Monday, November 26, 2012

Dreams pursued, dreams achieved

Good news about two remarkable performers landed on my desk just before the holiday week.

Merwin Foard, who cut his musical eyeteeth in Charlotte as Merwin Foard Jr., has made a Broadway career out of understudying or standing by for leads in some of the biggest musicals of the last 25 years: Javert in "Les Miserables," Gaston in "Beauty and the Beast," Fred Graham in "Kiss Me, Kate,"  the title character in "Sweeney Todd," Gomez in "The Addams Family."

As of Nov. 9, he's been understudying Australian opera singer Anthony Warlow as Daddy Warbucks in the revival of "Annie," but he's also playing a pivotal supporting role as President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Terry Teachout, drama critic for The Wall Street Journal, said, "The smaller roles are also well done, with top honors going to Merwin Foard, whose impersonation of FDR (complete with leg braces, a nicely realistic touch) is dead on the mark." Warlow leaves the Warbucks role after 12 months, so you have to wonder if Foard has a shot at taking over.

Meanwhile, Joan Burton's CD "The Long Road" arrived in the mail. If you were lucky enough to hear her lead vocals in the nostalgia show "This is The '60s," which played Ovens Auditorium in July, you'll know why I looked forward to getting it. (Quoting myself now: "Smoky-voiced vocalist Joan Burton plays a mean rhythm guitar on the Yardbirds' "Heart Full of Soul" and sings with plenty of heart: Her version of Melanie's "Candles in the Rain" is even more powerful than the original.") Charlotte launched a tour of that show, which comes back to Knight Theater Dec. 15.

"Yes, it's been a long road," Burton writes in the brief liner notes. "Some of the songs reflect struggles I've dealt with in life and as a musician. The musician's road is not easy, but I do it for the love of it." The 15 cuts, compiled from her first three albums, include intense covers (The Doors' "Crystal Ship," The Beatles' "Oh! Darling") and originals. Those range from a reflection about romance ("For Love") to a wistful song about abused animals ("Weary Eyes") to a meditation on Patricia Krenwinkel's motives for joining Charles Manson in the Tate-LaBianca murders of 1969. (Learn more at

Neither Foard nor Burton (who's headquartered in Myrtle Beach) has achieved top marquee status after decades in the business, but they plug happily away. They've made satisfying lives for themselves in show business, and they get to do what they love -- and were born to do -- night after night. How many of us can say the same?