"The deepest respect and honor I can give to my teachers is to share their brilliance, knowledge, passion and love with my own students and be the best teacher I was taught to be." Chris Arroyo
On the evening of September 15, 2001 this Broadway critic found herself in Miami, Florida. In a week full of images of a city torn, this reporter would have preferred to be in the city of her heart rather than amongst the palms. Ms. Chris Arroyo (pronounced A*roy as in Rogers*yo as in a Philadelphia greeting) performed a special "Past Time" vocal concert. It's not Broadway, but how bad could it be?
There are many who have lovely singing voices. Arroyo is not one of these people. There are far fewer who have lovely singing voices and can stop a show. Arroyo is not among them either. There are an immeasurably small number of people who have lovely singing voices, can stop a show, and can stop your heart at the same time. Ms. Arroyo belongs to that elite bastion In Part I, Arroyo handled the tongue-twistingly difficult Sondheim lyrics as if it were a walk in the park...or would that be woods? Beyond that, she captured the theatrical moment each number promises. Having seen live Broadway productions of these selected pieces, I was amazed at what I was hearing. For a moment, I thought I was on Broadway.
In Part II, Arroyo looks at not really what it would be like to be a man, but what it would be like to have wonderfully strong and meaningful songs written for your strengths. Ms. Arroyo, looking nothing like a man, I might add, did each justice. The touching tribute to the British songbird, Julie Andrews, was a sentimental favorite. Arroyo seemed to be inside each of those songs, as if they were a part of her too. Ms. Andrews would have been moved.
But the best was yet to come. I got to sit right behind the family of Ms. Arroyo. As she sang tributes to her father, mother, husband, children with the Lord, and those on earth, and to her beloved students, I have rarely encountered emotions so raw and yet at the same time hauntingly elegant. Any review would pale at describing one who feels so deeply about the people in her life. Yet, the key to unlocking this depth was still to come.This half dove, half lioness took stage and shared with the audience what was in her heart. Her life-long stand against prejudice, her joy in the Lord, and her courage of calling hate, regardless of how sanitized the package, exactly what it is: hate, did in words what her songs had done earlier... stopped the show. Elegance, beauty, talent, heart, and soul; of this magnitude are beyond the ordinary. Ms. Arroyo surely is in singing's and perhaps humanity's royalty. There were only two flaws in her performance, one minor and one major. Before beginning part IV, there should have been a flashing sign on the wall behind her, "Warning: Kleenex Alert: Blink at Your Own Risk." This reviewer can forgive that oversight. However, her major blunder is more difficult to overlook.
After the performance I spoke with Ms. Arroyo's mother, Jeanne Bohm. Ms. Bohm radiated the kind of beauty one is blessed with in youth but fades very rapidly without it emanating from within. Her look and graciousness belies her almost 80 years. She told me the disturbing news that this was a one time event. Such God-given gifts should not be under a bushel. While she works diligently passing on her love of life and music to the next generation, occasionally, one needs to hear from the original. I left my name and number with Mr. Bob Bohm and told him if Ms. Arroyo performs again, to please let me know. There have been so many ugly sounds this week, both sounds of mass destruction and sounds of their birth: hateful rhetoric. Ms. Chris Arroyo's sounds of beauty and love came just in time.