Bryan Perri uses a simple formula for selecting the stars he invites to headline his “Broadway Unplugged Series” at Ridgefield’s ACT of Connecticut. He chooses talent he wants to share.
“One of the benefits of working on Broadway is that I meet and work with the most incredible performers,” said Perri, who is music director and conductor for the long-running Broadway hit “Wicked.” “These performers sometimes become friends, and these are the people I want Ridgefield to get to know.”
Just such a talent is Lindsay Mendez, who will appear in the next installment of the “Broadway Unplugged Series” on Nov. 30 with Perri, ACT’s resident music supervisor, hosting the show and accompanying on piano.
Broadway fans will recognize Mendez as the gifted singer, actress and winner of the 2018 Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle awards for her performance as Carrie Pipperidge in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel.” She’s also appeared in “Wicked” on Broadway as “Elphaba” and earned Drama Desk, Drama League, and Outer Critics Circle nominations for her work in Second Stage Theater’s world premiere musical “Dogfight.” As an accomplished jazz and blues singer, she’s released the jazz album “This Time.”
“Lindsay and I first met doing a concert in the middle of California but were reunited during the off-Broadway production of ‘Dogfight,’ where I was music director. We have remained in each other’s lives ever since,” said Perri.” “Those two shows share a producer in common in David Stone,” he said, “and both myself and Lindsay moved over to ‘Wicked,’ where she became the 10th anniversary Elphaba.”
The two talents have performed together for several years since. In fact, Perri is Mendez’s music director, a role that finds them collaborating often. “Lindsay and I work closely to come up with arrangements of her songs, and then we rehearse with a full band and perform these incredibly fun sets together in a variety of venues,” he explained.
ACT’s “Broadway Unplugged” concert promises to be a much more intimate affair. “This particular evening has more of a living room, ‘fireside chat’ vibe than a concert vibe. The proverbial ‘fourth wall’ is taken down, and what results is an intimate and familiar evening of conversation and song,” he explained.
“The whole point of the ‘Broadway Unplugged’ evenings is to get to know these artists as the wonderful human beings they are,” continued Perri. “I’ll be asking questions, sometimes light and sometimes hard questions, and we’ll have conversations about what it means to be an artist, and the responsibility it brings. ‘Why does art matter?’ ‘Why does theater matter?’ ‘Does it matter now more than ever?’ These questions will always be followed up with performances of songs that are now enriched with the context of the knowledge of an artist’s experience both as a performer and a person navigating the complicated landscape of what it means to be an artist in today’s world.”
As the resident music supervisor, Perri is responsible for the musical aspects of the theatrical shows. “I supervise all productions and work closely with our local contractor and fantastic drummer Dennis Arcano to hire and rehearse the wonderful musicians that Fairfield County has to offer. I rehearse with the singers and also work closely with my husband Daniel C. Levine, who directs most of the shows at ACT.”
Perri has lived in Ridgefield with Levine for six years. “I am so thrilled that ACT is taking off and seems to be sustainable,” he said. “Ridgefield is a special town, and we are so happy to be able to give something back.”