Mac-Haydn Theatre shines the light on one of its best and brightest. 

If theater patrons are fortunate enough, every once in a while they are treated to watching an “unknown” perform whose incandescent light shines on the stage, brightens up the theater and you know you have seen IT. The IT is that indescribable something that makes a performer stand out from the crowd, not upstaging the rest of the performers but simply reaching across the footlights and engulfing the audience as if to say, I am here. Nine years ago, the Mac-Haydn Theatre introduced its audience to such a performer. Laura Helm, Hartt School of Music senior, at the time, auditioned on a fluke and scored the role of Nancy in Oliver. 

Photo by Ann Kielbasa

Helm returned to the Mac stage over the next seven or so summers breathing new life into roles in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Rent, Young Frankenstein and Les Miz among others. She has gone on to lead national touring companies in productions of Jekyll and Hyde and Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  She has appeared too with NSMT, Goodspeed, Hartford Stage to name a few.  

All of which brings her full circle to a return engagement at the Mac where she performed her solo act, Laura’s at the Helm. Laura’s at the Helm is one of Mac-Haydn’s limited performance series that runs through October 1. 

To those who know Laura from her time with the venerable summer stock troupe in the country, it was a wonderful opportunity to get caught up and revel in her enchanting persona and voice. She fills the theater once again with her rich tones, soft soothing sounds, and belting hard hitting power. An eclectic mix of popular songs of Lady Gaga, Celine Dion, to a range of Broadway; Oliver’s As Long As He Needs Me, Bring On The Men from Jekyll and Hyde, Sideshow’s I Will Never Leave You to name but a few.  She is backed by a five piece orchestra led by her Musical Director David Maglione, with whom she has worked the past several years to put the show together. 

Photo by Ann Kielbasa

 Helm is supported by two backup performers, Mac-Haydn’s company manager, Madison Stratton and Mac veteran stand out, Gabe Belyeu. The two support her well on the stage and each is offered and successfully grabs, their moments in the spotlight. Stratton in a stirring moving duet, Sideshow’s I Will Never Leave You was a highlight of the evening. Their harmonies soared and together, their voices filled the theater with magic. Belyeu’s duet was a more comical approach with their rendition of Anything Can Happen in the Woods, from Into the Woods. Gabe flitted, flirted and owned the stage during his comic rendition of the Prince to Helm’s straight laced performance giving him an opportunity to shine and shine brightly. 

Helm’s banter with the audience was pleasant, it started out a bit stilted and forced but as the evening wore on and she relaxed, it became much more conversational and casual.  

If there was one shortcoming to the evening, it was the show’s length. The evening ran a scant 60 minutes and had no encores. One just had settled in and begun to soak up the aura that is Laura, leaving the audience asking for more. 

Photo by Ann Kielbasa

Helm is planning on taking her show to Feinstein’s 54 Below in New York next April. If you didn’t have the opportunity to see her at Mac-Haydn, make it your business to find out the dates she’s going to be at 54 Below and take a trip to the City. It’s worth it, just to see the star shine on stage. 

For the remainder of the Mac-Haydn summer in the fall schedule, check out their website www.machaydntheatre.org or call the box office at 518-392-9292. 

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