Paco's POV: 24601 and Jean Valjean

YAA is excited to bring you a new blog column called Paco’s POV. Our wonderful Orchestra Manager, Francisco José “Paco” Cosió Marron, will be writing these every week to give you a bit more background on the production we are currently working on. Check back often to get your fill of Paco’s POV!

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Les Misérables is fiction.  That having been said, Victor Hugo took history seriously into account in creating the background and the characters in his work.  It will be incumbent on us to know and understand the historical backdrop of the time his novel covers (roughly 1815 thru 1835,) if we are going to make sense of this story.  To that end, I beg your forbearance if I now and then wander into the historical weeds to set the context.

To help us get invested in our story, let me introduce the first character:

Jean Valjean (prisoner 24601 though it should be noted that, in the novel, Hugo never refers to Valjean by a number. This only appears in the musical.) is the protagonist of our story. Hugo depicts Valjean's long struggle to lead a normal life after serving a prison sentence for stealing bread to feed his sister's children during a time of economic depression and various attempts to escape from prison with three successful escapes.  In the musical, Jean only escapes from prison once (but this is the literary license taken by the French librettist and composer, Claude-Michel Schönberg and original French-language lyricists Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel. An English-language libretto and English lyrics were written by Herbert Kretzmer.  We will meet these folks in a future posting.)

The base line of this story is that ex-convict Jean Valjean becomes a force for good in the world but cannot escape his criminal past.  His story, in short, is - convicted for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister's seven starving children and sent to prison for five years, he is paroled from prison nineteen years later (after four unsuccessful escape attempts added twelve years and fighting back during the second escape attempt added two extra years). Rejected by society for being a former convict, he encounters Bishop Myriel, who turns his life around by showing him mercy and encouraging him to become a new man.  He assumes a new identity and alias in order to pursue an honest life. He introduces new manufacturing techniques and eventually builds two factories and becomes one of the richest men in the area. By popular acclaim, he is made mayor. He confronts Javert, the police chief that originally sent him to prison, over Fantine's punishment, turns himself in to the police to save another man from prison for life, and rescues Cosette from the Thénardiers. Discovered by Javert in Paris because of his generosity to the poor, he evades capture for the next several years. He saves Marius from imprisonment and probable death at the barricade, reveals his true identity to Marius and Cosette after their wedding, and is reunited with them just before his death, having kept his promise to the bishop and to Fantine, the image of whom is the last thing he sees before dying. 

The inspiration for Jean Valjean began with an incident Hugo witnessed on the streets in Paris in 1829 involving three strangers and a police officer. One of the strangers was a man who had stolen a loaf of bread similar to Jean Valjean.  There are several actual events that Hugo observed that gave him the outline and some of the scenes in his books.  Valjean's character is loosely based on the life of the ex-convict Eugène François Vidocq.  Vidocq was a French criminal and criminalist whose life story inspired several writers, including Victor Hugo, Edgar Allan Poe, and Honoré de Balzac.  Vidocq became the founder and first director of the crime-detection Sûreté Nationale as well as the head of the first known private detective agency. Vidocq is considered to be the father of modern criminology and of the French police department.  He was also a businessman and was widely noted for his social (charitable) engagement and philanthropy.  In 1828, Vidocq, having been pardoned from his previous life of crime, saved one of the workers in his paper factory by lifting a heavy cart on his shoulders as Valjean does. Hugo's description of Valjean rescuing a sailor on the Orion drew almost word for word on a Baron La Roncière's letter describing such an incident. 

Continuing to draw from history, Hugo used Bienvenu de Miollis (1753–1843), the Bishop of Digne during the time in which Valjean encounters Myriel, as the model for Bishop Myriel.  

In our next post, we will meet the bishop along with Javert, the fanatic police inspector who implacably pursues Valjean throughout our musical.

Please take some time over this holiday and the next two weeks to get the story and music in your fingers, on your lips, through your minds, hearts and souls.  


Paco's POV: An Intro to Les Mis

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YAA is excited to bring you a new blog column called Paco’s POV. Our wonderful Orchestra Manager, Francisco José “Paco” Cosió Marron, will be writing these every week to give you a bit more background on the production we are currently working on. Check back often to get your fill of Paco’s POV!

As we prepare to attack this colossal show based on an immense classic novel, we need to ask ourselves a couple of questions to begin to understand the theme(s.)  The two most obvious subjects we need to probe are: 

1.       Who are these miserable ones?  Why are they and their lives depressingly wretched and distressing. To introduce ourselves to our cast, we will need to look at where and when they lived and how their lives came to be so melancholically hopeless.  This bleak introductory query raises the second subject we will visit:

2.       The author of Les Misérables and his epic work, Victor Hugo. Who was he? Where and when did he live?  What did he intend to represent in this five book - 1,500 page historical fiction.  It is said that histories are written by the winners and too often reflect a very one-sided view of the events. This is clearly a work about the losers, a novel not too loosely based on history.

To address the latter concisely first:

Victor Marie Hugo (26 February 1802 – 22 May 1885) was a French poet, novelist, and dramatist of the Romantic movement. Hugo is considered to be one of the greatest and best-known French writers. His most famous works are the novels Les Misérables, 1862, and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, 1831. Besides these two novels, Hugo is known primarily for his poetry collections, such as Les Contemplations and La Légende des siècles (The Legend of the Ages.)  Though a committed royalist (think conservative) when he was young, Hugo's views changed as the decades passed, and he became a passionate supporter of  republicanism (which was a liberal tendency in the 19th century;) his work touches upon most of the political and social issues and the artistic trends of his time. He is buried in the Panthéon in Paris, an honor accorded to those who impact French culture and history for the ages.

Hugo, himself, explaining his ambitions for the novel to his Italian publisher tells us who the miserable ones are: “I don't know whether it will be read by everyone, but it is meant for everyone. It addresses England as well as Spain, Italy as well as France, Germany as well as Ireland, the republics that harbor slaves as well as empires that have serfs. Social problems go beyond frontiers. Humankind's wounds, those huge sores that litter the world, do not stop at the blue and red lines drawn on maps. Wherever men go in ignorance or despair, wherever women sell themselves for bread, wherever children lack a book to learn from or a warm hearth, Les Misérables knocks at the door and says: open up, I am here for you. “

So, in his five books, he wrote about his fellow citizens, the suffering people around him in France whom he observed were representative of the suffering people around the world.  He extrapolated life lessons from these vignettes and, by telling their stories, hoped to give these wretched miserables the recognition and place in history that he felt all humans deserved.  Set in the period beginning in 1815 (with the final collapse of Napoleon’s dreams of empire at Waterloo) and culminating in the 1832 June Rebellion in Paris, the novel follows the lives and interactions of several characters, particularly the struggles of ex-convict Jean Valjean and his experience of redemption.  Jean Valjean is a French peasant who, after serving nineteen years in jail for having stolen a loaf of bread for his sister's starving child, decides to break his parole and start his life anew after a kindly bishop inspires him by a tremendous act of mercy, but he is relentlessly tracked down by a police inspector named Javert. Along the way, Valjean and a slew of characters are swept into a revolutionary period in France, where a group of young idealists make their last stand at a street barricade in  the center  of Paris 17 years after we met our protagonist.

That is as concisely as one can open the first pages of our adventure.  Please begin listening to the music: 

Get it in your ears, minds, hearts and souls. Imagine life in Paris in the early 19th century with the collapse of the economy and political structures after the ignominious defeat at Waterloo and the subsequent days and weeks of hardships and privations as your world has been turned upside down.  That is where our musical and we begin.  Enjoy the weekend and what, I promise, will be a life changing enterprise.

There's No Place Like Home!

There's No Place Like Home!


Yesterday, a group of lucky Young Artists of America performed at The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History to celebrate the opening of their third floor renovation and Ruby Slipper Display return! They sang from The Wizard of Oz in Concert. Thank you so much to The Smithsonian for having us!

You can watch the performance here:

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Paco's POV: Why Do Shows Get Rewritten?


YAA is excited to bring you a new blog column called Paco’s POV. Our wonderful Orchestra Manager, Francisco José “Paco” Cosió Marron, will be writing these every week to give you a bit more background on the production we are currently working on. Check back often to get your fill of Paco’s POV!

Why do shows get rewritten?  Times and contexts change, customs and social mores evolve and the conscience and sensibilities of the audience are affected by these progressions and developments.

Let’s start with two of the simplest examples to lay out and track, women and the indigenous Americans.  The first is the evolving situation or status of women in society and the American culture.  Today, in the news, we can easily see the struggles towards gender equality that are challenging our society.  Gender imparity has been a historical fact of life throughout civilizations around the world and the clashes that have occurred between the sexes are sometimes epic as the ebb and flow of time and history marches on.  

One of the earliest plays dedicated to this subject was Aristophanes’ comedy,Lysistrata, where the 5th century b.c.e. women of Greece contrive to end the Peloponnesian Wars by denying the men sex to get their attention and address their stupidity.  This play was actually written during those wars which shows what an effect on society theater and art can have and how plays and music can preserve history while delving into fiction.

Our play is situated in the late 1800s and the beginning of the 20th century.  During her youth, Phoebe Ann Mosey aka Annie Oakley lived in a society that held very strict views of a woman’s place in the community.  ‘Women of the theater’ were generically seen as having loose morals and few virtues.  For the young 15 year old Ohio farm girl to have the courage to step on a stage and compete with men was extraordinary and probably seen by some as outside the bounds of propriety.  To Annie’s credit, not only did she recognize this but dealt with it by adjusting her costumes – her dress was much more prim and proper than any on the stage, adjusting her behavior – she was calm, quietly in control and self-possessed, and by being better at her task and vocation than virtually any other marksman or woman in the country.  That having been said, it was still an up-hill climb to gain acceptance for who she was.

In the 40s, when the script and score for our musical were written, the viewpoints towards women had begun to change.  After all, the country and the world had just been through a second World War and the women of America had risen to the challenge of replacing the men in the factories, the shipyards, and most other preserves that had been generally male-populated till 1940.  Nevertheless, the score and lyrics of Annie still captures the tensions between men and women competing on an unequal plane and ‘theater women’ in the forties were still primarily seen as vamps with loose morals and questionable intentions.

By the 1990s, there had been significant motion in this area with the rise of the feminist movement and ‘female liberation,’ the subject needed to be cast in a contextually more understandable light for the new theater-goers and so the rewrite for the Kennedy Center revival that went to Broadway with Bernadette Peters and Co. was launched with new scores and a revision of the story by Peter Stone.  This adaptation addressed feminism and the other example of evolving viewpoints that provoked negative reactions from current day audiences.

American ‘history’ has been very unkind and untruthful (remember that histories are written by the winners and often need to be revisited to get a more accurate view of the facts and times) regarding the many tribes and nations of Amerindians on this continent.  Without trying to set this history aright in these few paragraphs, suffice it to say that the revised story and score for the Bernadette Peters and Co. revival wrote out much of the more difficult treatments of American Indians as the story shifted focus.

It behooves all of us to learn more about the Sioux, Chippewa, Cherokee, Seminole, Navaho, Apache and countless other tribes and nations that existed on this continent before western Europeans escaping their own history and injustices used the concept and cry of Manifest Destiny to inflict gross injustices on the indigenous of the Americas and destroy their history.  An in-depth investigation of these subjects is for another time, for now try to learn, understand and immerse yourselves in this musical so that we can, as Leonard Bernstein said – ‘sound like the composer.’

"I'm not interested in having an orchestra sound like itself. I want it to sound like the composer."


Paco's POV: Annie - An American Phenomenon


YAA is excited to bring you a new blog column called Paco’s POV. Our wonderful Orchestra Manager, Francisco José “Paco” Cosió Marron, will be writing these every week to give you a bit more background on the production we are currently working on. Check back often to get your fill of Paco’s POV!

Mr. Berlin’s Annie…. became an international phenomenon shortly after its opening.

Annie Get Your Gun premiered on Broadway at the Imperial Theatre on May 16, 1946 and ran for 1,147 performances with Ethel Merman starring as Annie and Ray Middleton as Frank Butler.  Enjoying its popularity, the musical toured the U.S. from October 3, 1947, starting in Dallas, Texas with Mary Martin as Annie. This tour also played Chicago and Los Angeles. Martin stayed with the tour until mid-1948.  It also had international appeal and success starting with its West End premiere on June 7, 1947 at the London Coliseum where it ran for 1,304 performances and an Australian production that opened at His Majesty's Theatre in Melbourne on July 19, 1947.

