BY STEVE WONG
There was a lot of love on stage during Greenville Theatre’s gala celebration of being the Upstate’s oldest and largest producing playhouse for 96 years.
Gala 96: A Broadway Love Story was a glitzy and glamorous evening Thursday, May 5, as patrons in high heels and black ties walked the red carpet into a huge three-level silent auction with live music, passed hors d’oeuvres, and wine aplenty. From 6 to 8 p.m., the who’s who of the Upstate and beyond noshed and hobnobbed in between bidding on the scores of high-end donated items. The bidding ended close to 8 p.m., in time for the primed patrons to find seats and make ready for what was a grand evening of musical entertainment by the Theatre’s new Producing Artistic Director Max Quinlan and his lovely wife Siri Howard. Through a series of theatre songs, the shining couple chronicled their careers and romance receiving evermore enthusiastic applause at the end of each number. They were accompanied by pianist Meghan Reimers. It was a simple but sophisticated set of a grand piano, two high chairs, a bit of fog, and black sky with twinkling stars.
With charisma to spare, Max was suited in basic black and Siri wore several stunning evening dresses, each a reimagination of black and elegance. Before each song, the couple set the stage by telling details of their personal and professional lives, such as they were both child actors and that they fell in love in Greenville during a tour. The music began as each sang a song that helped launch their careers: She sang The Hills Are Alive from The Sound of Music; he sang Close Every Door from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
Max has been a Broadway Resident Director, Broadway Performer, Jeff Award-Winning Chicago Actor, Casting Associate, Acting Teacher, and Director. Most recently, Max served as the Associate Director for the World Premiere of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Unmasked at Paper Mill Playhouse. Previously, Max was the Resident Director for both the 2014-2016 Broadway Revival of Les Misérables as well as the National Tour of The Phantom of the Opera from 2017-2019. Max is the Creator and Director of the Broadway Isolation Project, a digital video series created during the pandemic. Directing highlights include She Loves Me starring Tony Nominee Bryce Pinkham, Songs For A New World, Show Boat, Company, Next to Normal, Ragtime, Detroit, and the short film, Sammy’s Fedora. Performance highlights include Broadway (Les Misérables Revival; Original Broadway Cast), National Tours (Evita; Che, Les Misérables 25 th Anniversary; Marius, Ragtime; The Little Boy), Regional Theatre highlights (The Light in the Piazza; Fabrizio – Jeff Award-Winner, Jesus Christ Superstar; Jesus – BWW Award-Winner/ Jeff Award Nomination, Joseph…Dreamcoat; Joseph, Ragtime; Younger Brother, My Fair Lady; Freddy).
In addition to theatre performance Max has been a guest concert soloist with the Omaha, Utah, Indianapolis, Chicago, Florida, and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestras. Max worked for the Broadway Casting company Stewart/Whitley, teaches regularly at Universities and acting studios throughout the country, and runs his own private acting studio. He earned his BFA in Musical Theatre from the University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music.
Siri is a Broadway actress, recording artist, and concert performer who began her professional career at age 10 and has continued to perform on some of the world’s most prestigious stages. On Broadway Siri has appeared in Les Misérables and The Sound of Music. Her national tours include The Phantom of the Opera, Parade, Les Misérables 25th Anniversary Production, and The Sound of Music. Regionally, she has been seen in The Music Man, Sweeney Todd (Lincoln Center); South Pacific (Nellie Forbush), Fiddler on the Roof (Hodel); A Little Night Music 25th Anniversary Production (Fredrika), Les Misérables (Cosette), Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (Angel), and Oklahoma! (Laurey). She has also appeared as a soloist with the Omaha Symphony, NJ Symphony Orchestra, and the Steamboat Springs Symphony Orchestra. Siri has performed with the USO for veterans and active duty military, as well as the Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball Drop in 2016. She holds a Bachelor of Music degree in vocal performance from University of Maryland College Park and a Master of Arts in vocal performance from the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College.
In between song sets, an auctioneer took to the stage seeking audience bids on delightful experiences such a private concert by Max and Siri ($2,500) and an 8-day luxury river cruise on one of the world’s great waterways. ($6,600). To further show their appreciation of local theatre, the audience also bidded on donations to Greenville Theatre. They ranged from $5,000 to $100.
Of all the songs the couple sang, the one that brought tears to the eyes of many (including the singers) was Our Children from Ragtime. As they sang, personal family photos of the couple and their two children Jack and Sofie were projected to the screen behind them. The night ended with Max appropriately singing Music of the Night from Phantom of the Opera. The standing ovation was thunderous.
Happy Birthday Greenville Theatre and look for our review of Mamma Mia! in June!