On November 16 at Carnegie Hall, three top-notch ensembles, Music Director and Conductor Steven Reineke’s orchestra the New York Pops, Founder and Artistic Director Diana Byer’s troupe the New York Theatre Ballet, and Music Director and Conductor Judith Clurman’s chorus Essential Voices USA, collaborated on a fine salute to the Broadway musical, focusing on some of its memorable songs and dances and billed as “Song and Dance: The Best of Broadway.”
Reineke and the Pops started the evening with apt pizzazz with Jule Styne’s Overture to “Gypsy,” the quintessential show biz musical, orchestrated by Sid Ramin and Robert Ginzler. Excerpts from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!,” orchestrated by Robert Russell Bennett, introduced the Pops’ guests. Essential Voices USA sang title song “Oklahoma,” paying lively and harmonious tribute to the state when it was the newest in the union and, using Agnes de Mille’s original choreography, the NY Theatre Ballet gave us Dream Ballet selections “Surrey with the Fringe on Top,” with three dancing cowboys, and “I Cain’t Say No,” with three lady friends joining them. It was hard to resist singing along, here and during the Overture to “Anything Goes,” by Cole Porter, as arranged and orchestrated by Bill Elliott.
From Marvin Hamlisch and Edward Kleban’s “A Chorus Line,” we heard a spirited Overture, which Hamlisch added to the score sometime after the premiere, and which included “One,” “I Hope I Get It,” and “Nothing,” in Ralph Burns’ arrangement, with Essential Voices chiming in with “What I Did for Love,” and an orchestral reprise of “One” rounding off the section. Essential Voices contributed a heartfelt “Seasons of Love,” from Jonathan Larson’s “Rent,” in Randall Fleischer’s edition, with chorus soloists Becca Barrett and Luis Chavez doing their part.
Music by Leonard Bernstein, with Stephen Sondheim, from “West Side Story,” followed—a hot “Mambo,” the dance at the gym, and the “Tonight” quintet, the musical’s first act finale, arranged for chorus, from Essential Voices USA, with the sopranos capping it with long-sustained climactic high notes, a veritably grand finale to the concert’s first act.
A suite of four numbers from Kander and Ebb’s “Chicago,” arranged by Michael Gibson, featured a poised young guest trumpeter, 14-year-old Maggie Wakefield, thanks to the Pops’ PopsEd program, and she was entrusted with the familiar riff that begins “All That Jazz,” as well as a solo bit in “Mr. Cellophane.” Next came music from Lerner and Loewe’s “Brigadoon,” the Overture and, with a graceful septet of ballerinas, dancing steps devised by de Mille, “Come to Me, Bend to Me,” the melody of which Andrew Lloyd Webber filched for “The Phantom of the Opera’s” “Music of the Night.”
Essential Voices treated us to a haunting rendition of “Sunday,” the finale of Sondheim’s “Sunday in the Park with George,” in Jason Robert Brown’s version, and Theatre Ballet members—three sailors, assisted by five women—danced the hornpipe, “Blow High, Blow Low,” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel,” with de Mille’s original choreography and Don Walker’s orchestration. The Pops and Essential Voices turned to current Broadway hit “Dear Evan Hansen,” by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, for a rousing “You Will Be Found,” arranged by Mac Huff and orchestrated by Reineke, with soloists David Gabriel Lerner and Jacqueline Taylor in the spotlight and Lee Musiker at the piano.
Highlights of Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens’ “Ragtime” brought the concert to a close: with the Pops, with Musiker, playing the title song, the musical’s Prologue, in Reineke’s arrangement, and EV USA, with sonorous soloist Alonzo Johnson, offering proud and moving anthem “Make Them Hear You,” as arranged by Mark Hayes. The full company’s encore was “Do-Re-Mi,” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Sound of Music,” with audience sing-along.
The Pops, Essential Voices USA, and guest soloist Ashley Brown, Broadway’s original Mary Poppins, celebrate the holiday season with “Under the Mistletoe,” at Carnegie Hall on December 21 and 22 at 8 p.m. For tickets, visit www.carnegiehall.org
. There’ll be plenty of Christmas favorites, as well as Clurman’s arrangements of traditional Chanukah songs.