Guest Artists | Page 3 | The Philly Pops

Guest Artists


Ashley Brown, vocalist

Ashley Brown originated the title role in Mary Poppins on Broadway for which she received Outer Critics, Drama League and Drama Desk nominations for Best Actress. Ashley also starred as Mary Poppins in the national tour which earned her a 2010 Garland award for “Best Performance in a Musical.” Her other Broadway credits include Belle in The Beauty and The Beast, and she has starred in the national tour of Disney's On The Record.

Ashley recently returned to the Lyric Opera of Chicago to star in the role of Laurey in Oklahoma.  She previously played Magnolia opposite Nathan Gunn in Francesca Zembello’s Showboat at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Ashley has performed with virtually all of the top orchestras in North America. She has also performed with the BBC orchestra opposite Josh Groban.

Ashley made her solo concert debut at the Kennedy Center as part of Barbara Cook’s Spotlight Series, and has appeared in New York City at prestigious venues including Feinstein’s at the Regency and Birdland. Other projects include a star turn at the La Jolla Playhouse in a production of Limelight, Sound of Music at the St. Louis MUNY which garnered her a Kevin Kline award, and her own PBS special called Ashley Brown: Call Me Irresponsible which received a PBS Telly Award.

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Bryce Ryness, vocalist

Bryce Ryness was last seen on Broadway in Matilda after originating the role of ‘Miss Trunchbull’ on the first national tour. He thrilled audiences and garnered critical praise for his unique interpretation of an extraordinary character.

Originally from California, Bryce Ryness traded coasts in 2006 to pursue his Broadway dreams. Since making "the move," he's appeared on The Great White Way in First Date, Leap of Faith, the 2009 Tony Award-winning revival of Hair at the Hirschfeld Theater (where he received a Drama Desk nomination for 'Best Featured Actor in a Musical') and Legally Blonde at the Palace. 

Off-Broadway, he’s premiered/originated roles in Milburn/Vigoda’s Long Story Short with Prospect Theater Company, Fly By Night, See Rock City & Other Destinations, Around The World in 80 Days and Crossing Brooklyn. Outside of New York, he's originated roles in the compelling Sleeping Beauty Wakes (McCarter Theater & La Jolla Playhouse), Floyd Collins (Los Angeles premiere) and Cabaret (Reprise Theater Co., LA). He also led the national touring company of Rent in 2006, playing ‘Roger’. 

With his band, Ryness, he's written and recorded two albums, available on iTunes. On Film: Tangled. On TV: Law & Order: SVU, Peter Pan Live!, It Could Be Worse, Political Animals, Just For Kicks, Late Show, and Tonight Show. Finally, Bryce has sung backup for international recording artists Josh Groban, Roger Daltrey and Sarah Brightman.

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Christina Saffran

Christina Saffran, vocalist

Christina Saffran’s Broadway career is extensive, having starred as Kathy Seldon in Singin’ in the Rain (cast recording), Maggie in A Chorus Line, Shoo Shoo in Sophisticated Ladies, Rosa Bud and Edwin Drood in Drood, and Zaneeta in The Music Man.

A true triple threat, audiences throughout the world have been thrilled by her leading performances in My Fair Lady, Showboat, South Pacific, Phantom, White Christmas, Jesus Christ Superstar, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Sunday in the Park with George, Damn Yankees, Sound of Music, Pajama Game, She Loves Me, Street Scene, Grease, Company, My One and Only, Chess, Aspects of Love, Me and My Girl, I Do I Do...the list goes on.

Her concert work includes a multitude of styles ranging from engagements as the lead chanteuse for Herbie Hancock, to soloist with numerous national symphony orchestras, and the Duke Ellington Orchestra, as well opening for Don Rickles, with her own show in Las Vegas.

She has provided animated voices for Disney’s Aladdin, Mulan, Magic Flute, 102 Dalmatians, A Bug’s Life, Armageddon, Pocahontas II, Hunchback II, and Lady and the Tramp II, and is heard on Enchanted, Cinderella, Galaxy Quest, Polar Express, Christmas with the Kranks, The Lorax and The Santa Clause II.  Her solo CD entitled Temporary Insanity is available at

Christina is a Founding Board member of Retinoblastoma International (, an active member of SGI-USA, and the International Committee of Artists for Peace. She is a private vocal teacher/vocal contractor in Los Angeles and is the mother of two amazing daughters, Grace and Emma.

Christopher Sieber, vocalist

Christopher Sieber received Tony Award nominations for his performances as Sir Galahad in Spamalot and Lord Farquaad in Shrek the Musical. His other Broadway credits include the revivals of La Cage aux Folles, Into the Woods and Chicago as well as Thoroughly Modern Millie, Triumph of Love and Beauty and the Beast. On screen, he is known for playing Dad to the Olsen twins on Two of a Kind.

