New York is set to host the Christmas concert equivalent of a revival meeting when “Night Divine” hits Harlem’s Apollo Theater this week.
Now in its second year, “Night Divine” unites two of Broadway’s most buzzed-about powerhouses, Shoshana Bean and Cynthia Erivo, for an evening of all-holiday music. Like its 2018 incarnation, the show will feature a 15-piece orchestra and pay homage to the likes of Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand and the television variety shows of yesteryear.
Fittingly, Bean gave fans a hint of what to expect by dropping an acoustic cover of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” on the day after Thanksgiving.
Watch Shoshana Bean’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” above.
“[Erivo and I] thought it would be beautiful to create a tradition,” Bean, known to theater audiences for her roles in “Hairspray” and “Wicked,” told HuffPost. “We’re living in a somewhat disconnected time. We’re living in a terrifying time, too. The more opportunities I can create that are of love, art, compassion and coming together ― that’s what I hope to do with this show. It’s classic and grand. Hopefully, it’ll feel like unity.”
Monday’s performance will cap off a banner year for both artists. A Tony winner for “The Color Purple,” Erivo received a Golden Globe nomination for her performance as Harriet Tubman in the biopic “Harriet.” Meanwhile, Bean filmed a small part in the forthcoming comedy “Bill & Ted Face the Music,” and returned to Broadway for the first time in 13 years when she joined the cast of Sara Bareilles’ “Waitress,” a musical adaptation of the 2007 film.
The character of Jenna Hunterson, a waitress who discovers she’s pregnant while feeling trapped in an abusive relationship, continues to affect Bean five months after she last performed the role.
“One of the things Jenna gave me is the opportunity to explore simple vulnerability,” she said. “I really understand her at this point in my life. She’s a person who is buried in me that I don’t lead with all of the time.”
And the “Waitress” experience will undoubtedly influence Bean’s next album, her follow-up to 2018’s “Spectrum,” a jazzy, big band-heavy collection of original material as well as songs by Foy Vance and Rihanna and a clutch of standards.
“I’d love to be able to write the way Jenna lives,” she said. “We all have that person inside of us who is terrified and broken. That’s something I think every human shares, whether they choose to be so bold as to admit it or not.”
Nearly 18 years after Bean made her Broadway debut in “Hairspray,” she’s come to occupy a unique place in the theater ecosystem. YouTube videos of her raise-the-roof take on Elphaba continue to circulate among “Wicked” fans in counterpoint with Idina Menzel, who originated the role.
Such efforts have tested the mettle of many crossover artists, but fortunately, many of the fans who grew up with Bean as their Elphaba have embraced her work as a singer-songwriter, too. In 2018, she headlined the Apollo Theater for the first time as a solo artist, performing a set culled exclusively from her three albums. She’s continued to tour the U.S. and England with that material, too.
And though she’s spent much of the past decade focused on her music, she sees her “Waitress” stint as a reminder to maintain her theatrical pursuits, too. Her current dream is to originate a role in a Broadway musical, whether in a revival of a classic piece or in an entirely new show.
“There are no guarantees in life that you’re ever going to get a second chance at something, whether it’s a role or a lifestyle,” said Bean, who in recent years has sung for the likes of “Dear Evan Hansen” and “The Greatest Showman” composers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. “To be back had me very, very nostalgic and conscious of doing things differently ― stopping to be present and take it in.”
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