On May 1, the New York Pops, led by Music Director Steven Reineke, concluded its season at Carnegie Hall with a 34th Birthday Gala, aptly entitled “Something Wonderful,” honoring Broadway soprano Kelli O’Hara and director Bartlett Sher, and Omnicom PR Group CEO Karen van Bergen. Featured were distinguished colleagues of O’Hara and Sher and music from works that they’ve been associated with, separately and together.
From Jason Robert Brown’s “The Bridges of Madison County,” which starred O’Hara and was directed by Sher on Broadway, came the world premiere of a new symphonic suite, contemplative and lyrical, with a triumphant ending, arranged and orchestrated by Brown, who was at the piano, and an affectionate “It All Fades Away,” sung by Steven Pasquale, with fluent high vocalises near the end. Brian d’Arcy James sang a propulsive “At the Fountain,” from Marvin Hamlisch and Craig Carnelia’s “Sweet Smell of Success,” with drive and then wistfulness. Matthew Broderick and Chris Sullivan were O’Hara’s colleagues in “Nice Work if You Can Get It,” featuring George and Ira Gershwin songs and, here, they reduced writing love songs to a formula in the comic “Blah, Blah, Blah.”
Sher directed the current Broadway production of Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick’s “Fiddler on the Roof,” from which came Adam Kantor’s awed “Miracle of Miracles,” in which an amazed Motel Kamzoil celebrates that Tevye and Golde’s daughter Tzeitel will be his bride. One of the operas that Sher directed at the Metropolitan Opera is Gioachino Rossini’s “Il Barbiere di Siviglia,” and mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard was on hand to give us a bright bel canto “Una voce poco fa.” Nico Muhly, whose opera “Two Boys” Sher directed in its world premiere at the Met, dedicated a new “Patterns with Direction,” a curious soaring and booming piece, to Sher. Twenty young Kids on Stage played beside the Pops musicians in this performance.
Sher directed two Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II Broadway revivals, in which O’Hara starred, “South Pacific” and “The King and I.” From the former, with the Pops’ Camp Broadway Kids Ensemble assisting, Ashley Park led the company in an enthusiastic “I’m Gonna Wash that Man Right out of My Hair;” Danny Burstein was featured in an energetic “There Is Nothing Like a Dame;” and Paulo Szot seduced us all with “Some Enchanted Evening.” From the latter, Marin Mazzie offered a warm, feeling “Hello, Young Lovers” and Ruthie Ann Miles delivered a classically-sculpted “Something Wonderful,” the evening’s ‘title song.’ Orchestrations by Robert Russell Bennett were employed for all of these selections.
Judy Kuhn, Rebecca Luker, and Mazzie saluted O’Hara with a dulcet “Make Someone Happy,” by Jule Styne, Betty Comden, and Adolph Green, from “Do Re Mi,” in Fred Barton’s arrangement. O’Hara and Sher first worked together in Adam Guettel’s “The Light in the Piazza,” and to conclude the gala in style, O’Hara herself at last took the stage for a breathtaking “Fable,” with orchestration by Guettel and Ted Sperling.
For information on the New York Pops’ 2017-2018 season, visit www.newyorkpops.org