when she acknowledges “Wayne the Snake,” with whom she shares a dressing room, along with the snake’s stripper owner.) Giving “Ohio” even more cache is the fact she performed the song earlier this year at Carnegie Hall with the New York Pops.
Special guests: There are two. The first is Becky Hansen, a childhood friend of Wolfe’s, who joins her on stage to sing and play guitar. (Sentimental and memorable? You bet.) The second is Evan D’Angeles, who worked with Wolfe in the San Francisco production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” and the pair get frisky with “Suddenly Seymour” from “Little Shop of Horrors.”
Best Visalia story: When Wolfe was in third grade, she sang “I Dreamed a Dream” from “Les Miserables” to her class after assuring the teacher she would childproof the lyrics. She laughs as she’s about to begin – “I really should be on my knees doing this,” she says – and belts out the tune. It’s a touching moment. I can imagine she is half in the present and half in the past as she sings: part precocious third grader, part seasoned performer. Isn’t it amazing how you can stroll down memory lane but keep a foot in the here and now?
The “Frozen” moment: There’s a lot of chatter in Broadway Land about Wolfe’s involvement with the new “Frozen” musical coming out next year. (Some news sources have already reported that she has landed the lead role of Elsa.) Here’s what is official: She played Elsa in an early lab version of the musical, but no one is saying anything beyond that. When Wolfe at the end of a three-part Disney-heroine melody offers a full-scale salute to the music of “Frozen” with a stirring rendition of “Let It Go,” you can understand why she got to sing the role in the lab production. She can belt it out, yes, with her final note a marvel, but – let’s face it – there are probably a dozen Broadway veterans (and newcomers) with similar vocal chops. What Wolfe brings to the role is a sly, razor-sharp sense of intelligence and frosty determination. Which, for the empowered Elsa, seems perfect. Just sayin’.
What’s next: Wolfe heads back to Broadway to play a significant role in the new revival of William Finn’s “Falsettos” (with an all-star cast including Andrew Rannells from “The Book of Mormon”). The show officially opens Oct. 27. With director James Lapine at the helm, this is a big deal.
The takeaway: The Visalia concert is heartfelt, relaxed, homespun and inspired. Wolfe isn’t one of those performers who flees town at the first opportunity and only begrudgingly acknowledges her roots. “My dearest and bestest friends are still here,” she says, smiling at the audience. From the warmth of its response, it’s clear the feeling is mutual.
Donald Munro: 559-441-6373, @donaldbeearts
Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/entertainment/ent-columns-blogs/fresno-beehive/article95953892.html#storylink=cpy
Special thanks to Paul Hurley for all of the publicity contacts for this event
For more information: Paul Hurley, 740-3677
VISALIA - Betsy Wolfe, a Visalia native who has taken her singing talent to Broadway and Carnegie Hall, will return to her hometown for an exclusive fundraising event Aug. 13 at the L.J. Williams Theatre.
“An Evening with Betsy Wolfe” will showcase her versatile repertoire of music from Broadway, opera, cabaret and concert hall. In the past few months alone, Wolfe sang with “Glee” star Darren Criss in duet performances at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, returned to the Metropolitan Opera for a role in “Die Fledermaus,” and sang with Jimmy Buffett in Miami.
In the fall, Wolfe will return to broadway in a revival of the six-character, Tony-Award-winning musical, “Falsettos.”
Wolfe also managed to find time to sing as Elsa in a lab for the upcoming stage version of “Frozen,” which Disney will bring to Broadway in 2018.
Accompanying Wolfe on piano will be Andrew Resnick, a Broadway veteran who most recently conducted the orchestra for the Tony-Award winning “The King and I” at the Lincoln Center Theatre.
Wolfe’s show in Visalia will have one performance at 7:30 p.m. She is expected to combine Broadway and popular music as well as her personal favorites. Tickets are $45, $35 and $25 and can be purchased online at the Visalia Education Foundation web site at www.visaliaedfoundation.org., at the box office of the Fox Theatre, 308 W. Main Street in Visalia, or by ordering tickets by phone at 730-7518. Sponsorships and opportunities for VIP events are also available.
The show is a fundraiser for the Visalia Education Foundation, a nonprofit public benefit corporation that supports programs in arts and sciences for students of the Visalia Unified School District.
The event promises to be as eclectic as Wolfe’s wide-ranging career. She is best known for her role as Ellen opposite Zach Braff in the Susan Stroman directed adaptation of Woody Allen’s “Bullets Over Broadway” and Rosa Bud in “The Mystery of Edwin Drood”, as well as for her appearance as Cathy in “The Last Five Years,” both on and off Broadway.
She had most recently teamed with Criss in their show “Broadway Today” for sold out crowds at The Kennedy Center with the National Symphony, the Toronto Symphony, and Carnegie Hall, performing under Maestro Steven Reineke with New York Pops.
Last summer, Wolfe starred in the world premiere of “Up Here” at the La Jolla Playhouse, which was written by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Bobby Lopez the husband and wife team who collectively wrote “Book of Mormon,” “Avenue Q”, “In Transit” and “Frozen.” The songwriting team is also composing the music for the stage version of “Frozen,” which will open in previews next year.
Wolfe is a native of Visalia who performed with the Green Acres Little Theater and Golden West High School, where she graduated in 2000. She graduated from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and has since performed with more than 35 symphonic and pops orchestras. She periodically returns to Visalia, often for fundraising events such as this one.
“I am thrilled to be able to come and support the Visalia Education Foundation and see so many friends and family on this special trip,” Wolfe said.