The popular music translated well conveying the American culture and a French version, Annie du Far-West began production at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris on 19 February 1950 and ran for over a year. Its first Broadway revival was in 1966 at the Music Theater of Lincoln Center. This production opened on May 31, 1966 and ran until July 9, followed by a short 10-week U.S. Tour. It returned to Broadway at the Broadway Theatre on September 21 for 78 performances. Ethel Merman reprised her original role as Annie with Bruce Yarnell as Frank. The libretto and score were revised: The secondary romance between Tommy Keeler and Winnie Tate was completely eliminated, including their songs "I'll Share it All With You" and "Who Do You Love, I Hope?", and the song "An Old-Fashioned Wedding" was specially written for the revival and added to the second act. This version of the show is the one we are performing and was the production version telecast in an abbreviated ninety-minute version by NBC on March 19, 1967.

In 1976, there was a Spanish-language version produced in Mexico City with the name of Annie es un tiro.  In 1977, Gower Champion directed a revival for the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera starring Debbie Reynolds as Annie.  And in 1986 it returned to London via a David Gilmore production, with American rock star Suzi Quatro as Annie and Eric Flynn as Frank, opened at the Chichester Festival Theatre in England.

In 1999, a new production had its pre-Broadway engagement at the Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C. This revival starred Bernadette Peters as Annie and Tom Wopat as Frank. This production had a revised book by Peter Stone and new orchestrations, and was structured as a "show-within-a-show", set as a Big Top travelling circus. "Frank Butler" is alone on stage and Buffalo Bill introduces the main characters, singing "There's No Business Like Show Business", which is reprised when "Annie" agrees to join the traveling Wild West show. The production dropped several songs (including "Colonel Buffalo Bill", "I'm A Bad, Bad Man", and "I'm an Indian Too"), but included "An Old-Fashioned Wedding". There were several major dance numbers added, including a ballroom scene.  In this version, the final shooting match between Annie and Frank ends in a tie.

Why was the show rewritten?  Shows reflect a snippet of the history, the culture and the mores of ‘its’ age.  By the late 90s, the mores and conscience of America had moved on several of the subjects depicted in the original including the roles of women, the place of American indigenous in history, and New World history as a whole.  Next time we will try to understand the times in the 40s, the 90s and now to get a better view of our musical.


Paco's POV: Meet Mr. Berlin


YAA is excited to bring you a new blog column called Paco’s POV. Our wonderful Orchestra Manager, Francisco José “Paco” Cosió Marron, will be writing these every week to give you a bit more background on the production we are currently working on. Check back often to get your fill of Paco’s POV!

So today meet our composer: Irving Berlin (1888 - 1989)

Irving Berlin (born Israel Beilin) was an American composer and lyricist, widely considered one of the greatest songwriters in American history. His music forms a great part of the Great American Songbook. Born in Imperial Russia, Berlin arrived in the United States at the age of five. He was one of eight children of Moses and Lena Lipkin Beilin. His father, a cantor in a synagogue, uprooted the family to America, as did many other Jewish families in the late 19th century. In 1893 they settled in New York City. Upon their arrival at Ellis Island, the name "Beilin" was changed to "Baline". According to biographer Laurence Bergreen, as an adult Berlin admitted to no memories of his first five years in Russia except for one: "he was lying on a blanket by the side of a road, watching his house burn to the ground. By daylight the house was in ashes." As an adult, Berlin said he was unaware of being raised in abject poverty since he knew no other life.

Tsar Alexander III of Russia and then Tsar Nicholas II, his son, had revived with utmost brutality the anti-Jewish pogroms, which created the spontaneous mass exodus to America. The pogroms were to continue until 1906, with thousands of other Jewish families also needing to escape, including those of George and Ira Gershwin, Al Jolson, Sophie Tucker, L. Wolfe Gilbert, Jack Yellen, Louis B. Mayer (of MGM), and the Warner brothers. When they reached Ellis Island, Israel was put in a pen with his brother and five sisters until immigration officials declared them fit to be allowed into the city.

He published his first song, "Marie from Sunny Italy", in 1907, receiving 33 cents for the publishing rights, and had his first major international hit, "Alexander's Ragtime Band" in 1911. He also was an owner of the Music Box Theatre on Broadway. "Alexander's Ragtime Band" sparked an international dance craze in places as far away as Berlin's native Russia, which also "flung itself into the ragtime beat with an abandon bordering on mania." Over the years he was known for writing music and lyrics in the American vernacular: uncomplicated, simple and direct, with his stated aim being to "reach the heart of the average American," whom he saw as the "real soul of the country." In doing so, said Walter Cronkite, at Berlin's 100th birthday tribute, he "helped write the story of this country, capturing the best of who we are and the dreams that shape our lives."

He wrote hundreds of songs, many becoming major hits, which made him a legend before he turned thirty. During his 60-year career he wrote an estimated 1,500 songs, including the scores for 20 original Broadway shows and 15 original Hollywood films, with his songs nominated eight times for Academy Awards. Many songs became popular themes and anthems, including "Easter Parade", "White Christmas", "Happy Holiday", "Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better)", and "There's No Business Like Show Business". His Broadway musical and 1943 film This is the Army, with Ronald Reagan, had Kate Smith singing Berlin's "God Bless America" which was first performed in 1938.  

Note that Mr. Berlin lived a full century and his contributions to the American music book and to American culture span many subjects and eras.  We will investigate the time when he wrote our musical and the time the musical was set in in our next email.



Francisco José Cosió Marron

YAA Orchestra ManagerYoung Artists of America at Strathmore

Paco's POV: Historical Background on Annie Get Your Gun


YAA is excited to bring you a new blog column called Paco’s POV. Our wonderful Orchestra Manager, Francisco José “Paco” Cosió Marron, will be writing these every week to give you a bit more background on the production we are currently working on. Check back often to get your fill of Paco’s POV!

Today we are going to delve into our musical trying to get some background and history on the work. Annie Get Your Gun is a musical with lyrics and music by Irving Berlin and a book by Dorothy Fields and her brother Herbert Fields. The story is a fictionalized version of the life of Annie Oakley (1860–1926), a sharpshooter who starred in Buffalo Bill's Wild West, and her romance with sharpshooter Frank E. Butler (1847–1926).

