Burroughs on Broadway Returns for 16th Season

First published in the Oct. 30 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

As a foreshadowing of Halloween, this past week saw the quad of John Burroughs High School canopied with moonlit clouds, chilled with the harbinger of rain and transformed into the city’s largest outdoor cabaret as the school’s Vocal Music Association presented its 16th season of Burroughs On Broadway, or “BOB” as it is colloquially known.
Surrounded by blood-red draped tables on which supporters enjoyed dinner provided by VIP Catering, the spirit of Halloween was alive and well during the VMA’s three performances of the show emceed by actor Mick Torres. Along with numbers from a wide array of Broadway musicals were spooky selections from “The Addams Family,” a time-warping tune from “The Rocky Horror Show” and well-known hits from the hedonistic nightlife of the seedy Kit Kat Klub of “Cabaret.”

Photo by David Laurell / Burbank Leader
Providing a mysterious and kooky performance at last week shows were Justine Navas in the role of Morticia, Noah Castiel as Gomez and Rafael Garcia portraying Uncle Fester.

This always-popular and well-attended show serves as both a major fundraiser for the VMA and a showcase for the school’s four award-winning choirs — Powerhouse, an advanced mixed choir; Sound Sensations, the advanced women’s choir; Sound Waves, the intermediate mixed choir; and Decibelles, the intermediate women’s choir.
Matt Ganey, who serves as the president of the association, said that in spite of the COVID-related challenges that forced last year’s presentation of “BOB” to be virtual, the organization’s family of supporters never waned.
“From our current parents, parents of students who have participated in the past, on to the community at-large, we are so grateful for the support we have received during a difficult time,” Ganey said. “We have been so blessed to have had so many people who have stepped up in every way, from giving their time and their skills, to their financial support.”
As for the student performers and creative team, musical director Brendan Jennings said it was emotional to be back in front of live audiences after a year and a half.
“During the pandemic, when our performances were being done virtually, I saw these kids continue to work so hard without the payoff of the audiences response, which is what it’ all about for performers,” Jennings said. “With these performances, I feel like we are back to normal. Not completely. There are still a couple of things we are having to do to keep everyone safe, but it does have the feel that we are almost completely back.”
Last week’s shows, directed by Jennifer Strattan, produced by Jessica Good and under the artistic direction of Jen Oundjain, were conducted by Dan Scoville who oversaw the BOB Orchestra. Along with the evening’s first act that included musical numbers representing 16 Broadway shows, the second act consisted of the Powerhouse choir’s stylings of nine songs from “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812,” a musical adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s 1869 novel “War and Peace” that is focused on Natasha’s affair with Anatole and Pierre’s search for meaning in his life.

Photo by David Laurell / Burbank Leader
Isabella Rosoff’s solo performance of “Cabaret” was a highlight of the last week’s Burroughs on Broadway.

Among the evening’s highlights were songs from “The Addams Family” featuring Justine Navas in the role of Morticia, Noah Castiel as Gomez, Gianna DeSimone as Wednesday, Echo Geller as Pugsley, Rafael Garcia portraying Uncle Fester and Hratch Kitsinian as Lurch.
The standout solo performance of this year’s production of BOB was provided by senior Isabella Rosoff who did a show-stopping version of “Cabaret.”
Founded in 1979, the Burroughs’s Vocal Music Association has earned a reputation as one of the top public school music programs in the country. With a dedication to providing high quality performing arts training, students focus on vocal technique, dance fundamentals, music theory and performance skills through directed technique classes as well as the mastery of performance material.
Recognized internationally, the VMA choirs have been featured on “America’s Got Talent,” “Dancing With the Stars,” “The Voice” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show” alongside the original cast of “Glee.” The choirs also perform at many public and private events in Burbank and beyond.
For more information on the Burroughs’s VMA and future performances, including their Holiday Specular, visit JBHSVMA.com.

DAVID LAURELL may be reached by email at dlaurell@aol.com or (818) 563-1007.