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David Charles Abell, Principal Guest Conductor

David made his Philly POPS debut in 2013 with the Christmas Spectacular series and was delighted to be asked back to conduct it again in 2014 and 2015. Last season, he returned for Blockbuster Broadway, and was named Principal Guest Conductor of the Philly POPS shortly thereafter.

David grew up in Philadelphia. He attended Germantown Friends School from kindergarten through sixth grade and sang in the choir of Grace Church in Mt. Airy. He later attended Yale University and the Juilliard School, and studied at the Conservatoire américain in France with legendary pedagogue Nadia Boulanger.

At age 12, he met Leonard Bernstein while singing in the world premiere of Mass at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. Ten years later, he was asked to assist his teacher, John Mauceri, for the Tenth Anniversary production of Mass. This led to a close association with Bernstein, both as a conducting student and as an editor of Bernstein’s music during the last decade of the composer’s life.

David’s face is widely known to American TV audiences from his conducting of the two Les Misérables Anniversary Concerts (10th and 25th), both of which have become PBS fund-raising perennials. He regularly appears on radio and television in the UK, where he has lived since 1996. He has conducted five times at the BBC Proms, London’s annual music festival at the Royal Albert Hall, most notably for the immensely successful Sondheim 80th birthday celebration. Following his English National Opera debut with Sweeney Todd in 2015, he returned with Carousel to rave reviews last season.

David has conducted the French premieres of four Sondheim musicals: Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park With George, Into the Woods and Follies. In concert, he has worked with several French orchestras and will be making his debut with the Orchestra national de Lyon and the Orchestre national d’Île-de-France later this year.

His passion and expertise in the pit has earned him a thriving US opera career. Last September, he made his Opera Philadelphia debut with The Magic Flute. He has conducted Kevin Puts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning Silent Night to great acclaim at three U.S. companies. Later this season, he will be conducting Verdi’s Rigoletto in Kansas City and Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin at Hawaii Opera Theatre.

A desire to leave a lasting legacy prompted David to co-edit the first-ever scholarly critical edition of a classic Broadway hit: Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate. Using the model of authentic editions of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven, he and Seann Alderking unearthed the original 1948 orchestra parts for the show and meticulously created new scores and parts, now available for sale and rental. David has since conducted two productions of Kate based on the new edition.

His ever-increasing catalogue of recordings includes Something’s Gotta Give with baritone Simon Keenlyside, Forever with soprano Diana Damrau, excerpts from La bohème and Madama Butterfly with the Royal Philharmonic, Jonathan Dove’s community opera Tobias and the Angel, complete recordings of the musicals Miss Saigon and Man of La Mancha, and, exclusively for the Philly POPS, the 2015 Christmas Spectacular CD.

Debbie Gravitte, vocalist

One of Broadway’s biggest personalities, Debbie Gravitte received the Tony Award for her critically acclaimed performance in Jerome Robbins Broadway, along with the New York Showstopper Award and a Drama Desk Award nomination. She made her Broadway debut in the original cast of They’re Playing Our Song, and went on to appear in: Blues In The Night, Perfectly Frank (Drama Desk Award Nomination), Zorba, Ain’t Broadway Grand?, Chicago and Les Miserables.

Debbie appeared in London in Jerry Herman’s Mack and Mabel at the Drury Lane Theatre. She’s also been seen in the New York City Encores! productions of The Boys From Syracuse, Tenderloin, and Carnival at New York’s City Center. Debbie has performed her nightclub act worldwide, from New York’s Rainbow and Stars, to London’s Pizza On The Park. In Atlantic City, she’s had the honor to open for George Burns and Jay Leno.

Debbie has sung with over 100 orchestras worldwide, including National Symphony with Marvin Hamlisch, Cleveland Orchestra, Boston Pops, Cleveland Pops, the Philly POPS, Pittsburgh Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, San Diego Symphony, St. Louis Symphony,  and Houston Symphony. Overseas, she’s appeared with the London Symphony, Aalborg Symphony, Birmingham Symphony, Stockholm Philharmonic, Gotesborg Symphony, Jerusalem Symphony, The Royal Scottish National Orchestra, National Syphonica of Brazil, Munich Philharmonic, along with a special performance in Beijing with Lang Lang and the Chinese Philharmonic. Debbie is featured on many recordings including her 3 solo CDs: Defying Gravity, The Alan Menken Album, and The MGM Album.

She’s appeared on film in Isn’t She Great and The Little Mermaid, and on television in Trial and Error (CBS), Pursuit of Happiness (NBC), numerous PBS Specials including Broadway Plays Washington, Ira Gershwin’s 100th Birthday Live from Carnegie Hall, and In Concert with the Boston Pops. Debbie was featured in the Peter Martin’s ballet Thou Swell with the NYC Ballet.

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