Dorothy Fields had the idea for a musical about Annie Oakley, to star her friend, Ethel Merman. Producer Mike Todd turned the project down, so Fields approached a new producing team, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. Remember, YAA did an R&H show last season.  After the success of their first musical collaboration, Oklahoma!, Rodgers and Hammerstein had decided to become producers of both their own theatrical ventures and those by other authors. They agreed to produce the musical and asked Jerome Kern to compose the music; Fields would write the lyrics, and she and her brother Herbert would write the book. Kern, who had been composing for movie musicals in Hollywood, returned to New York on November 2, 1945 to begin work on the score to Annie Get Your Gun, but three days later, he collapsed on the street due to a cerebral hemorrhage. Kern was hospitalized, and he died on November 11, 1945. The producers and Fields then asked Irving Berlin to write the musical's score; Fields agreed to step down as lyricist, knowing that Berlin preferred to write both music and lyrics to his songs. Berlin initially declined to write the score, worrying that he would be unable to write songs to fit specific scenes in "a situation show."  Hammerstein persuaded him to study the script and try writing some songs based on it, and within days, Berlin returned with the songs "Doin' What Comes Naturally", "You Can't Get a Man With a Gun", and "There's No Business Like Show Business". Berlin's songs suited the story and Ethel Merman's abilities, and he readily composed the rest of the score to Annie Get Your Gun. The show's eventual hit song, "There's No Business Like Show Business," was almost left out of the show because Berlin mistakenly got the impression that Richard Rodgers did not like it. In imitation of the structure of Oklahoma! a secondary romance between two of the members of the Wild West Show was added to the musical during its development.

Written towards the end of the second World War, the American public was hungry for diversions from the hardships of the war effort and to be transported beyond the harsh realities of the immense loss of life and treasure. The idealizing of the “Wild West” was further abetted by the undercurrents of manifest destiny that had existed in the American psyche since the founding of the country. Because of that, some of the songs and thoughts behind them were more easily accepted or ignored then than they would be now. We will discuss this further in a different email covering history, reality, political correctness and the evolution of “American” thought. Though this musical is highly fictionalized, many of the characters were historical and it helps to understand the story line if we can get a sense of who was whom. First we take a short look at progenitor of the “Wild West Show” Buffalo Bill Cody.

William Frederick "Buffalo Bill" Cody (1846 – 1917) was an American scout, bison hunter, and showman. He was born in Le Claire, Iowa Territory (now the U.S. state of Iowa), but he lived for several years in his father's hometown in Toronto Township, Ontario, Canada, before the family returned to the Midwest and settled in the Kansas Territory. Buffalo Bill started working at the age of eleven, after his father's death, and became a rider for the Pony Express at age 14. During the American Civil War, he served the Union from 1863 to the end of the war in 1865. Later he served as a civilian scout for the US Army during the Indian Wars, receiving the Medal of Honor in 1872. The title “Colonel” was an honorific that was at times ascribed to veterans of the Civil War.

One of the most colorful figures of the American Old West, Buffalo Bill's legend began to spread when he was only twenty-three. Shortly thereafter he started performing in shows that displayed cowboy themes and episodes from the frontier and Indian Wars. He founded Buffalo Bill's Wild West in 1883, taking his large company on tours in the United States and, beginning in 1887, in Great Britain and continental Europe.

Cody received the nickname "Buffalo Bill" after the American Civil War, when he had a contract to supply Kansas Pacific Railroad workers with buffalo (American bison) meat. Cody is purported to have killed 4,282 buffalo in eighteen months in 1867 and 1868. Cody and another hunter, Bill Comstock, competed in an eight-hour buffalo-shooting match over the exclusive right to use the name, which Cody won by killing 68 animals to Comstock's 48. Comstock, part Cheyenne and a noted hunter, scout, and interpreter, used a fast-shooting Henry repeating rifle, while Cody competed with a larger-caliber Springfield Model 1866, which he called Lucretia Borgia, after the notorious beautiful, ruthless Italian noblewoman, the subject of a popular contemporary Victor Hugo opera Lucrezia Borgia. Cody explained that while his formidable opponent, Comstock, chased after his buffalo, engaging from the rear of the herd and leaving a trail of killed buffalo "scattered over a distance of three miles", Cody—likening his strategy to a billiards player "nursing" his billiard balls during "a big run"—first rode his horse to the front of the herd to target the leaders, forcing the followers to one side, eventually causing them to circle and create an easy target, and dropping them close together.


Francisco José Cosió Marron

YAA Orchestra Manager
Young Artists of America at Strathmore

Paco's POV: More On Annie


YAA is excited to bring you a new blog column called Paco’s POV. Our wonderful Orchestra Manager, Francisco José “Paco” Cosió Marron, will be writing these every week to give you a bit more background on the production we are currently working on. Check back often to get your fill of Paco’s POV!

This morning we learn a bit about the star of our show.  Although, as we discussed, the storyline of Berlin’s musical is fictional, the two sharpshooters were not.  Annie Oakley was born Phoebe Ann Moses in 1860 in rural Darke County, Ohio. Her father died when she was young, and Annie was sent to the county poor farm. At age 10, she was sent to work for a family who treated her cruelly -- she called them "the wolves." Eventually Annie ran away from them and was reunited with her mother. Annie helped support her family by shooting game in the nearby woods and selling it to a local shopkeeper. Her marksmanship paid off the mortgage on her mother's house and led her to enter a shooting match with touring champion, Frank Butler, on Thanksgiving Day 1875. To Butler's astonishment, the 15-year-old beat him in the competition. Butler fell in love with her and they were married the next year.

