New Jersey Symphony Orchestra’s (NJSO) Valentine’s Day treat, “Dancing and Romancing,” put us in brand new place–with some favorite songs. This new-stalgia created fresh looks and fresh memories for a very traditional holiday.
The Saturday and Sunday, February 11 and 12 performances began with sing-alongs for the early-comers, hosted by pianist Allison Brewster Franzetti, who expertly adjusted keys to the general range of the audience. We sang “People Will Say We’re in Love” and “We’ve Only Just Begun,” among several selections, together. The erstwhile choral finale was, of course, “As Time Goes By.”
A few short steps brought us into the theatre, and into familiar hands. NJSO performed under the baton of Gemma New, formerly associate conductor for the orchestra. She has a very busy schedule these days, ranging from music director of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra in Ontario, Canada to resident conductor of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, just to name a few–her dance card, rather conducting card, is very full!
Maestra New was joined by Joan Hess and Kirby Ward, who provided commentary, song, and stellar dance to while away a rainy afternoon. Ward observed it was a great day to be indoors, but missing a bit of sunlight would have been fine with such winsome talents onstage.
Among witty banter, we enjoyed NJSO making overtures, like “Girl Crazy” and “42nd Street,” and solo and duet singing and dancing from Hess and Ward. There were several moments of delight, including the duet “You’re Just in Love,” the swing dancing for “In the Mood,” and the orchestra playing “Sing Sing Sing,” where there wasn’t a still foot in the house, and several people were remembering their own dance moves, while watching the athletic beauty of swing dancing in the hands of masters. And that was just the first act!
The second act included a bit of radio-esque derring do. There was a delightful Brylcreem ad, reminding us that the mid-century modern era had its share of metrosexuals. “Carioca” brought a beautifully exotic Latin break that may spur a mini run on Arthur Murray’s Dance Studios, and the shtick we had already come to expect from the trio, continued. Conductor New was an arch member of the cast, assisting with mood, for instance, with a water pistol for Ward’s “Singing in the Rain,” as well as singing a line or two with the cast. Equally enchanting and enlivening was Hess’ arrangement, with Fred Barton, of “I’m Gonna Live Till I Die”–torchy, then swinging. The grand finale included the ever-popular “Shall We Dance” and a medley that included Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile” and “When You’re Smiling” to send us with warm hearts into the chilly afternoon.
There is SO much more to the season, don’t miss a moment. Xian Zhang’s premiere season is coming! Book your tickets now at www.njsymphony.org