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The New York Pops: The Musical World of Lerner and Loewe

The Lerner and Loewe songbook gets The New York Pops treatment celebrating the 60th anniversary of “My Fair Lady.

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Soloists Colin Donnell, Laura Osnes and Nathan Gunn with music director Steven Reineke and The New York Pops in “The Musical World of Lerner and Loewe” (October 14, 2016) (Photo credit: Richard Termine)

Soloists Colin Donnell, Laura Osnes and Nathan Gunn with music director Steven Reineke and The New York Pops in “The Musical World of Lerner and Loewe” (October 14, 2016) (Photo credit: Richard Termine)

Joel Benjamin

Joel Benjamin, Critic

In a cabaret/concert world dominated by the American Songbook and Stephen Sondheim, the oeuvre of Alan Jay Lerner and Fritz Loewe is often overlooked.  So, it was with great anticipation that I attended the New York Pops’ opening night program at Carnegie Hall, “The Musical World of Lerner and Loewe,” celebrating the 60th anniversary of the team’s My Fair Lady.

Music Director/Conductor Steven Reineke chose three fine singers, Colin Donnell, Laura Osnes and Nathan Gunn, to animate the Lerner and Loewe songbook, along with the terrific choir, Essential Voices USA (Judith Clurman, Music Director). They, plus the lusty sounding New York Pops, brought songs from Camelot, Paint Your Wagon, Gigi, Brigadoon and, the biggest hit, My Fair Lady to life.

Mr. Donnell, blessed with a light theatrical tenor, was given several major ballads, such as “If Ever I Would Leave You,” “Come to Me, Bend to Me” and the lovely “On the Street Where You Live.”  His low-keyed interpretations, more pop than musical theater, had a pleasant lightness. (On a totally unrelated note:  Mr. Donnell might want to reconsider the publicity photo that adorned his program bio which had no relation to the man on stage.)

Mr. Gunn, an opera star, doesn’t quite have the right style for these songs, yet the sheer size of his voice was impressive.  Nevertheless, he caught the humor of “Camelot,” the largeness of “They Call the Wind Maria,” but somehow missed the sense of eagerness and discovery in “Gigi.”

Laura Osnes can do no wrong.  Her bright, light soprano put her right in her element moving elegantly from the bouncy “How Can I Wait” to the wistful “Say a Prayer for Me Tonight” to the angry “Show Me” and on to “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly,” assisted by four male soloists from the Essential Voices USA.  She stopped the show with “I Could Have Danced All Night” which she reprised as a sing-along finale with the other guest artists helping out.

The three soloists interacted nicely in “The Rain in Spain,” showing some charm and animation.  Ms. Osnes and Mr. Donnell swooped through “I Talk to the Trees” while she and Mr. Gunn weren’t quite believable as an old couple in “I Remember It Well,” but did much better with the sweet “Heather on the Hill.”

The Essential Voices USA were given several up tunes such as “There’s a Coach Comin’ In” and “I’m On My Way,” and were terrifically exciting.

Maestro Reineke guided his New York Pops through the Johnny Green arrangements with wit and attention to detail, but in the end it was the genius of Lerner’s witty lyrics and the Loewe’s brilliant melodies that triumphed.

The New York Pops:  “The Musical World of Lerner and Loewe” (October 14, 2016)

Carnegie Hall, 154 West 57th Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 212-247-7800 or visit http://www.carnegiehall.org

For more information, visit http://www.nypops.org

Running time: two hours including one intermission

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Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief
About Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief (624 Articles)
Victor Gluck was a drama critic and arts journalist with Back Stage from 1980 – 2006. He started reviewing for TheaterScene.net in 2006, where he was also Associate Editor from 2011-2013, and has been Editor-in-Chief since 2014. He is a voting member of The Drama Desk, the Outer Critics Circle, the American Theatre Critics Association, and the Dramatists Guild of America. His plays have been performed at the Quaigh Theatre, Ryan Repertory Company, St. Clements Church, Nuyorican Poets Café and The Gene Frankel Playwrights/Directors Lab.

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