For the next few years, Frank toured with a male partner, performing feats of marksmanship on stage. But when his partner fell ill on May Day in 1882, Annie replaced him and won instant accolades for her shooting skills. Soon Butler began managing the act, leaving the spotlight to Annie. Around this time Annie adopted the professional name "Oakley," apparently from the town of Oakley, Ohio. Oakley joined the vaudeville circuit, making her own conservative costumes and distinguishing herself from the more risqué look of other performers. At one event in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1884, Oakley attracted the attention of legendary Native American warrior Sitting Bull, who adopted her and named her "Watanya Cicilla," or "Little Sure Shot." The nickname stayed with Oakley as she rose in the show business ranks. She joined Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West in 1885 and performed in the show for most of the next 17 years. Oakley dazzled audiences with her shotgun abilities, splitting cards on their edges, snuffing candles, and shooting the corks off bottles. While maintaining her modest wardrobe, she also knew how to please a crowd, blowing kisses and pouting theatrically whenever she intentionally missed a shot.

Oakley's career took off when she performed with Buffalo Bill Cody's show at the American Exposition in London in 1887. Oakley met Queen Victoria, who called her a "very clever little girl." She wowed the British papers. Despite her success, a rivalry with a fellow sharpshooter, Lillian Smith, had grown so tense that it led to Oakley's departure from the show at the end of the London engagement. She returned to the theatrical stage and toured with a rival wild west show. Then when Smith left the Buffalo Bill show, Oakley rejoined Cody in time for a triumphal three-year tour of Europe that began with the 1889 Paris Exposition. By the time it ended, Oakley was America's first female superstar. But she never forgot her roots in poverty -- stories circulated that Oakley was so frugal that she would siphon off lemonade from Cody's pitcher and carry it back to her own tent. "I've made a good deal of money in my time," Oakley said, "but I never believe in wasting a dollar of it." She and Butler gave money to orphan charities, and helped support her mother and his daughters. Oakley earned more than any performer in the show save Cody, but Oakley supplemented her income with shooting competitions on the side. With Oakley's skills — on various occasions she hit 483 of 500, 943 of 1,000, and 4,772 of 5,000 targets — she did quite well on the shooting circuit.

Oakley and Butler were in a train accident in late 1901, and shortly thereafter she left Cody's show for good. Within a year she was appearing on stage in a melodrama written for her, The Western Girl. Hopes for a quieter life were dashed in 1903, when William Randolph Hearst published a false article claiming she was in jail for stealing to support a cocaine habit. Oakley, whose "highest ambition" was "to be considered a lady," was mortified, and she ended up filing against newspapers that had libeled her, winning or settling 54 of them. That took up the bulk of her efforts until 1910, and Oakley subsequently joined another Wild West show, performing until 1913. She then enjoyed a comfortable retirement with Butler in Maryland and North Carolina, hunting and giving shooting lessons to other women and performing at charity events. During World War I, Annie also offered to raise a regiment of crack female sharpshooters, but the government ignored her, so Oakley instead raised money for the Red Cross by giving shooting demonstrations at army camps around the country.

Annie Oakley died on November 3, 1926. Frank Butler, to whom she had been married for 50 years, died 18 days later.


Francisco José Cosió Marron

YAA Orchestra Manager
Young Artists of America at Strathmore

(notes from PBS American Experience)

Behind the Scenes at Nationals Stadium!

Behind the Scenes at Nationals Stadium!

On August 19th, Young Artists of America had the honor of performing the National Anthem at Nationals Park before a game thanks to The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. The Federation invited YAA to take part in their annual Grand Slam Sunday for the second year in a row and we were all too pleased to accept! We had a chance to sit down with Terry Eberhardt, YAA’s Assistant Artistic Director, who lead the group on the field, to talk about what this amazing opportunity was like.

Check out the official video from The Nationals:

Was this your first time on a baseball field?

I have done a few of these with choirs throughout the years, but this was my first time on the Nats field and it was awesome!

How did you prepare for the performance?

I went back through my files to find this cool arrangement of the Anthem. It’s one I knew YAA would sing it well and enjoy!

How did you help the students prepare?

We sent out rehearsal tracks, and then we had one rehearsal the Friday before. 

What did you say to everyone in the locker room before they stepped out?

I told them watch, and make sure that the delay didn't throw them off. There is about a 3 second reverb on the field. Then of course I told them to smile and sing pretty!

What are some things you didn't expect about performing in a stadium?

The delay was trickier than I remember. It is very exhilarating to be on such a stage. I feel very honored that we were able to represent YAA and sing our country’s anthem. I feel very honored every time I'm asked to do it. I was very proud of the students as well. They had a great time and I'm thankful to them for being professional and working so hard to sound so great!

Photos courtesy of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.

A Room with a View: YAA Goes to Italy!

A Room with a View: YAA Goes to Italy!

YAACompany Alum and students in the Bel Canto program pose for a photo.

YAACompany Alum and students in the Bel Canto program pose for a photo.

Over the last three weeks, seven YAACompany alumni have been studying the art of Bel Canto from the Italy! They have been living and studying in Greve-in-Chianti, Tuscany, just an hour outside of Florence. YAA Producing Artistic Director, and professional tenor, Rolando Sanz leads the Young Artist program. Also on faculty was Peabody Conservatory professor, Dr. Patrick O'Donnell, who also works as a vocal coach for Washington National Opera, as well as Dr. Rebecca Folsom of Boston Conservatory. The students also worked closely with leading operatic artists such as Elizabeth Bishop, Giovanni Reggioli, and Will Crutchfield.

We sat down with YAA alumna, Rachel Hahn, currently a senior at The Boston Conservatory at Berklee, to learn more about her experience.

1.) What have you all been working on in Italy these past few weeks?

We've been working on an abridged version of Mozart's Le Nozze di Fiagro in which I was assigned "Sull'aria", "Porgi amor" and "Dove sono," all as the Countess. I was also assigned a scene from Bellini's I Capuletti e I Montecchi singing the role of Romeo which was a lot of fun to play a boy! And then we were also each assigned an aria study piece, something to work on privately that we could sing in the future. For that, I was given "Qui la voce sua soave" from I puritani also by Bellini.

A view from Rachel's room.

A view from Rachel's room.

2.) Have you traveled to Italy before?

Yes! This has been my third time to Italy, and my second time to this program in particular. I got to travel to to Venice and Rome on the weekends during this program! I have also traveled to Prague and Ireland and Italy in the past with my high school choirs.

3.) How have you enjoyed the program?

