“I’ve wanted to put this program together for some time, and now is the perfect occasion,” remarked the beaming Steven Reineke, The New York Pops’ music director and conductor.
Composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb’s legendary musical theater writing collaboration began in 1952 and ended with Mr. Ebb’s death in 2004, at the age of 76. The “perfect occasion” is Mr. Kander’s 90th birthday that is on March 18th. He currently has a new show, Kid Victory, running Off-Broadway and another new musical in the works, The Beast in The Jungle, adapted from the Henry James novella.
“It looks like when you got your Kennedy Center Honor!” exclaimed Mr. Reineke, as a spotlight shone on John Kander, who was attending the concert from a first tier box at Carnegie Hall. He grinned to a thunderous reaction. Sitting with him, was Susan Stroman, who has directed several Kander and Ebb productions. Near the end of the show, at Reineke’s instigation, the house lights went up, and the orchestra and the audience joined in for “Happy Birthday” to Kander.
The 78-piece orchestra also magnificently played “Hot Honey Rag” from Chicago ,“Gimme Love” from Kiss of The Spiderwoman, and a glorious piece of Americana, “Minstrel March” from The Scottsboro Boys.
Joining The New York Pops as guest artists were the vocalists, Caissie Levy and Tony Yazbeck.
The youthfully suave Mr. Yazbeck has performed on Broadway in Gypsy, Finding Neverland and was nominated for a Tony Award for On The Town. He has played Billy Flynn in the Broadway revival of Chicago, and will soon return to the role. His spirited renditions of “Razzle Dazzle” and “All I Care About” demonstrated that he is ideal for the part.
Yazbeck also scored with compelling versions of the less frequently performed songs “Sometimes a Day Goes By” from Woman of The Year and “You, You, You,” from The Visit. He also shone with the gems “City Lights” from The Act, where he superbly tap danced, “Coffee in a Cardboard Cup” from 70, Girls, 70, and “But The World Goes ‘Round” from the film New York, New York.
The sleek, lovely and appealing Ms. Levy has appeared on Broadway in Ghost, Hair, Wicked, and Les Misérables. She had the golden opportunity to perform many of Kander and Ebb’s great songs for female characters.
Levy powerfully closed the show with “Maybe This Time” from Cabaret. She also wonderfully sang the other Sally Bowles’ classics “Mein Herr,” and “Cabaret,” joined by Yazbeck. They appeared together in “Money, Money” with the delirious dance moves.
Her first number was a joyous “Sing Happy” from Flora The Red Menace. There was a sly “Roxie” from Chicago, a stirring “Colored Lights” from The Rink, and the wistful “Everybody’s Girl” from Steel Pier.
The rousing encore was, of course, “New York, New York,” done as a duet by Yazbeck and Levy, once again accompanied by The New York Pops.
The next New York Pops concert at Carnegie Hall, “You’ve Got a Friend: A Celebration of Singers and Songwriters,” a tribute to the soundtrack of a generation, inspired by the music of James Taylor, Carole King, and more, will take place on Friday, April 21 at 8 PM.
The New York Pops: “Life is a Cabaret: The Songs of Kander and Ebb” (March 10, 2017)
Carnegie Hall, Stern Auditorium, 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: two hours including one intermission