Steve Friesen and Charity Van Gameren present Love Songs of Broadway Feb. 15 at the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre. (Jenae Van Gameren photo)

North Okanagan singers prep for duet in time for Valentine’s

Stephen Friesen and Charity Van Gameren present From Broadway with Love

The sounds of love are being sparked on stage just in time for the most romantic weekend of the year.

They have sung Something Good as Maria and Captain Von Trapp and performed ABBA originals as Donna Sheridan and Sam Carmichael. Local performers Charity Van Gameren and Stephen Friesen combine voices once more on Feb. 15 to present From Broadway with Love at the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre.

“Steve and I have a strong musical connection and chemistry that allows us to find the beauty, sincerity, and spark in the songs and performances when we share the stage,” said Van Gameren. “We have had many years of being immersed in theatre together and are thrilled to share our love of Broadway with the audience. It will be a beautiful blend of voices and storytelling wrapped in all things amore.”

The duo plans to perform songs from some of Broadway’s best-known musicals, including Phantom of the Opera, Annie Get Your Gun, Fiddler on the Roof, and The Sound of Music. They will also perform modern offerings from the stage and screen, including from Moulin Rouge, The Greatest Showman, Once, Finding Neverland, A Star is Born, and Mamma Mia!, the latter of which they appeared in together last year.

READ MORE: Mama Mia makes North Okanagan debut

“These are not just your typical shmaltzy duets between the guy and girl,” Friesen said. “We’ve tried to find some comedic and more obscure songs that people may not have heard before. We’ll be doing some songs in a concert-style, and some will be in character.”

With experience in singing opera, classical and musical theatre, the duo first worked together when Van Gameren directed Friesen in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat 12 years ago, a show she will reprise this spring. A year later, they appeared on stage together as the Von Trapps in The Sound of Music. However, it was a performance of The Prayer at a Christmas concert where the duo says they really clicked musically.

“We’re not your typical tenor-soprano combination. We work on how our voices blend, and we sing at different ranges to achieve that,” said Friesen, who started performing in musicals and singing in choirs while attending high school in northern B.C.

“I stopped performing while I was in university to study medicine, but started again when I came to Vernon,” he said.

The busy physician and family man has not only taken on significant roles in several musicals, including as Edna Turnblad in Hairspray and Mr. Banks in Mary Poppins, he has also performed with Opera Kelowna and the Okanagan Symphony Chorus.

The director of Vernon’s Lights of Broadway, as well as the owner of Center Stage Performing Arts Academy, Van Gameren has been performing and instructing voice for more than 25 years. Originally from California, Van Gameren moved to Vernon at a young age and later achieved her degree in vocal performance from the Royal Conservatory of Toronto. She has since taught voice, theory, and musical theatre as a B.C. registered music teacher.

“It occurred to me last year, after stepping onto the stage for Mamma Mia!, that performing and singing are still my life-line to immeasurable joy. Not only is it important for me to feed my passion for the performing arts into my beautiful students, but I also need to continue to perform for me,” Van Gameren says.

Friesen and Van Gameren have been rehearsing the past six months on the 16 songs they will present for From Broadway with Love. Accompanying them on the piano will be Neta Petkau. The intimate concert will take place with the audience seated with them on the Performing Arts Centre stage.

From Broadway with Love starts Feb. 15 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $35/adult and $32 student/senior at the Ticket Seller box office. Call 250-549-7469 or order online at www.ticketseller.ca.

READ MORE: Hollywood movie in Lumby


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