I am very glad I came to Bel Canto in Tuscany! It's a really wonderful opportunity to travel but also to learn and grow as an artist. The faculty is top-notch and all are so connected to the "business" which is really exciting. It's great to really be able to focus on a couple of scenes and arias and work out all the details with the faculty. You don't have that luxury of time to work on a select list of repetoire in college, and this program has afforded me that. It's also a wonderful way to work on your language skills which are so important as an opera singer. What better way to learn than to be immersed in it!? This program is also a great opportunity to make new friends who will hopefully become colleagues one day.

A rainbow forms over the Tuscan hills - a view from the group's villa.

A rainbow forms over the Tuscan hills - a view from the group's villa.

4.) What have you taken away from this experience abroad?

This program has given me lots of self confidence and experience singing and learning with others which is priceless to me.

5.) How did your studies at YAA back at home help prepare you for this special opportunity? 

YAA has been helpful in making me a professional musician. They taught me how to learn music quickly and how to handle myself both on and off stage and in the rehearsal room. 

And the EMMY goes to...YAA!!!!!!!!!!!

And the EMMY goes to...YAA!!!!!!!!!!!

On Saturday, June 23rd, Young Artists of America’s televised performance of Young Artists of America: The Songs of Tim Rice that premiered on Maryland Public Television (MPT) in June of 2017, won a regional Emmy® Award in the category of Best Lighting.

The honor was awarded at the 60th Annual Emmy® Awards presented at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center and hosted by the National Capital Chesapeake Bay Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS). The annual competition is open to any television station, company, production house, or independent producer in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled about this news,” says Rolando Sanz, YAA’s Co-Founder and Producing Artistic Director. “It’s not every day that middle and high school students get to be the stars of an Emmy® winning production, and we are honored to give them this opportunity and so grateful to our gifted and committed production team and partners at MPT.”

Rolando Sanz (Artistic Director) & Lisa Larragoite (Executive Director) at the Regional EMMY Awards on June 23rd.

Rolando Sanz (Artistic Director) & Lisa Larragoite (Executive Director) at the Regional EMMY Awards on June 23rd.

The one-hour performance, hosted by Sir Tim Rice and featuring the talents of over 150 YAA students, was conceived for YAA/MPT and directed by London theater director Hugh Wooldridge (Chess in Concert, An Evening with Alan Jay Lerner, The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber).

Watch the announcement at 3:41:37:

Our Production Nominated for Three Regional Emmy® Awards!

Our Production Nominated for Three Regional Emmy® Awards!


Young Artists of America’s televised performance of Young Artists of America: The Songs of Tim Rice that premiered  on Maryland Public Television (MPT) in June of 2017, has been nominated for three regional Emmy® Awards! 

The news came from the National Capital Chesapeake Bay Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) and was announced on May 16th. The annual competition is open to any television station, company, production house, or independent producer in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia. The one-hour performance, hosted by Sir Tim Rice, featuring the talents of over 150 YAA students, was conceived for YAA/MPT and directed by London theater director Hugh Wooldridge (Chess in Concert, An Evening with Alan Jay Lerner, The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber).

The broadcast offered performances of 12 iconic songs, many of which earned Rice Tony Awards® and Oscars®. Now, this world premiere television production has earned three Regional Emmy® nominations for YAA and MPT in the categories of

  • Arts/Entertainment – Program/Special (Ken Day, Producer)
  • Director – Non-Live Post-Produced (William Clarke)
  • Lighting (Tracy Gaspari)

The program is the only one nominated in the category for Lighting.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled about this news,” says Rolando Sanz, YAA’s Co-Founder and Producing  Artistic Director. “It’s not every day that middle and high school students get to be the stars of an Emmy® nominated production, and we are honored to give them this opportunity and so grateful to our gifted and committed production team and partners at MPT.”

YAA’s partners and co-producer, Maryland Public Television (MPT) has earned 20 nominations this year, including for Station Excellence and Community Service. The NATAS chapter’s Emmy® Awards gala takes place on Saturday, June 23 at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel, Conference Center, and a three-hour telecast of the ceremony will air on MPT2 on Friday, June 29th at 8:00pm.

Watch them announce us (49:15):

Watch the Full Production Here:

Check Out the Behind-the-Scenes Documentary by Eikenberg Films:

Share Your Fondest #YAAMemory!


Share Your Fondest #YAAMemory!


We're celebrating 7 years of YAA today!

Share your fondest memory with us below in the comments section and we'll spotlight it on our social media this week! 

On May 7th, 2011, YAA presented their inaugural concert in the lobby of Strathmore. 7 years later our incredible students have performed on stages ranging from The Music Center at Strathmore to The Kennedy Center to Maryland Public Television Sound Stage, to AMP Powered by Strathmore to National's Stadium and beyond! We couldn't have done all of this without you all, our incredible supporting community and for that we say thank you! Share your fondest YAA memory hear and we'll highlight it on our social media this week.


A Mentor Honored

Eliot Pfanstiel accepts the award from Ike Leggett, County Executive.

Eliot Pfanstiel accepts the award from Ike Leggett, County Executive.

Young Artists of America prides itself in ARTISTRY, EXCELLENCE, and MENTORSHIP. That's the first thing you see when you land on our homepage. And, on Sunday, after a thrilling performance by over 275 local students of RAGTIME IN CONCERT, we honored one of our favorite mentors, Strathmore Founder and CEO, Eliot Pfanstiehl.

Pfanstiehl was presented the YAA MENTORSHIP AWARD by Montgomery County Executive, Ike Leggett from the Music Center at Strathmore Stage after our performance.

CONGRATS, Eliot! Well deserved!

(Photo compliments of Tom Kohn)

RAGTIME in Concert to Honor the Late Joel Markowitz

RAGTIME in Concert to Honor the Late Joel Markowitz

Joel Markowitz

Joel Markowitz

The YAA family is honored to dedicate our performance of RAGTIME in Concert to the memory of one of YAA's founding board members, Joel Markowitz

Joel was a pillar in the region's performing arts community. He was the Co-Founder, Publisher and Editor of DC Metro Theatre Arts, a premiere arts blog in the region covering the performing arts in DC, Philadelphia and New York. He is deeply missed by the community, and his memory lives on through the arts. 

When we first founded Young Artists of America, Joel was one of the first calls we made when we were forming our founding board of directors. We knew that Joel was not only a pillar of the local arts community here, but also a big supporter of arts education for young people.

