The Pops’ cheerful music director Steven Reineke provided informative commentary about the celebrants’ careers in addition to very skillfully conducting the superb 78-piece orchestra.
The event’s structure was selections from shows Ms. O’Hara and Mr. Sher collaborated on and shows that they were separately involved with.
The sensational highlight of the concert was a medley from South Pacific. “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right out of My Hair” had the luminous Ashley Park euphorically performing that showstopper. Ms. Park was filling in for the previously announced and indisposed Laura Osnes. Female members of The Camp Broadway Kids Ensemble, who were dressed in colorful outfits and sailor caps, wonderfully joined Park. This thrilling production number was representative of Cynthia Thole’s vigorous direction and choreography.
For “There’s Nothing Like a Dame,” Danny Burstein raucously sang, accompanied by male members of The Camp Broadway Kids Ensemble in sailor caps. This ensemble was composed of energetic and talented children.
Paulo Szot majestically sang “Some Enchanted Evening.” Mr. Szot and Mr. Burstein appeared with O’Hara in Sher’s 2008’s celebrated revival of South Pacific that also stared O’Hara.
A novel portion was the world premiere of composer Nico Muhly’s Patterns with Direction. This symphonic piece had soaring qualities that recalled the grandeur of Disney’s Fantasia, and the works of John Williams. Mr. Muhly for Sher wrote this as a gift. It was in appreciation of Sher having directed his opera Two Boys in 2010.
Sher made his opera directorial debut at The Metropolitan Opera in 2006 with Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. Opera star Isobel Leonard flawlessly sang “’Una voce poco fa” from it.
It was for Sher’s spectacular 2015 revival of The King and I that O’Hara after five previous nominations won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for the role of Anna. Marin Mazzie’s commanding “Hello, Young Lovers” and O’Hara’s Tony winning co-star Ruthie Anne Miles’ powerful “Something Wonderful” represented that production.
Judy Kuhn and Rebecca Luker later joined Ms. Mazzie for a delightful rendition of Jule Styne, Betty Comden and Adolph Green’s “Make Someone Happy” from Bells Are Ringing, presented as an ode to O’Hara.
Another festive selection was The Pops’ playing “Happy Birthday” and the audience singing along to Karen Van Bergen, the CEO of Omnicom Public Relations Group Inc. Ms. Van Bergen was the evening’s corporate honoree, and her birthday was the next day.
The 2014 musical adaptation of the novel The Bridges of Madison County was another Sher production O’Hara starred in. That show’s composer and lyricist Jason Robert Brown joined The Pops at the piano for a symphonic suite from the show that was the concert’s wistful opening number. Steven Pasquale, the show’s male lead, later terrifically sang “It All Fades Away.”
Matthew Broderick and Chris Sullivan did a comedy routine and then their comedic duet “Blah, Blah, Blah” from Nice Work If You Can Get It that they performed in with O’Hara in 2012. Brian D’Arcy James sang the dramatic “At the Fountain” from 2002’s Sweet Smell of Success that he appeared in with O’Hara. Sher directed the 2015 revival of Fiddler on the Roof, and that production’s Motel, Adam Kantor, sang an upbeat “Miracle of Miracles.”
The fitting finale was O’Hara who wore a lavish black gown during her shimmering rendition of “Fable” from 2005’s The Light in the Piazza, the first show of Sher’s that she appeared in.
The entire cast returned for a marvelous encore of the title song from Nice Work If You Can Get It.
The New York Pops 34th Birthday Gala: Something Wonderful (May 1, 2017)
Carnegie Hall, Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage, 881 7th Avenue at 57th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-247-7800 or visit http://www.carnegiehall.org
For information on The New York Pops, visit http://www.newyorkpops.org
Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission