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Bringing Broadway to Hamilton


Hamilton (Ohio) – Had the Titanic successfully crossed the Atlantic Ocean on its maiden voyage, the main stage at the Fitton Center for Creative Arts might look entirely different this fall.


Wait … what?


It’s true.


The group now known as the Empire Trio - who brings Bravissimo Broadway to the Fitton Show Stoppers series Oct. 22 - has roots in a Lincoln Center concert devoted to the music of the ill-fated Titanic. Pianist, violinist (sometimes simultaneously, but more on that later) and arranger David Shenton had connections at Lincoln Center that landed the Titanic gig, but it was his wife – soprano singer Erin Shields – who conceived and wrote a new Lincoln Center show exploring Italy’s influence on American music from opera to Frank Sinatra to rock-n-roll. They became O Sole Trio, a nod to the Italian standard O Sole Mio that became a hit for Elvis Presley as It’s Now Or Never.


“Honestly, we thought it was going to be a one-off show,” Shenton said. “But people liked it, so we kept doing it and eventually took it on the road.”

O Sole Trio toured hundreds of venues across the U.S., Canada and Great Britain, including Carnegie Hall in New York, the Redlands Bowl in California and Ronnie Scott’s in London from 2011 until 2019.


In 2019 they began working with baritone Adam Cannedy as the third voice and changed their name to Empire Trio, reflecting both their New York home base and their ever-broadening catalogue of music. In addition to the Italian-American performance, Empire Trio also creates unique arrangements for movie music and showtunes in separate shows.


“Actually, it’s just nice to sing in English,” Cannedy said of the change with a chuckle. “You don’t get to do much of that in the opera world.”


“We’re all classical musicians,” Shenton said. “We add sophistication via classical music to our arrangements of the Broadway songs. It gives the audience something they’ve heard, but in a way they’ve never heard it. It keeps people guessing.”


Coming out of the pandemic, simply having an audience elevates the show.


“Just being in front people again, we’ve missed having the energy of the room with us when we perform,” Shields said. “We did some virtual shows over Zoom. They’re nice, but they’re not the same. We include the audience in the performance; that’s a challenge online. It’s much easier to connect in person.”


Part of that connection comes through superior musicianship. Which – as mentioned earlier – includes Shenton playing both the piano and violin at the same time.


“I started doing that and it kind of went viral,” Shenton said. “I’m always trying to find ways to push the boundaries, whether that’s musically or vocally. That’s what keeps it fresh.”


For Bravissimo Broadway, audiences can expect tunes from familiar shows like Phantom of the Opera, West Wide Story and Les Miserables, but also unique moments like a mashup of songs from Ghost – both the popular Patrick Swayze movie and its lesser-known musical adaptation.


Tickets to Bravissimo Broadway are $32 for Fitton Center members and $39 for the general public. There will be a free gallery opening celebration prior to the performance from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., including an artist’s chat at 6:30.


The Fitton Center for Creative Arts is located at 101 S. Monument Avenue on the Riverfront in downtown Hamilton, Ohio.

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