Two former Modestans who have gone on to Broadway success will perform in the Modesto Symphony Orchestra's Holiday Pops program Nov. 30-Dec. 1 at the Gallo Center for the Arts.
Morgan James, who will soon perform in her fourth Broadway show "Motown the Musical" and release her debut solo CD on Epic Records, and Jeremy Stolle, who has been in "Phantom of the Opera" for five years, will duet on "Baby It's Cold Outside" and will each sing a few holiday solos in the Modesto program.
The show will be conducted by Ming Luke and will feature performances by the 150-voice Modesto Symphony Orchestra Chorus and Expressions Children's Chorale, as well as an appearance by Santa Claus.
James, a 1999 Johansen High School graduate, performed on Broadway in "Godspell" (singing "Turn Back O Man"), "Wonderland" (playing the starring role of Alice) and "The Addams Family" (in the ensemble).
Her most exciting career news to date is that she was signed to a four-album deal with Epic Records in August. She releases her first album, "Morgan James Live," a tribute to jazz singer Nina Simone recorded at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola at New York's Lincoln Center, on Dec. 4, but the label is letting her sell some advance copies at the Modesto concert.
"It's the best six months I've ever had," James said in a recent phone interview from New York. "I've been very, very lucky. It's a very exciting time in my life. There's nothing more humbling then a dream fulfilled. When things come true for you, it's very fulfilling."
She said she got the deal through the help of her mentor Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown Records, and Doug Morris, who is president of Sony Music Entertainment, which owns Epic.
"They really believe in me," James said. "The most important thing is not getting a record deal but having people believe in you. That is rare and very hard to come by."
She will play a variety of roles in "Motown the Musical," a show Gordy wrote about his life. It is scheduled to open in April on Broadway.
In Modesto, James will solo on "All I want For Christmas is You," "Let There Be Peace on Earth" and "Defying Gravity," from the musical "Wicked."
She and Stolle are good friends, have known each other since they were teens and have toured together internationally. She said the hardest part about singing with him is that it's hard to keep a straight face. "He's totally goofball," she said.
Stolle , a 1994 Modesto High School graduate, fills in as Raoul and the Phantom in "Phantom of the Opera" on Broadway and is excited about the upcoming 25th anniversary of the show. He enjoys connecting with fans over Twitter, where he posts backstage photos and answers questions. In his off time, he also performs with the touring group Bravo Amici, a group of singers that performs classical cross-over, some opera and some Broadway.
Stolle is married and has two children, ages 3½ and 7 months meaning he doesn't get much sleep these days. He joked that his time to himself is from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.
For the Holiday Pops concert, he will solo on "Christmas Song" and "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas." He has done a lot of holiday performing in the past, including with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. He also performed at the Modesto Symphony Orchestra's holiday candlelight concerts six or seven times "when I was a nobody."
Both he and James said they are looking forward to coming home to Modesto and reconnecting with old friends and family. James said friends from all over the state will come to the concert.
Both said they hope to keep in contact with audience members later through their Twitter accounts, @JeremyStolle and @morganajames.
"Keep in touch with us and ask us questions," Stolle said.
WHAT: Modesto Symphony Orchestra Holiday Pops
WHEN: 8 p.m. Nov. 30 and 2 p.m. Dec. 1
WHERE: Rogers Theater, Gallo Center for the Arts, 1000 I St., Modesto
CALL: (209) 338-2100