Posted on October 10, 2022 at 8:15 pm

An amazing weekend with the folks at Red Mountain Theater in Birmingham AL. I’m always surprised that I have this long, rich relationship with a theater in the Deep South, but Keith Cromwell asked me to come work with his Musical Theater students back in 2006, and it’s been a mutual admiration society ever since then. Red Mountain is deeply committed to bringing musical theater to its community at the highest possible level, which includes an incredible education department that has guided some remarkable talents – Jordan Fisher, Audrey Cardwell, Abigail Barlow and her sister Anna Grace are just a few of the kids that came through Red Mountain as teenagers and have blossomed into important members of the entertainment industry.

Not only did I work with the current members of the Red Mountain Performing Ensemble, I also got to make music with three local singers who did exemplary work, two of whom I’d never met before. Amy Johnson can sing anything in the world, she’s got all the voice and all the character and all the charm you’ll ever need, and she did a gorgeous job with “Another Life.” Myiesha J. Duff sang one note at sound check and the whole band fell off their chairs; she blew the audience away with a ferocious “I Can Do Better Than That.”

And then there’s Kristen Campbell. I met Kristen when she was 16 years old, when she auditioned for (and got!) the role of Mary Phagan in the national tour of Parade. It’s been such a joy watching her grow up over these decades into a seasoned pro, with a rich soprano and a seemingly bottomless emotional range. It was a very beautiful thing for me to be able to watch little Mary Phagan all grown up singing “Always Better” with so much power and sensitivity.

It was profoundly moving to play Red Mountain’s new theater – after spending all these years with them performing in a downtown basement with one bathroom and columns in the middle of the stage, there was something almost dreamlike about stepping into a 400-seat custom-built state of the art proscenium auditorium, with excellent lighting and sound and a staff that was ready to jump through fire for us. (Special thanks to Anthony Smith, who was our guardian angel throughout, and who whipped those kids into fine shape!)

The band and I had a great time (and I think the audience did, too), and we’re already looking forward to our next trip to Magic City!

Hope from How We React and How We Recover (2018)
Shiksa Goddess from The Last Five Years (2002)
I Love Betsy from Honeymoon In Vegas (2014)
Hallowed Ground from How We React and How We Recover (2018)
The Hardest Hill from Coming From Inside The House (2020)
This Is Not Over Yet from Parade (1998)
Boat from Untitled New Project (2022)
It All Fades Away from The Bridges of Madison County (2013)
Melinda from How We React and How We Recover (2018)

RED MOUNTAIN HEADLINERS: Invisible from How We React and How We Recover (2018)
AMY JOHNSON: Another Life from The Bridges of Madison County (2013)
MYIESHA J. DUFF: I Can Do Better Than That from The Last Five Years (2002)
KRISTEN CAMPBELL: Always Better from The Bridges of Madison County (2013)
Fifty Years Long from How We React and How We Recover (2018)
Wait ‘Til You See What’s Next from How We React and How We Recover (2018)
All Things In Time from How We React and How We Recover (2018)

JRB: piano and vocals
Gary Sieger: acoustic and electric guitars
Mark Peterson: acoustic and electric bass
Jamie Eblen: drums and percussion