Susan Egan and James. (10/25/07)
In 1994 Susan Egan originated the stage role of Belle when Disney transformed its animated film classic, Beauty and the Beast, into a full-scale Broadway musical. She further cemented her role in Disney history by lending her voice to such Disney animated films as Hercules (as the female lead character Megara) and Lady and the Tramp II (as the singing voice of Angel).
A recent publicity photo of Susan Egan.
Photo: Robert Milazzo
Although Susan Egan isn't the only one who successfully crossed musical theatre with Disney, she is certainly my favorite. I really like Jodi Benson (Ariel from The Little Mermaid), Judy Kuhn (singing voice of Pocahontas), Lea Salonga (singing voice of Jasmine from Aladdin and the title role in Mulan) and Paige O'Hara (Belle in the animated film Beauty and the Beast). But there's something about Susan Egan that just makes her stand above the rest.
As Belle in Beauty and the Beast. (c.1994)
Photo: Joan Marcus
Furthermore, as a Southern California native, Susan Egan is also much more accessible than some of these these other stars. I saw and met Jodi Benson at the Hollywood Bowl in 1996, but as far as I know, she hasn't been back. And I don't even know the last time Judy Kuhn, Lea Salonga or Paige O'Hara have performed in Southern California (and believe me, I'm on every event mailing list there is).
As Sally Bowles in Cabaret. (c.1999)
Photo: Joan Marcus
As if Susan Egan's Disney credentials aren't already enough to make me an obsessed fan, she has also dazzled Broadway audiences with her performance of Sally in Cabaret, which is one of my favorite musicals ever (she was the longest-running Sally Bowles on Broadway). Then in 2004, she took on the starring role in Broadway's Thoroughly Modern Millie, which is one of my favorite musicals of the last five or six years.
In Thoroughly Modern Millie. (2004)
Photo: Carol Rosegg
This wasn't my first time seeing Susan Egan. The last time was in my pre-blog days of 2004, when she had a CD-release concert at the Orange County Performing Arts Center's intimate Founder's Hall. She sang a lot of stuff from her CD Coffee House, which I enjoyed very much, although personally it was her musical theater songs that really struck a chord with me.
For tonight's show, I was even more excited than last time, since her show was called Susan Egan: The Belle of Broadway. You can't get more Broadway than that. And she did not disappoint.
My autographed CD. (10/2007)
Her set list included such musical theatre classics as "Everything's Coming Up Roses" from Gypsy, "How Lovely to Be a Woman" from Bye Bye Birdie, "My Funny Valentine" from Babes in Arms, the title song from Cabaret, "Heaven Help My Heart" from Chess, "Gimme Gimme" from Thoroughly Modern Millie, a Rogers & Hammerstein medley, a Disney Heroine Medley, a Beauty and the Beast Medley, and a score of lesser-known musical theater songs from newer songwriters.
James with up-and-comer Jamie Hartmann. (10/25/07)
One interesting part came when she brought her neice, Jamie Hartmann, on stage to perform the duet "In His Eyes" from Jekyll and Hyde. It was, in a word, fantastic. At only 19 years old, Jamie Hartmann has a fantastic voice and definitely has a bright future ahead of her. FYI, you can see them performing that duet in this YouTube clip.
Susan Egan also signed this photo for me. (10/2007)
Altogether it was a fabulous show. Susan Egan is just one of those rare people who seamlessly blends a bubbly personality, funny-as-heck storytelling and a delightful musical theatre voice. Making the night even better was the fact that she stuck around afterward to sign CDs and take photos. Meeting her in person was an absolute pleasure. Thanks for an awesome night Susan! :)
Click here to read my concert review of another Broadway/Disney star, Lea Salonga.