What better project for Il Divo to take on than the immortal songs of Broadway? And where better to unveil those songs than on Broadway itself?
That’s exactly what the chart-topping, arena-filling vocal quartet will do in early November, when the foursome will make their Broadway debut with A Musical Affair. It opens at the Marquis Theatre on November 7, two days after the album of the same name debuts.
“It’s a no-brainer, actually,” says David Miller, the only New Yorker in the group — the only American, in fact — and the only one with Broadway experience. (He appeared in Baz Luhrmann’s acclaimed mounting of La Bohème in 2002, just before joining Il Divo.) “We work best in that meet-in-the-middle point between grand opera and pop, and so much of musical theater fits perfectly in that spot. Frankly, I’m surprised it took us this long to make this album.”
With more than 26 million album sales to its name, Il Divo — which, in addition to Miller, is made up of Sébastien Izambard, Carlos Marín, and Urs Bühler — has clearly learned what its audiences want. But according to Miller, it took them a while to realize what a powerful effect musical theatre had on its audiences. “To tell the truth, Simon didn’t want to put ‘Somewhere’ on the album Siempre,” Miller says, referring to the group’s founder, Simon Cowell. “He thought it was a bit too traditional, a bit too — as they say in England — naff. But when he came to a concert and heard our version, he was convinced at once.”
Some of the songs, like “Memory” from Cats, were familiar to the foursome. Andrew Lloyd Webber, in fact, played a pivotal role in educating Miller about musical theatre: “Phantom of the Opera and Les Miz were the musicals that got me interested back in junior high and high school. The idea of someday singing ‘The Music of the Night’ every night with Barbra Streisand was just unimaginable.”
Fittingly, no fewer than three songs from Phantom and Les Misérables are featured on A Musical Affair, including that same live rendition of “Music of the Night.” And while Barbra is unlikely to make a cameo appearance at the Marquis, look for at least one of the album’s many guest stars — Tony Award winner Heather Headley (Aida) — to join Il Divo on the stage for each performance. (Among the other guests on the album are Kristin Chenoweth, the West End star Michael Ball, and the Pussycat Dolls lead singer Nicole Scherzinger.)
But Il Divo prides itself on offering a mix of beloved staples and less familiar material, and even a Broadway songbook needs at least relative obscurity. Alongside the likes of “Memory” and “Some Enchanted Evening” is “Who Can I Turn To?”, a stirring ballad from the rarely revived 1965 musical The Roar of the Greasepaint — The Smell of the Crowd.
Miller, who is accustomed to flying halfway around the world and back as part of Il Divo, is relishing the chance to work just a few subway stops from his apartment. But he won’t have the pleasure of introducing the rest of the group to the sights and sounds of 42nd Street. “We always stayed in Times Square whenever we performed in New York,” he says. “Carlos is kind of a night owl, and wherever we go, he always wants to be where the action is.”
And despite the fact that several songs on A Musical Affair originated on the West End, Miller makes it clear that Broadway has always been where the action is when it comes to musical theatre. “It’s a huge honor,” he says, “to debut this labor of love in the center of where the music grew and evolved.”