April 29th, 2013
By Joel Benjamin
What better way to celebrate any occasion, let alone a 30th anniversary than in the company of Jule Styne, Danny Kaye and Frank Loesser? Steven Reineke, the Pops’ Music Director, led an energetic program of the Broadway masterpieces by the two composers performed by a who’s who of stage personalities. A touching video tribute to Danny Kaye, introduced by his daughter Dena, was shown midway in the festivities. This stroll down Kaye’s life only proved what a great man he was and why he will always be missed.
Jule Styne’s Gypsy Overture was a perfect slam-bam opening. It was followed by a medley of songs from that show performed by the youngsters of the Camp Broadway Kids.
Three legendary songs from Funny Girl were sung with extraordinary power by Stephanie J. Block (“Don’t Rain on My Parade”), Betsey Wolfe (“The Music That Makes Me Dance”) and Laura Osnes (“People”). Although, let’s face it, no one can eclipse Ms. Streisand, these three singers came close.
Laura Benanti was tender in “Neverland.” It was a special thrill to hear Leslie Uggams sing the song she made famous 46 years ago, “My Own Morning” from Hallelujah, Baby. If anything, Ms. Uggams sang it with more depth and heart now. She was glorious. Megan Hilty repeated her Encores! role from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes in an applause milking “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.”
The second half of the program featured the music of Frank Loesser, beginning with a sweetly tender “Inchworm” sung by Kelli O’Hara with the help of the Ronald McDonald House Rockin’ the House Band and Chorus. Donna Murphy was equally touching singing “The Ugly Duckling.”
More upbeat was the “Fugue for Tinhorns” from Guys and Dolls given a humorously tough guy interpretation by three Broadway stars: Nick Adams, Will Chase and Max von Essen. Keeping up the light mood was Liz Callaway who was absolutely hilarious in “How to Succeed/I Believe In You” wittily using an iPhone to bring the songs up to date. (You had to be there!)
The Most Happy Fella, Loesser’s major operatic achievement, of course, had to be represented. Kelli O’Hara sang “Somebody, Somewhere” in an operatic voice that was both surprising and thrilling while Anthony Warlow’s “Rosabella” caused many tears to flow with his moving interpretation. Not to be over-shadowed, the great Marilyn Maye took “Joey, Joey, Joey” and made it her own, a quiet anthem to a wondering soul.
Maestro Reineke chose to end the program with Victor Herbert’s “Festival March” which opened the Pops very first concert 30 years ago, utilizing all the performers to make this an uplifting ending to a great concert.
The New York Pops – 30th Birthday Gala
April 29th, 2013