We were humbled when Joel agreed to join us as a founding board member of YAA. Joel was our first guest narrator in our Inaugural Concert in May 2011 at Strathmore, and he beamed as he watched our first class of students perform the repertoire he loved the most. In the years that followed, Joel was always just a phone call away to advise on our productions and offerings to our students. We are honored that Joel helped contribute to the vision of what YAA is today.

In our many conversations with Joel over the years, we learned that RAGTIME was one of his favorite musicals of all time. While we are sad that Joel cannot be with us for this performance, we know that he would be proud of our students as they celebrate the 20th anniversary of this epic work he loved so much.

- Rolando Sanz, Producing Artistic Director
- Kristofer Sanz, Music Director

About Joel Markowitz

Joel Markowitz was the Publisher and Editor of DCMetroTheaterArts. He founded the site with his brother, Bruce to help promote the vast riches of theatre and the arts in the DC Metro area that includes Maryland, Virginia, and DC theater and music venues, universities, schools, children's theaters, professional, and community theaters. Joel was always an advocate for promoting the 'stars of the future' in his popular 'Scene Stealers' articles. He wrote a column for 5 years called ‘Theatre Schmooze’ and recorded podcast interviews for DC Theatre Scene. His work can also be seen and read on BroadwayStars. Joel also wrote a monthly preview of what was about to open in DC area theaters for BroadwayWorld. He was an avid film and theater goer, and a suffering Buffalo Bills and Sabres fan. Joel was a regular guest on 'The Lunch and Judy Show' radio program starring Judy Stadt in NYC. Joel founded The Ushers Theatre Going Group in the DC area in 1990, which had a 25-year run when it took its final curtain call last year. Joel was a proud member of The American Critics Association.

Read Joel's Obituary

Learn more and get tickets here for the upcoming RAGTIME In Concert production on April 15th at 4pm at the Music Center at Strathmore. 

INTERVIEW: YAA's New Audition Intensive Workshop Week Creator, Colleen Daly

Colleen Daly, Young Artists of America Staff

Colleen Daly, Young Artists of America Staff

Auditions. Perhaps the least favorite part of any performer's life. But, they're a necessary evil, and if you can hone the craft, they get a lot easier. With this in mind, YAA is offering a new program during our Summer Intensives - Audition Intensive Workshop Week. This new daytime session will run from July 9 - 13 (conveniently before any auditions taking place for The Conservatory or The Academy productions) and is for singers/actors (6th-12th grade) looking to unlock their inner potential for greater auditions. We sat down with professional Soprano, Colleen Daly, who created the program, to tell us more.

Tell us a bit more about what you hope students will get out of the new Audition Week Summer Session. 

We’ll be honing our audition skills! Auditions are a necessary evil in life — even if you don’t decide to pursue music performance professionally, you’ll still have to “audition” — in college applications/interviews, job interviews, etc... any time you enter a new situation and are testing your abilities, you’re auditioning! So why not learn how to master the art of a successful audition? 

Who is the session best suited for? Who do you recommend signs up?

This session is for ALL performers. If you're a beginner, this is a wonderful opportunity to start addressing your fear of public speaking and performance. The program is also perfect for advanced students who are currently prepping college auditions, school or community theater auditions, All-State auditions, or who just generally wants to be better at auditioning. 

What are some things they will learn in the session if not addressed above?

We will work to build confidence in every performer, no matter the level. Each participant will design their own individual audition plan of attack. We’ll address audition materials, song package, improve vocal technique, work on communication skills and first impressions, perform mock auditions, goal setting/reaching, and clarifying the definition of success. And we will have lots of fun!!

Can you tell us a bit more about yourself? What experience have you had with auditions, etc. 

I work in the field that I teach about — I am a professional classical singer who has done hundreds of auditions in my career, and I am still actively auditioning. I am also an educator who has coached students into major vocal performance and musical theater and theater programs across the country at the collegiate level. 

Anything else we should know? 

This camp would be a GREAT way to be ready for the first day of auditions at The Conservatory & The Academy at YAA Summer Performing Arts Intensives

What are you most excited to see/hear/do at the session?

I can’t wait to see the progress that will happen in just one week! It’s amazing to watch people unlock their potential, meet their goals, and push themselves to go farther than what they thought their comfort zone was to reach new levels. It definitely inspires me in my own process for preparing for auditions. 

What will the students walk away with after taking this session?

A spiffed-up audition package, some long-term goals, some new audition-ready repertoire, insight on how auditions work and can be useful, and confidence in spades!

Learn more and reserve your spot in the week-long program here

More About Colleen:

Colleen Daly has been hailed as a “dramatically powerful” (The Washington Post) young singer. Miss Daly’s most recent performances include Musetta in La Bohème with Annapolis Opera, Lyric Opera of Baltimore and Des Moines Metro Opera; Violetta in Opera Delaware’s production of La traviata, which she also covered at New York City Opera; Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte with Intermountain Opera; Micaëla in both La Tragédie de Carmen with Syracuse Opera and in Carmenwith Baltimore Concert Opera; the Countess in Annapolis Opera’s production of Le nozze di Figaro; and the title role of Thaïs at Opera Company of Middlebury. In the winter of 2016, Ms Daly returned to one of her signature roles, Micaëla in the Maryland Symphony Orchestra’s presentation ofCarmen, and was later presented in her role debut as Fidelia in Puccini’s masterpiece Edgar with the Baltimore Concert Opera.




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We are so thrilled to announce that one of our very own, Mateo Ferro, will star in The Kennedy Center's production of In the Heights this spring. Mateo studied at our Summer Performing Arts Intensive in 2017, lighting up the stage as Usnavi in our own production of In the Heights. Mateo attends Clarksburg High School in Montgomery County, Maryland and is 16 years-old.

Mateo sat down to chat with us right after the news spread on Playbill and BroadwayWorld, etc. Here's what he had to say. 

Mateo highlights from our Summer 2017 production of In the Heights, where he played Usnavi.

If you'd like to follow in Mateo's footsteps, Young Artists of America's Summer Performing Arts Intensives are registering now for 2018. Learn more here

1.) Tell us the full story of how you got cast in The Kennedy Center's production of In the Heights!

