On October 27, at Carnegie Hall, the New York Pops opened its 35th season with a celebration of its musical history, from founding Music Director Skitch Henderson (1918-2005) to presiding Music Director Steven Reineke, beginning his ninth season, in a concert, under Reineke’s canny baton, of favorites from its repertory, featuring a pair of fresh-voiced Broadway singers. The evening, celebrating the centennial of Henderson’s birth, was billed as “That’s Entertainment: From Skitch to Steven.”
Victor Herbert’s “Festival March,” the first selection Henderson had led in the first Pops concert in 1983, also served as this performance’s overture, rousing and celebratory, and including variations on “Auld Lang Syne.”
Sweet-voiced soprano Ali Ewoldt sang an enthusiastic “I Could Have Danced All Night,” from Lerner and Loewe’s “My Fair Lady,” and a delicate “Summertime,” from the Gershwins and DuBose Heyward’s “Porgy and Bess,” with a quiet gossamer high note and descending figure at the end. Ewoldt and tenor Matt Doyle collaborated on a romantic and mellifluous “People Will Say We’re in Love,” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!,” which Henderson first performed on radio, with Dorothy Kirsten and Frank Sinatra. Doyle caressed lines of Isham Jones and Gus Kahn’s “It Had to Be You,” in Marc Shaiman’s orchestration, and Cole Porter’s “Night and Day,” from “The Gay Divorcee,” in Nelson Riddle’s arrangement, adapted by Tim Berens, with blazing fanfares as orchestral interludes in the former and in the latter, sinuous and seductive passages instead.
The concert continued with Henderson’s arrangements of Irving Berlin’s “I Love a Piano,” featuring pianist Lee Musiker and guest conducted by Paul P. Bernstein, and Claude Debussy’s “Clair de lune,” the first sprightly and the second, led by Reineke, lush and haunting. Jule Styne’s overture to “Gypsy,” now brash and boisterous, then warm and tender, followed. Henderson had performed it at his final Pops concert, in October 2005.
Reineke offered his own “Celebration Fanfare,” ringing and impassioned. Ewoldt and Doyle returned for an ardent Balcony Scene—“Only you … Tonight”—from “West Side Story,” with music by Leonard Bernstein, also marking a centennial in 2018, and words by Stephen Sondheim. We heard Kurt Weill’s “Mack the Knife,” from “The Threepenny Opera,” in Reineke’s rollicking arrangement, with a big Broadway finish.
From Andrew Lloyd Webber, Charles Hart, and Richard Stilgoe’s “The Phantom of the Opera,” in which she currently stars as the musical’s first Asian-American Christine, Ewoldt gave us a crystalline “Think of Me,” capped by a silvery cadenza. Ewoldt and Doyle joined forces for a fervent “Before and After You/One Second and a Million Miles,” from Jason Robert Brown’s “The Bridges of Madison County,” with a striking a cappella verse for Doyle. Doyle played Elder Price in Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, and Matt Stone’s “The Book of Mormon,” and here he sang Price’s optimistic “You and Me (But Mostly Me),” coming to terms with being sent to Uganda instead of Orlando, Florida, with Reineke singing Elder Cunningham’s lines.
Reineke took to the piano for Henry Mancini’s arrangement of Ennio Morricone’s Love Theme from Giuseppe Tornatore’s film “Cinema Paradiso,” played with heart, with the orchestra. John Williams’ “Raiders March,” from “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” was the triumphant finale and Ewoldt, Doyle, Reineke, and the Pops’ encore was “Almost Like Being in Love,” from Lerner and Loewe’s “Brigadoon.”
The next New York Pops concert will be “Women of Notes: In Dedication to Female Composers and Lyricists,” with Betsy Wolfe and Adam Kantor, on November 17 at 8 at Carnegie Hall. The Pops’ 35th Birthday Gala will take place on April 30 and Alan Menken will be the musical honoree. Visit www.newyorkpops.org
for further information.