The New York Pops continued their 34th season at Carnegie Hall on March 10 with “Life Is a Cabaret: The Songs of Kander and Ebb,” paying tribute not only the longtime creative partnership of composer John Kander and late lyricist Fred Ebb, but also celebrating Kander’s approaching 90th birthday, occurring on March 18. The delightful program of Kander and Ebb’s theater and film music was guided with flair by Music Director Steven Reineke and featured Broadway’s young Caissie Levy and Tony Yazbeck, making Carnegie Hall debuts.
Reineke and the Pops set the tone for the evening with rollicking Roaring Twenties-style orchestral selections from “Chicago”—a suite made up of the musical’s overture, “All That Jazz,” “Me and My Baby” and, arranged by Michael Gibson, “Mr. Cellophane.” Levy introduced herself with an awestruck and hopeful “Sing Happy,” in Sam Shoup’s arrangement, from “Flora the Red Menace,” Kander and Ebb’s first collaboration and vehicle for a very young Liza Minnelli’s Tony® Award-winning Broadway debut. Turning to “Cabaret’s” Kit Kat Club, Levy bade a lusty farewell to “Mein Herr,” as arranged by Oran Eldor. Levy and Yazbeck collaborated on a louche ode to “Money, Money,” also in Eldor’s edition, with an unusually moody beginning, sung by Yazbeck and, introduced by strains of “Willkommen,” issued a wholehearted invitation to “(come to the) Cabaret,” in Fred Barton’s arrangement. In a breakneck “Coffee in a Cardboard Cup,” in Barton’s version, from “70, Girls, 70,” Yazbeck considered the rushed pace of life.
“Chicago” selections, arranged by Barton, began with the Pops’ sizzling “Hot Honey Rag.” Levy anticipated fame, or infamy, as the notorious “Roxie (Hart),” and true to the lyric, the name on the orchestra and audience’s lips was, for a brief sing-along moment, indeed “Roxie!” Yazbeck gave us big shot lawyer Billy Flynn’s shady credo in a rocking “All I Care About (Is Love)” and let us in on the secret of using “Razzle Dazzle” to flimflam the public. Levy shared the surprising success-in-love story of New Yawker Shirley Devore in “Ring them Bells,” in Paul McKibbins’ version, from “Liza with a Z,” to close the first half of the performance in a burst of tintinnabulation.
The Pops’ “Gimme Love,” arranged by Tommy Newsom and transcribed by Tim Berens, from “Kiss of the Spiderwoman,” served as hot prelude for the second half of the evening. Levy became Fanny Brice for “How Lucky Can You Get,” in Barton’s edition, up-tempo, then thoughtful, with a socko climax, from “Funny Lady,” written for Barbra Streisand. Yazbeck held us rapt with a pensive, wistful “Sometimes a Day Goes By,” from “Woman of the Year,” accompanied solely by piano, and with a quiet head-tone ending, and saluted the allure of those “(pretty) City Lights,” as arranged by Shoup, from “The Act,” complete with energetic tap dance break. Levy embodied the free spirit who is “Everybody’s Girl,” in the song from “Steel Pier.”
Reineke and the Pops delivered a boisterous “Minstrel March,” arranged and orchestrated by Matt Podd, from “The Scottsboro Boys,” set in the Jim Crow-era South. Yazbeck offered a compelling waltz, “You, You, You,” orchestrated by Eldor, from the tale of obsession, revenge, and moral dilemma that is “The Visit,” and brave and brash survivor’s song “But the World Goes ’Round,” in David Snyder’s version, from “New York, New York.” The singer shared that he is working with Kander on the composer’s new “The Beast in the Jungle,” after Henry James. With the evening drawing near to its conclusion, Reineke led us all in singing “Happy Birthday” to John Kander, seated in a box above the parquet. Levy closed the program with a grand and brassy “Maybe this Time,” the torch song, arranged by Bob Krogstad, which became part of “Cabaret.” With their heartfelt encore “New York, New York,” Levy and Yazbeck honored both Kander and our city.
Next on tap for the Pops are “You’ve Got a Friend: A Celebration of Singers and Songwriters,” with Jonathan Groff and Adrienne Warren in music of James Taylor, Carole King, and others, on April 21, and the 34th Birthday Gala, honoring Kelli O’Hara, Bartlett Sher, and Omnicom PRG’s Karen van Bergen, on May 1, with guests Jason Robert Brown, Danny Burstein, Ruthie Ann Miles, Laura Osnes, Paulo Szot, and the Kids on Stage. For their 35th season, the Pops will present “That’s Entertainment: From Skitch to Steven,” with Matt Doyle and Ali Ewoldt, on October 27, commemorating the centennial of Pops Founder Skitch Henderson’s birth; “Women of Notes: in Dedication to Female Composers and Lyricists,” with Adam Kantor and Betsy Wolfe, on November 17; “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” the holiday concert, with Megan Hilty, on December 15; “Heart and Soul,” a rhythm-and-blues concert, with James Monroe Inglehart and Capathia Jenkins, on February 2, 2018; and “The Best of Hollywood: Blockbuster Film Scores,” on March 9. Visit www.newyorkpops.org
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