Taking turns performing sets of three or four songs at a time, both Hilty and Morrison brought to life songs that reminded them of childhood and adolescence, played tunes from their individual recording efforts, and–to the delight of the crowd–also rounded out the evening with a scattered collection of songs pulled from their respective Broadway and on-screen personas. Steven Reineke, the long-time conductor of The New York Pops Orchestra, was back as well for this second outing in Queens, and his enthusiasm and charisma were–as always–a binding thread of the evening.
After a brief intro from Mr. Reineke followed by a nostalgia inspiring performance of New York, New York from the orchestra, Morrison started the evening with the Frank Sinatra staple, Come Fly With Me. A natural showman with a classic vibe, Morrison fit this mold well and did no disservice to the timeless classic. Even though Morrison left the Broadway stage in January of this year, the spirit of Broadway is still alive in his performance, most specifically in the seamless 16-bar dance breaks choreographed into the orchestral interludes of the songs on which he was performing. A clever way to fill space and a signature of a true performer, Morrison’s energy and charisma was non-stop and infectious from beginning to end.
After a rousing edition of On the Street Where You Live, Morrison introduced his counterpart for the evening, and Ms. Hilty took the stage. Dressed in a gorgeous red ball gown that fell all the way to the floor, Hilty opened her portion of the set with a gender-bending take on Luck Be a Lady Tonight. Following her dive into the 1950’s came back-to-back showstoppers–first from her on-screen persona in the TV show Smash with They Just Keep Moving the Line, and then a crowd-pleasing performance of Wicked’s “Popular,” a nod to show with which she received her Broadway debut.
A presentation with two vocal stars of this caliber wouldn’t be complete without a duet, and the crowd got their wish just before the conclusion of the first act. Performing Morrison’s personal interpretation of Over the Rainbow–found on his 2013 solo album Where It All Began–Hilty and Morrison traded lilting harmonies in perfect sync. To put a cap on the first act, Morrison performed an impressive (and undoubtedly exhausting) eight-minute Hairspray Medley, his way of paying respect to the Broadway role he originated.
To begin her portion of the second act, Hilty performed a mash up of two Broadway standards, Almost Like Being in Love/This Can’t Be Love. By now the sun was almost completely behind the stands of the stadium, and hearing the Brigadoon classic in this outdoor setting as it slowly grew darker was a poignant experience. The second act, sticking with the theme of Golden Age standards, carried along with a slower pace and a more delicate hand. Mr. Morrison’s performance of Singin’ in the Rain near the end of the second act was a perfect cap on the series of classics preceding it, and once again a reminder of Morrison’s timeless appeal.
Continuing with the trend of bringing medleys to the stage, Morrison bookended his Broadway career for the audience with a very different medley of songs from his most recent credit, Finding Neverland. Taking the stage for one last rendition, Ms. Hilty brought back yet another fan favorite, Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend. Compelling and a perfect choice for the evening’s conclusion, Hilty’s glamorous finale was the icing on the cake of a satisfying evening of standards.
Once again, Steven Reineke and The New York Pops have managed to put together a seamless evening that successfully balanced talent, technical skill, and fun. The combination of the orchestra’s precision behind two of the foremost talents of the Broadway World proved to be an exciting and inspiring evening for all those in attendance.
The New York Pops with Megan Hilty and Matthew Morrison (July 7, 2016)
Forest Hills Stadium, 1 Tennis Place, in Queens
For tickets, visit http://www.foresthillstadium.com
Running time: two hours including one intermission