News Ticker

New York Pops Underground (Feinstein’s/54 Below)

Two Tony Award nominees open the pocketbooks of a sold-out house for a good cause.

Music director Steven Reineke, and soloists Montego Glover and Tony Yazbeck after The New York Pops Underground at Feinstein’s/54 Below (September 19, 2016) (Photo credit: Genevieve Keddy)

Music director Steven Reineke, and soloists Montego Glover and Tony Yazbeck after The New York Pops Underground at Feinstein’s/54 Below (September 19, 2016) (Photo credit: Genevieve Keddy)

Joel Benjamin

Joel Benjamin, Critic

Hosted by the always charming Steven Reineke, the fundraising event, New York Pops Underground,  featured two terrific Broadway stars, Montego Glover and Tony Yazbeck, whose performances clearly loosened the purse strings of a standing-room-only Feinstein’s/54 Below crowd.

Reineke is the music director and conductor of the New York Pops, famous for its Carnegie Hall concerts.  The Pops also has an extensive music education component, called PopsEd–Learning Scale and that was the raison d’être of this concert.

To audiences used to guest artists singing in front of the New York Pops symphony-sized ensemble at Carnegie Hall, this was an intimate treat:  two Tony Award nominees singing their hearts out for a great cause.

Montego Glover as she appeared in New York Pops Underground at Feinstein’s/54 Below on September 19, 2016 (Photo credit: Genevieve Keddy)

Montego Glover as she appeared in New York Pops Underground at Feinstein’s/54 Below on September 19, 2016 (Photo credit: Genevieve Keddy)

Montego Glover, elegant in a chic black and white gown, began with an ardent “I Love You Porgy” (The Gershwins), changing the mood with a light-hearted “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” (Jimmy McHugh/Dorothy Fields).

She revisited two of her Broadway triumphs, Les Misérables  and Memphis.  From the former, “I Dreamed a Dream”(Schönberg/Boublil/Kretzmer) was not scaled down for the small venue.  Instead, she filled the room with her quietly passionate rendition.  From the latter, she sang a few of the David Bryan/Joe DiPietro songs, her eyes glowing with her memories of performing them on stage.  “Someday,” an upbeat number was turned on its ear to become a torchy, beseeching song while “Colored Woman” was plaintive and honest in its portrait of the title character.

Her energetic band, led by Mat Eisenstein on piano included Mark Verdino on bass and Dan Weiner on drums.

Tony Yazbeck, most recently in On the Town and Finding Neverland was backed by his trio (Jerome Korman, music director, Tom Hubbard on bass and Rich Rosenzweig on drums) who brought out the best in this handsome singer/dancer/actor.

Tony Yazbeck as he appeared in New York Pops Underground at Feinstein’s/54 Below on September 19, 2016 (Photo credit: Genevieve Keddy)

Tony Yazbeck as he appeared in New York Pops Underground at Feinstein’s/54 Below on September 19, 2016 (Photo credit: Genevieve Keddy)

“Something Coming” (Bernstein/Sondheim) and “Lucky to Be Me” (Bernstein/Comden/Green) showed off Yazbeck’s great voice and easygoing movements.   He sang “Finding Neverland” (Gary Barlow/Eliot Kennedy) catching its yearning for childhood and also Sondheim’s “Finishing the Hat,” artist Seurat’s gasp of pain.  This is a role he would be perfect for.  He spoke of a song that meant a great deal to him, Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now,” and managed to turn what has become a New Age cliché into something achingly beautiful.

He ended with a smooth-as-silk tap dance to “All I Need Is the Girl” (Styne/Sondheim) from Gypsy which he sang on Broadway in the revival with Patti LuPone in 2008, then joined Ms. Glover in an exultant “Feeling Good” (Bricusse/Newley).

Somehow, even the speeches, including one from school principal Patricia Cooper whose school has benefited from the PopsEd teachers, were pleasant and good natured.

New York Pops Underground with Montego Glover and Tony Yazbeck (September 19, 2016)

Feinstein’s/54 Below, 254 West 54th Street, in Manhattan

For reservations, call 646-476-3551 or visit http://www.54Below.com

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

Running time:  one hour and 15 minutes with no intermission

Joel Benjamin
About Joel Benjamin (206 Articles)
JOEL BENJAMIN was a child performer on Broadway and danced with leading modern dance and ballet companies. Joel has been attending theater, ballet and opera performances ever since childhood, becoming quite opinionated over the years. He was the founder and artistic director of the American Chamber Ballet and subsequently was massage therapist to the stars before becoming a reviewer and memoirist. He is a member of the Outer Critics Circle.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.