WALLA WALLA - Opening night for the Power House Theatre's latest show was not what most people were expecting to hear from The Four Tenors.
"I loved it. I think I liked the Broadway music best. They are songs that pretty much no matter what age you are, you have heard of them," said Dee Cusick of Walla Walla after watching the show Friday night.
Usually, the mention of The Four Tenors conjures up memories of Luciano Pavarotti, Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo and Mario Lanza on stage, often during a PBS fundraiser.
The other four tenors - Michael Scott Brooks, Brian Damson, Morgan James and Ken Nielson - kicked off a four-week run on Friday in front of an audience of about 200.
There was very little opera but a lot of Broadway. The goal was to create a show where the tenors did more than just sing.
"What I didn't want was another show where a guy comes out and sings and then goes back and another guy goes back out and sings...You need a variety show," said Sunny Thompson, who directed and arranged the show.
From country to Broadway, The Four Tenors performed a variety of songs that went back generations, but were still familiar enough to encourage a younger alto to join in.
"I think I was singing every song they did through it. It was impossible to sit still," said Amber Olson of Walla Walla.
The show started with the country classic "Ghost Riders in the Sky," and then continued with the American folk classic, "Shenandoah," which was followed by a genre of music that dominated the show: Broadway classics.
"They Call the Wind Mariah," "Impossible Dream," "Music of the Night" - the litany of Broadway classics went on for most of the two-hour performance, with a good mixture of slow-moving dramatic pieces and quick lively songs.
Even among the tenors there was a good deal of variety.
On one end of the spectrum was the clean, straight rock singing of Nielson; on the other was the dramatic sounding, traditional vibrato ending notes of James, who was also the tallest and longest-haired member of the group.
"I loved it. The harmony, all of them together. I loved the guy with the long hair," said Carolyn Lee of Kennewick.
All four singers had moments where they captivated the audience, but it was Morgan's classical opera piece that captured the hearts of many early in the show, even though most didn't understand the Italian words to Puccini's "Nessum Dorma." Ironically, the song was one of Pavarotti's signature arias.
"I don't know the name of it, but it made me cry. It was so felt from the soul. It got to me," Lee said.
Other heart-moving moments included Josh Groban's "You Raise Me Up," which also lifted Brooks' Irish tenor voice to a high D-flat; officially, it was the highest note sung in the show and pulled at many heartstrings.
"If there are dry eyes in the house then I didn't do my job," Brooks said.
As the Irish tenor, Brooks also moved the audience with the classic "Danny Boy," sung with an Irish brogue.
There was also good old-fashion rock 'n' roll, like Bon Jovi's "Livin' On A Prayer" and Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," which had the three remaining tenors singing rock-opera backup for Brian Damson.
Many of the pieces were accompanied with comedy skits and even a little mischief, as the four performers interacted to keep the audience laughing between songs.
"I like how they kept it comical, especially the ‘Homecoming Queen' song," said Clayton Beckman of Prescott.
The first half of the show was a good hour, and when it was over, it may have left members of the audience wondering how the The Four Tenors would top themselves for the second half.
They did it with the use of props, dancing, skits, some impressive rifle juggling and more Broadway classics that included music from "West Side Story," "South Pacific, "On The Town" and more.
The Power House Theatre performances will be the second major run for The Four Tenors, who recently finished more than 100 shows at the Seven Feathers Casino Resort in Canyonville, Ore.
Thompson said she worked hard to come up with a grouping of songs that would entertain and touch the Walla Walla audience.
When the performance was over, she was touched as well.
"They got a standing ovation tonight and I cried," Thompson said.
Where the group will perform next after the Power House Theatre run is still up in the air, but all four are hoping they will continue to sing and tour together.
"If it's not fun then we won't do it in our show ... People forget, it's not the music business. It's the entertainment business," James said.
The Four Tenors will perform a matinee today at 3 p.m.; their last performance at the Power House Theatre will be a Feb. 26 matinee.
To learn more about tickets and show times, including a special Valentines dinner show, go online to www.phtww.com or call the theater box office at 529-6500.
Alfred Diaz can be reached at Alfreddiaz@wwub.com or 526-8325.