The show began with Alan Cumming singing “Willkommen,” from Cabaret (John Kander/Fred Ebb) as only he can deliver the song, still fresh after countless performances of it by him over the years.
“Leave your troubles outside! So- life is disappointing? Forget it! We have no troubles here! In here life is beautiful- the girls are beautiful-even the orchestra, is beautiful!” elicited warm applause from the appreciative audience.
He was followed by Victor Garber reprising his 1994 performance in Damn Yankees with his role as the devil in “Those Were the Good Old Days,” (music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross), and clearly relishing the lyrics.
Maestro Steven Reineke, backed up by the largest pops orchestra in the United States, took us on an astonishing musical journey. The song selections made the perfectly-paced concert one of the most memorable nights of music in the past decade.
Next up was Rachel York singing “Le Jazz Hot,” from Victor/Victoria (Henry Mancini/Leslie Bricusse) with the dancers Joshua Buscher, Max Clayton, Michaeljon Slinger, Amos Wolff and choreography by Joshua Bergasse. Styling for the dancers was by Reineke’s husband Eric Gabbard.
Nearly every moment was a highlight. Brian Stokes Mitchell lamented, “Where is the Life That I Led” from Kiss Me Kate (Cole Porter). The Camp Broadway kids did an admirable job with “Seventy Six Trombones” from The Music Man (Meredith Willson) but while visually spectacular to see the youngsters fanned out on the stage and up the aisles acting out playing trombones, the children closest to this reviewer were merely lip-synching the song and not singing/projecting. Too bad the excitement of performing in Carnegie Hall didn’t mean they would actually sing.
Resurrecting the magic of the evening was the stylish Laura Benanti, in a white satin and sequin evening gown, singing “Unusual Way” from Nine (Maury Yeston). One of the hallmarks of The New York Pops is the involvement of the orchestra in the community. Kids On Stage allows New York City middle school students the opportunity to experience the professional performance process. Following an application and audition, 20 select students have three rehearsals with their peers, one rehearsal with Music Director Steven Reineke, and performance alongside The New York Pops musicians at this Birthday Gala performance. This year’s orchestral performance was a robust “Themes from Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” (Hans Zimmer/Klaus Badelt).
This season that culminated with this Gala could not have been as thrilling as it was without Sutton Foster who headlined the March concert. It has just been announced that The Pops will be performing in Forest Hills Stadium this August with Sutton Foster. So it was a fitting coda to the first act for Sutton Foster to rapturously sing the title song from Cole Porter’s Anything Goes.
After intermission, the incomparable Renée Fleming knocked the audience’s socks with her soprano voice, unmiked, singing “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess (George Gershwin/Ira Gershwin/Dubose Heyward).
Keeping the focus of the night on the recipients of the gala funds, Rob McClure and the Children of the Ronald McDonald House of New York sang, “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile,” from Annie (Charles Strouse/ Martin Charnin). Together, the Pops and Ronald McDonald House “bring musical expression to pediatric cancer patients and their siblings.”
A mesmerizing Kelli O’Hara offered up “Someone to Watch over Me” from Nice Work If You Can Get It (George Gershwin/Ira Gershwin) with her dreamy, luscious sound. It was truly a treat to hear a voice such as hers finally backed up by all those phenomenal musicians.
Bebe Neuwirth reprised her signature song “All That Jazz,” from Chicago, along with some spectacular Bob Fosse moves. But next up from the Chicago catalog was incomparable Queen Latifah belting out “When You’re Good to Mama.” The audience went wild for this and then Alan Cumming closed the show with the title song from Cabaret which he has made his own.
The New York Pops 32nd Birthday Gala: The New Golden Age
Monday, May 4, 2015, 7:00PM, Carnegie Hall, Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage
Steven Reineke, Music Director and Conductor
Laura Benanti, Alan Cumming, Renée Fleming, Sutton Foster, Victor Garber, Queen Latifah, Rob McClure, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Bebe Neuwirth, Kelli O’Hara, Margo Seibert, James Snyder, Ken Watanabe, Rachel York, Guest Artists
Kids On Stage Students
Children of Ronald McDonald House® New York
Camp Broadway Kids, Tony Parise, Artistic Director; Christine Riley, Music Director
Kathleen Marshall, Music Honoree
Rob Marshall, Music Honoree
Carrie and Ted Pryor, Greenwich Harbor Partners, Corporate Honoree
For tickets, call CarnegieCharge at 212-247-7800 or visit http://www.carnegiehall.org
Running time: one hour and 30 minutes with no intermission