Blackhurst brings her celebrated Ethel Merman songfest to BPAC

“You’ll never see a better show about the First Lady of Broadway than Everything the Traffic Will Allow. Anyone who loves classic musicals and standards from the Great American songbook will be enthralled,” new Bradshaw Performing Arts Center Executive Director Morgan Sills enthuses over Klea Blackhurst’s Everything the Traffic Will Allow: The Songs and Sass of Ethel Merman Thursday, Sept. 29 at 7 p.m.

And here’s the twist: Blackhurst doesn’t imitate Merman. To quote one of The New York Times raves, “This is not a voice that’s a cloned impression, but a stylistic relative of Merman’s, with its own personality.”

Blackhurst explains, “I’ve just always loved Ethel Merman since I was a little kid and if you like musical theatre and you like original cast albums, those are the ones — Gypsy and Annie Get Your Gun — that right out of the gate were transcendent. And I just thought that’s how women sound. A lot of people were like, “Don’t do that, you don’t wanna be in the Merman world.” I said, “Well, wait and see how I’m gonna do it. I don’t play her, I don’t impersonate her.” It’s just me paying tribute to the greatest theatrical personality, in my opinion, of all time.

“Merman’s really almost embarrassingly easy to research. Her career actively on Broadway spans 1930-1970. In terms of the American musical, she’s right at the center of the storm of every important person: from George Gershwin to Cole Porter to Jule Styne to Stephen Sondheim. Name a star or a personality and somehow it connects through her.”

Klea combines hilarious anecdotes with careful research to tell the story of Merman’s Tony Award winning, one-of-a-kind Broadway career. Songs Merman introduced, from “You’re the Top” and “Blow Gabriel Blow” from Anything Goes, “Ev’rything’s Comin’ Up Roses” from Gypsy, and the show business anthem, “There’s No Business Like Show Business” from Annie Get Your Gun are part of the show, along with some lovely and rarely-heard Merman rarities. All in all, there’s a song from every Broadway show “The Merm” appeared in. As Variety exclaimed, “One can almost hear Merman’s encouraging words from the wings, ‘Sing out, Klea!’”

“And there’s a bonus,” says Sills. “Anyone who loves performing in musicals will want to join us for Klea’s musical theatre master class. We’re so thrilled to have a professional like Klea teaching while she’s here. There are observer and participant slots available.” The master class is Friday afternoon, Sept. 30 at 1 p.m. in BPAC’s McPherson Theater.

BPAC’s mainstage series continues with iconic guitarist/entertainer Charo (Oct. 21), standup comedian Joe DeVito from Fox News Channel’s Gutfeld (Jan. 28), legendary vocal group The Four Freshmen (March 3) and Tony Award winning Broadway star Kelli O’Hara, currently on HBO’s The Gilded Age, on March 31. Single tickets and money-saving season ticket packages are available.

Tickets may be purchased for all shows and masterclasses at or

Feature photo: Klea Blackhurst. Photo provided.

~Written by Sandhills Sentinel contributor Eddie Carmichael.

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