Douglas Webster knows “Les Misérables” inside and out – he’s performed the show on Broadway and even played tortured protagonist Jean Valjean several times – so it made sense that he should direct the Spokane Civic Theater’s production of the classic musical last fall.
The show was a hit for Civic, and 10 of its cast members are reuniting with Webster on Friday for “Broadway Night at the Bing,” a showcase for the local vocalists to perform some of their favorite show tunes.
“You spend two months working on a project like ‘Les Mis,’ and you get to know people and you get to like people,” Webster said. “It feels like a family. And this show is my excuse to get a few of them together and put something onstage together and recreate that camaraderie.”
Among the performers are Jim Swoboda and Darryl Gurecky – Valjean and his nemesis Javert, respectively, in the Civic production – who, along with Webster, have handpicked songs from musicals that haven’t been performed recently (or at all) in the Spokane area. You’ll hear compositions by Stephen Sondheim, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Kander and Ebb, in addition to well-known selections from “Chicago,” “Ragtime,” “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Show Boat.”
“We’re singing things that are totally off-character from what we did in ‘Les Mis,’ ” Webster said. “It gives the singers a chance to do something totally different and stretch their chops a little bit.”
Webster likens “Broadway Night at the Bing” to a cabaret in that the energy of the show is built around the relationships of the performers; he wants the audience to identify with the intimacy of the cast. And although the songs were chosen in a piecemeal fashion, Webster said the program ended up following a loose theme of, as he described it, “men behaving stupidly and women putting up with it.”
He explained, “Most of the women brought very deep, serious introspective music, and most of the men brought goofy throw-offs. … As they were singing through their songs, I started laughing, and I thought, ‘OK, I think I know where this is going.’
“I asked them to bring their favorite material, something they can sink their teeth in,” he added. “Then I, like any good cook, I see what’s fresh in the market and build my menu around that. If they had brought something else, this would have been a very different show.”
Webster will be sharing the night’s hosting duties with Swoboda and, yes, they will sing together as well. (Don’t be surprised if it’s a song from “Les Mis” – think of it as two Jean Valjeans for the price of one).
“On ‘Les Mis,’ Jim and I had a partnership just like a quarterback and a coach,” Webster said. “He was doing all the heavy lifting, and I was just giving some advice. And now we get to stand on the field together, which is really a treat for me.”