Let’s face it, despite our hipster posing, punky faux-hawks and butch leather-studded undies, showtunes are imbedded deep in the LGBT consciousness. It’s in our blood; blood red lipstick, Bloody Marys, even the streets of Stonewall, stained with our blood as we raged against oppression and the death of showtune’s queen, Judy Garland.
So why do we love them so, these songs of despair and hope, of passion and unrequited love? “They’re just such incredible songs,” says Heather Bambrick, host of the JAZZFM.91 morning drive. “They have stories, real stories, about lives and people and places.”
Bambrick confesses that she saw her first Broadway musical, Wicked, only three years ago, but says she was immediately hooked. “I wanted to learn so much more. I started taking little trips to New York to see shows.”
The seeds planted in these forays bloomed at Statlers nightclub one evening. Jazz Diva Julie Michels was working her usual magic onstage, when she spied Bambrick in the audience. Beckoning her to the stage, the two launched into an unrehearsed duet of Georgia.
“They were just magical,” says Diane Leah, music director for Toronto’s Metropolitan Community church, and Michels’ accompanist that night. “I know it’s such a trite and overworked term, but you could tell it was something really special.”
The trio christened their act Broadsway and began selling out places like The Flying Beaver Puberet. Leah’s fresh and intriguing arrangements provided the perfect structure for Bambrick’s crystal-clear soprano and Michels’ rich, powerful alto.
“Julie has the voice of God, really,” says Leah. “And Heather is a vocal gymnast, an incredible musician with amazing flexibility and range. Together they’re larger than the sum of their parts.”
For Michels, Broadsway offers the chance to celebrate music often ignored in Toronto clubs. “It’s like being let loose in candy store,” Michels says. “Diane has these beautiful arrangements for these amazing songs, songs like For Good, or What You Don’t Know About Women. It forces me to be a better singer.”
But for three busy women with such diverse careers, Broadsway best represents the chance to share timeless music with good friends. “We laugh so much,” says Michels. “We love each other, we respect each other, and we just have the best time. It’s true harmony.”