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, 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.
“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