The Avenue of the Arts in Philadelphia is always jam-packed full of creative culture. The street offers Philadelphians a chance to catch some of the best stage performances in the city, and also offers tourists some of the most scenic opportunities to feel the heart of Philly come alive with City Hall in the distance and the bustling sounds of symphonies in the air. So, this historic street also is an obvious choice to debut an all-new way to listen to music during a pandemic.
Serenade on the Avenue debuted earlier this month from a temporary stage facing City Hall on the 7th floor of the Arthaus construction site across from the Kimmel Center. Audience members lined the streets to see the first show, some were simply just passing by when they heard the tunes and stopped to listen, while others set up shop with some chairs. Luckily, if you missed the first performance, you will have two more opportunities to witness first-hand some serenading from a variety of musical artists.
“I live on the Avenue of the Arts and every year I look forward to the start of the arts season,” says Carl Dranoff, CEO of Dranoff Properties and Developer of Arthaus. “I thought our giant construction site could somehow be retrofitted to bring about an outdoor performance like the Greeks did with their amphitheaters.”
Once Dranoff offered up the 47-story luxury condominium high-rise under construction as a make-shift stage, students and professors from the University of the Arts began to put together pop-up shows and concerts to debut there.
“I love the idea that anyone can come for free, that it’s outdoors, socially distanced and safe, and most of all, I love the idea of the arts bringing people from all walks of life together right here on Broad Street” says AJ Luca, a UArts faculty member who coordinated the students to perform. “I am not sure what live performances will look like in the near future, especially once we get into colder weather and can’t easily perform outside. But, I know that we as a people need live performance, whether that’s in smaller groups or whatever else it takes to make it safe. Recordings are a wonderful thing but can never replace the feeling of bass pounding in your chest at a concert or clapping for the curtain call at a Broadway show. Audiences miss it and the performers depend on it, and I believe we will get there again if we can all work together now to social distance and keep one another safe. It’s loving our neighbor, and it’s so important for our present and our future.”
Luca will perform during the Broadway musical concert on Sept. 30 with one of her students, Giacomo Fizzano, a senior musical theater major at the University. Both performers will be belting out hits from some of Broadway’s greatest composers including Stephen Sondheim, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jason Robert Brown.
“People can expect to hear some beautiful, fun and uplifting musical theatre pieces on Sept 30. My student and colleague, Giacomo Fizzano and I will be doing a mix of duets and solos that will hopefully make you smile,” adds Luca.
The third and final concert in the Serenade on the Avenue series will debut on Oct. 14th and will surround jazz with works by Cole Porter, George Gershwin and Johnny Mercer.. The show will feature University of the Arts faculty member Kevin Hanson of Philadelphia with Ravi Seenarine, a junior saxophone major from New Jersey and Shanon Chua a sophomore vocal major, also from New Jersey.
“I hope that once we have a vaccine that can get back to live theater performances, because there’s nothing like it,” says Dranoff. “Seeing the proud smiles on the faces of student performers when they received their first applause was fantastic. I hope the audience has a renewed appreciation for the orchestra, plays and performers on a live stage. We take these things for granted and are reminded how important they are.”
Luca shares in Dranoff’s sentiment of needing to appreciate what little time we do have now for live art.
“Stella Adler said: ‘Life beats down and crushes the soul, and art reminds you that you have one.’ Live performance is an opportunity to remember that soul we all have that’s tired and needs healing, and just take a deep breath. I hope it feels like that for our audience.”
Shows start at 6 pm, for more information, visit arthausphila.com