Classic concert re-created
MARTIN COUNTY — Lee Lessack wears several hats. The vocalist, who tours with the vocal group, “3 Men and a Baby…Grand!” also owns a booking agency and represents Broadway stars such as Chita Rivera, Lea Salonga and Tom Wopat.
“I found that a lot of venues can’t afford a Chita Rivera concert,” he said. “Every year, while I’m pitching my Broadway names, I try to come up with tribute or thematic concerts, like the music of Johnny Mercer or Irving Berlin or Sinatra. They are remarkable and I can sell (the shows) at a price point that gets me into venues that can’t afford other stars.”
Lessack came up with the idea of a Simon and Garfunkel tribute show, but he felt he needed a bigger hook, something more specific.
“What if we re-create the identical set list they played at Central Park, re-create that moment in time?” he asked. “There’s a series there.”
The result is “Live in Central Park (Revisited): Simon and Garfunkel.” It captures the reunion concert the duo performed in Central Park in 1981. After 10 years apart, the pair came together to raise money for the restoration of Central Park, which was in disrepair. The concert attracted more than 500,000 people and set a record as the 7th largest concert attendance in history.
Lessack, as Garfunkel, joins Johnny Rodgers as Simon on stage at the Lyric Theatre Dec. 17. The show is one of three Central Park shows he has put together: there is also an Andrea Bocelli at Central Park and a Barbra Streisand in Central Park.
Lessack stressed that he and Rodgers are not assuming the personas of Simon and Garfunkel. There will be no big hair.
“We’re using an identical song list, song for song,” he said. “I’m very excited that there was a lot of interest. Most of what I do is ‘The Great American Songbook.’ I was thrilled to get the interest I did (in this.) Personally these songs are standards.”
Lessack is an alumnus of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He has long had a love affair with Broadway.
“We lived in Philadelphia, and for my Bar Mitzvah, I saw my first Broadway show, ‘Pippin.’ It made me want to be in the arts.”
That show was written by Stephen Schwartz, who also wrote “Wicked,” and “Godspell.” Schwartz has become one of Lessack’s fans.
“He’s a great supporter of emerging talent,” Lessack said. “He’s been generous to me over the years.”
Lessack recently worked on the soundtrack recording of “Geppetto,” Disney’s new television movie. It was written by Schwartz, who specifically asked for Lessack.
Now, though, he is focused on the large body of work of Simon and Garfunkel.
“I get to sing “Bridge over Trouble Waters,” he said. “We give some of the context (to the songs), but not a lot because there is a lot of music. We talk about what was going on in the country in 1981. The first IBM personal computer came out, Reagan was shot and Jennifer Hudson and Beyoncé were born. Then we talk about them as songwriters. There’s some fun stuff and a little trivia. I grew up listening to the album and I thought it would be a piece of cake. I didn’t know the proper lyrics.”
The show will open with a crowd-pleaser, “Mrs. Robinson,” from the movie, “The Graduate.” They will also sing “Kodachrome,” “Scarborough Fair,” and the rest of the concert’s 21-song playlist. Backup will be provided by Joe Ravo on guitar, Chuck Bergeron on bass and John Yarling on drums.
If the name Tom Wopat, mentioned as a Lessack client, sounds familiar, he was Luke Duke in the “Dukes of Hazzard.”
After a successful recording and Broadway career, he and John Schneider will reunite for “The Return of the Dukes Christmas. It just happens to take place at the Lyric Dec. 16, the day before Lessack’s own show.
“Live in Central Park (Revisited): Simon and Garfunkel” will take place at the Lyric Theatre, 59 S.W. Flagler Ave., Stuart, Dec. 17 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $47.
Call the box office at (772) 286-7827 or order online at www.lyrictheatre.com.