“Broadway at the Movies” Spotlights Talent and Joy with Return to Performance

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Broadway performers Josh Young and Emily Padgett performed at The Mansion in Saratoga on Friday, June 4th. With the perfect blend of familiarity and vocal talent, the couple bantered between songs from “Oklahoma” and “West Side Story” to more modern favorites from “Cats” and “Les Miserables” with flawless ease.

This was our first visit to The Mansion at Saratoga, and we were a bit awestruck by the painted lady’s glowing gold ornaments on its roof. As the sun set, we walked through a row of lilacs that perfumed the warm evening air with promise. We took a brief walk around the mansion’s grounds prior to settling into our private table and caught glimpses of the performers, an English garden, and my favorite: an early Victorian wall telephone. The venue almost stole the show, but then Josh Young and Emily Padgett joined us under the tent.

Introduced by The Mansion’s co-owner Jeffrey Wodicka as friends who had previously impressed a Supper Club in 2019 at the site, Josh Young and Emily Padgett had a very informal and casual appearance. Dressed in dinner attire, they took the stage and almost appeared nervous. Emily’s floral dress betrayed a gorgeous figure that seemed to deny she was the mother of two young children; with her short blond hair, she looked 20. Josh was dressed all in black and reminded me of a young college student with his high energy movement. They came on a stage covered with pollen. When the microphone was not yet turned on, there was a moment of anxious laughter. Josh admitted, “This is our first performance post COVID.”

The small crowd sat on a tented deck behind an 1866 Victorian mansion that was built by paper sack maker George West. Many were munching on snacks brought out before the performance, including savory treats like street tacos, and sipping wine. There was a patience for these performers, but also excitement for them too. For many, this was the first outing since COVID closed local theatres.

Singing “Oh What A Beautiful Morning” from Oklahoma, Josh Young’s full tenor didn’t disappoint. In fact, it roared over the crowd and washed them with tone and musicality often only found in larger venues. People stopped eating, and even those who saw him previously looked awestruck. The couple quickly moved into songs about going to the movies and bantered about enjoying Broadway shows that were made into movies.

Then it was Emily Padgett’s turn to shine with “Over the Rainbow.” Her ease of octave shift, paired with her wide-eyed affect as if she has no idea how absolutely gorgeous she sounds, was sweet as Judy Garland herself.

From “Showboat” to “Sound of Music,” the couple demonstrated strong control of their vocal abilities, using crescendos to build intensity and impact. Their medley from “West Side Story” allowed the couple to sing again together and apart, reflecting that their skills can both stand alone but also combine to magnify their talent.

The couple’s banter and story telling about their own histories made me want to watch them cooking in their kitchen together at home. Clearly very much in love, and clearly married only three years, there was both high regard for one another and a joyfulness that comes from having trust in another performer.

Emily’s explanation of her time in “Cats,” including her story about studying the animals and dancing like them, was punctuated with a stunning performance of “Memory.” Even those allergic to the production couldn’t resist her.

Josh’s history included an impressive curriculum vitae from the Canadian Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s “Evita” –where he played Che — to “Jesus Christ Superstar’s” Judas on Broadway. Clearly not one to shy away from physically exhausting and rigorous roles, Young voiced his discontent that he was too short to play the Phantom in a lighter moment of the evening where he sang a letter to the casting directors of the show. The silly self depreciation and simultaneous confidence had the crowd agreeing: he’d be a wonderful Phantom, even at five foot eight inches.

Josh transitioned to his idea for his next dream role, Jean Valjean, however, noting he is old enough and finally could relate to the song “Bring Him Home” since having children of his own. With tears in his eyes, he pled for the life of Marius with a voice sweet and deep as molasses, but also gentle and high for the prayer.

The couple closed with “As If We Never Said Goodbye,” a well suited piece for their first return to the stage. The Broadway tunes, predictable in their storylines and somewhat corny humor, is just what we need in a post-COVID world. We needed to laugh together, and celebrate favorite songs with predictability in their plots. The performers’ phenomenal ranges, professionalism, and presence on the stage while belting out these classics made the evening just unique enough to demand a return to this venue to see more.

Upcoming shows include a parody on 90s boy bands, “The Boy Band Project,” July 9th and 11th, and Brian Charles Rooney July 16th. Rooney is known for his range and comedy. After, look for Adam Pascal, famed for his performances in Rent, on July 23rd.

With more shows to come, The Mansion at Saratoga is a venue that could steal the show itself for its historic beauty and value to the community. Nippertown, keep your head to the side to listen for this great venue to roar some worthy orders out of Rock City Falls this summer.

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