Well it all started from a great guy named Rolando Sanz, you all know the name. Well, he’s just the most genuine guy and I have the most respect for him. He sent me the audition notice saying that they sent it to him and he thought of me. I couldn’t be more thankful for that and I owe that to him. After that I spent hours and hours preparing. Thank you to Mandy Brown, Paul Hienemann, and Saidou Sosseh for helping me prepare! My initial audition was at The Kennedy Center and it went so well! Im so thankful for that. A couple weeks passed and I received an email from the casting director asking me to attend a call back in New York that week. So, my beautiful mother and I did the trip and to say the least I put everything and anything into that call back and got the call the next day!

2.) Tell us about what role you will play in this production of ITH. What's the character like? How will you prepare?

I will be playing SONNY in In the Heights. He’s Usnavi's, the protagonist of the story, younger cousin. He's a scrappy kid who thinks a lot of himself. He jokes around a lot but stays true to himself and everyone around him. He’s just that role that everyone will fall in love with...well, that is if I do it right! I’ve memorized my lines and solos mainly because I did this role at my high school, CHStage! But yes, I had to re-learn most of it and have learned my music parts with my vocal teacher. I just really want to be prepared and have the role locked down before the start of rehearsal because, as you can see from the cast list, these are the real deal actors. Im just a small town kid from Maryland dreaming about these kind of things!

Im just a small town kid from Maryland dreaming about these kind of things!

3.) What YAA productions have you been in and what was your role in each? How long have you been involved in YAA?

A scholarship opportunity started off my journey with YAA. I received it last summer for YAA's Summer Intensive from The Jim & Carol Trawick Foundation. I thank both of these beautiful organizations for the opportunity because it had such huge impact on my aspirations and drive for theatre! I performed in YAA's production of In the Heights as Usnavi! By far my favorite production I have done to date. Lots of memories that I cherish from that experience! 

4.) How did you learn you loved the performing arts?

I've always loved singing! I just had really bad stage fright. But it all changed in the 7th grade when I did a class project show. I was in the ensemble in You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown and had such a blast. After that I decided to audition for my middle schools production of Aladdin. I got the part of Aladdin, the funny thing is that the one role I did not want was the lead because I was so nervous. But it ended up being a blast and what started this journey, and I haven’t stopped since. Huge thanks to Jerilyn Nacht, my director as a kid, she really started my drive for theatre. Also, shout out to CHStage!

5.) What are you most excited about for the ITH experience?

The entire thing!! Thats all I can say. From the second I step into my first rehearsal all the way to my last bow. I'm already sad thinking about it ending and I haven’t even started. I want to learn and soak up as much as I can from it so I can grow even more.

I want to learn and soak up as much as I can from it so I can grow even more.

6.) What have you learned from YAA that has prepared you for this experience (from audition to rehearsals to performance)?

I learned the drive that it takes to do this professionally and seriously. Their Summer Performing Arts Intensive drained me out but they taught me to keep pushing and I did and it was so worth it. Director of the program, Terry Eberhardt, truly taught me what it meant to be a true professional. Not as in a paid actor, but as in the attitude. I thank them a lot for that. 

7.) Anything interesting you'd like to tell us that we haven't asked about? 

Come see the show if it isn’t sold out yet!!! I want to see people I know!! But also, I really want to share with everyone that wants to do this or anything professionally in the future, that it takes a lot. It’s more than just wishing and dreaming about it. It's about the work and sacrifice you put into it. If there's one thing I think separates me from the rest, it’s that I’d do anything for it and I do. I work so hard for this. It is not handed to you. Ever. You have to work and work and I promise you will get something out of it. Be different from the rest.  

It is not handed to you. Ever. You have to work and work and I promise you will get something out of it.

8.) And finally, where do you hope all of this leads? 

Wow, thats actually a strong question! I hope it opens doors for me to work even harder and grow. You never have a peak so I want to prove that and keep working and growing working and growing for the rest of my life. I want to be a performer for the rest of my life and I hope this starts something for me. I really do. 

We do too, Mateo! You're certainly on your way and we couldn't be prouder. If you'd like to see Mateo in the upcoming productions, tickets are available at the Kennedy Center's website. An extra show has been added but tickets are going quickly, so act fast! 

One of Our Own to Star in Kennedy Center's "In the Heights"

One of Our Own to Star in Kennedy Center's "In the Heights"

Mateo Performing in Young Artists of America's Production of  IN THE HEIGHTS  - Summer 2017.

Mateo Performing in Young Artists of America's Production of IN THE HEIGHTS - Summer 2017.

Mateo Ferro at Young Artists of America's Summer Performing Arts Intensives - 2017

Mateo Ferro at Young Artists of America's Summer Performing Arts Intensives - 2017

We are beyond thrilled to share the news that our very own Young Artists of America student, Mateo Ferro, was just cast in The Kennedy Center's production of IN THE HEIGHTS, Lin-Manuel Miranda's Tony Award Winning musical. Mateo will play the role of Sonny, alongside Vanessa Hudgens (Vanessa), Eden Espinosa (Daniela), and Ana Villafane (Nina). The production will run at The Kennedy Center from March 21st until March 25th.

Mateo studied at Young Artists of America's Summer Performing Arts Intensives last summer where he lit up the stage in the role of Usnavi in our own production of IN THE HEIGHTS. (Check out highlights below!) After our production, we connected Mateo to casting directors for the Kennedy Center's production. Mateo auditioned, was called back in New York, and sure enough, won the role! 

Let’s come out and support Mateo! Tickets have been sold out for some time, but they JUST added a performance on Sunday, March 25 at 8:00pm. You can get tickets here but don't delay. They will go very quickly!

Care to follow in Mateo's footsteps? Our Summer Performing Arts Intensive is currently open for 2018 registration. Click here for more.

Video highlights of Mateo's performance with YAA as Usnavi in IN THE HEIGHTS last summer with YAA!

Brava, Emily Reed! Winner of Broadway World's Regional Awards!

Brava, Emily Reed! Winner of Broadway World's Regional Awards!


We are so proud to announce that Emily Reed, our very own Young Artists of America student, has won a Broadway World Regional Award for "Best Actor or Actress in an Educational Theatre Production" for her role in our production of YAA Presents: The Circle of Life: The Songs of Tim Rice in Concert. 

Well deserved, Emily! And thank you to all that voted! 

Check out the other winners here