Fate has a funny way of making things happen. Recently, the multiple award-winning, Billboard-charting artist, Doreen Taylor reached out to Entertaining Options via social media. Doreen is a gifted vocalist and a talented songwriter who has received accolades from CBS, NBC, FOX, The CW, Lifetime, and more. She is also a favorite artist of Bose, Sharp Electronics, and QVC. So, when Doreen’s request came in, it was eagerly accepted.
Only, it wasn’t the real Doreen Taylor.
Fortunately, Doreen quickly became aware of the situation, had the fake account deleted, and apologized for any awkward messages that her imposter might have sent. This opened the door for Entertaining Options to request an interview with the remarkable artist to talk about her upcoming off-Broadway show, An Enchanted Evening: A Night With Oscar Hammerstein II, which runs December 8 through 17 at the Roy Arias Theater Center in New York City. (Tickets available at HammersteinLive.com.)
“I started out doing these roles as a child,” Doreen began, “before I could even understand the depths of some of these characters I was playing. As I grew up, my career meandered through opera and musical theater to mainstream music, where I charted on Billboard. But through all of that, I never lost my love for theater. When I write my own music, people always tell me that my songs sound like they belong in a Broadway musical, so I’ve always had that inclination in my heart.”
Last March, Doreen was doing a video premiere for a song called “Unstoppable” that she wrote as a tribute to her good friend, Joe Frazier. Her publicist invited Will and Mandee Hammerstein to the premiere along with their son, Oscar IV, who was just 6 months old at the time. Young Oscar was quite enamored with Doreen.
“He was the best baby ever,” Doreen recalled. “And, he wouldn’t stop staring at me. It was like there was this strange connection.”
Doreen began talking with Will and Mandee who told the vocalist of their plight: Highland Farm in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, the place were all those legendary lyrics were penned, was facing the threat of being torn down.
“This really hit me hard because there’s this progression in society right now to erase history,” she noted. “But this is a man who should have a statue. He was an incredible man who was well ahead of his time. He was someone who opened doors and was talking about racial and societal issues as early as the 1920s.”
Show Boat (1927) is a work that radically changed American musical theater. It is the first racially integrated musical, featuring both black and white artists performing together on stage. Additionally, the story not only depicted an interracial marriage, but it also featured a character of mixed race. To put that into perspective, the first interracial kiss didn’t happen on U.S. television till over 40 years later (1968).
“Let’s face it, almost everybody has a connection to one of these musicals,” Doreen declared. “I don’t think there’s anyone alive who hasn’t seen one of these shows, whether it was live on stage or it was a movie. This music has become an American staple. There’s a company called 23andMe that tells you what your DNA says about you, and they are using “Getting to Know You” in their television commercial. There are huge companies with massive ad campaigns that use this music because it is so comforting and familiar. It’s like apple pie.”
“They can’t tear that place down,” Doreen protested. “We needed to get the word out, so I created the show, An Enchanted Evening: A Night With Oscar Hammerstein II. I said, ‘Let me take my talents and everything I’ve learned over all these years and combine the best of everything I have into this one show to raise money and awareness and to honor this man’s legacy.'”
When Doreen creates, she works a little bit backwards. First, she envisions the end product. Then, she tries to figure out how to get there.
“I believe that if it’s meant to be, it will happen,” Doreen explained. “You don’t have to force it, it will come to you in a relaxed and natural way. That’s what I found throughout my career, every time I’d get really tense, if I just relaxed, everything would come together — one idea leads to another idea and that leads to yet another.”
“I always knew I wanted to do this story chronologically,” she continued. “I wanted to show the progression of this man, where he started to where he ended up and how he got there. I worked with an incredible music director, Lou Lanza. He has a musical theater background, but he also has a very cool jazz background. We are doing the standards that everyone loves… but we are doing them in a fresh, new way.”
And it seems to be working perfectly. Doreen premiered An Enchanted Evening: A Night With Oscar Hammerstein II at a one-night-only engagement at the Bristol Riverside Theater in Bristol, Pennsylvania. The performance sold out.
“We just wanted to see how it would work in front of a live audience,” Doreen informed. “It exceeded our expectations! Sometimes you do something that you think is going to be good, but as it unfolds, you realize that it’s not resonating with people the way you hoped it would. But this one has all the elements for a successful show. It is also one of the first of its kind, a docu-musical. We have incorporated museum curated footage into this amazing technology and we have these great setups for all of these musical segments. Throughout the show, you actually learn a lot about this man, who he was as a person. Everybody knows what he wrote, but they don’t necessarily know why he wrote it or how he wrote it. It was really cool to work with Will who gave me so much insight into his grandfather’s life. I’ve learned so much while writing this show, I have a whole new respect for this incredible man.”
“People came to that Bristol Riverside Theater not knowing what to expect. They thought it was going to be a tribute to Oscar and they wanted to buy tickets to support the cause and help save Highland Farm. They left loving the show. Those people were the first ones to purchase tickets for our New York run.”
Besides the phenomenal talents of Doreen Taylor, this upcoming run has veteran Broadway performer, Davis Gaines (Phantom of the Opera, over 2000 performances), coming in as a special guest.
“Right now, it feels like there’s not a lot of good stuff going on in our world,” Doreen concluded. “This is a show that will make you feel good. Come to New York, do some shopping, see the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, and then see the show. Bring the whole family. Our audiences span generations, we’ve had everyone from ages 8 to 98 come out. It’s wonderful that people are bonding over this and a whole new generation is loving Oscar. We are helping to keep his legacy alive and you’ll be helping to save this iconic farm, so it’s a great experience all around!”
Fun Fact: Doreen’s favorite Hammerstein character is Maria from The Sound of Music.
Doreen Taylor’s An Enchanted Evening: A Night With Oscar Hammerstein II runs December 8 through 17 at the Roy Arias Theater Center in New York City.