The New York Pops once again took to the famed Carnegie Hall for its spring offering “Movie Mixtape: Songs from the Silver Screen,” for which it has culled songs from over nine decades of movies.
Celebrating his tenth anniversary with The New York Pops, dashing and charismatic director/conductor Steven Reineke led the orchestra in its lively opener, “Hurray for Hollywood” (David Anthony Katz/Sam S. Hollander/Tyler Aaron Glenn); bows and brass filled the air in this exciting number from Hollywood Hotel (1937).
The evening’s first guest, handsome Ryan Silverman (Sideshow, Chicago, Phantom of the Opera) brought smiling “Blue Skies” (Irving Berlin, The Jazz Singer, 1927) to the ears; the song sat conservatively in an unexciting part of his voice but it was nice to hear this classic.
Braids piled high in a stylish bun, distinctive Mykal Kilgore (Songs for A New World, Jesus Christ Superstar, Motown: the Musical, Hair) stepped into his Carnegie Hall debut with “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” (George and Ira Gershwin, Shall We Dance, 1937), giving just a taste of ranges and riffs to come.
Next up, graceful and striking Laura Osnes (Bandstand, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella, Bonnie and Clyde, Anything Goes) entered in a gorgeous plum gown and treated the audience to a safely traditional but otherwise shimmering rendition of “Over the Rainbow” (Harold Arlen/Yip Harburg, The Wizard of Oz, 1939), famously sans the opening verse and ending with a huge orchestral flourish.
The fourth and final vocalist to take the stage was the bold, blond and beautiful Storm Large (finalist on CBS’ Rock Star: Supernova, band singer with Pink Martini and Le Bonheur). Tall and glamorous, dressed to show off her form and her ink, she wowed the audience with a passionate “The Man That Got Away” (Harold Arlen/Ira Gershwin, A Star Is Born, 1954).
Silverman was subsequently featured in “Blame Canada” (Trey Parker/Mark Shaiman, South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut, 1999) which, out of context, was not as much fun as the original; he also sang in some duets and group numbers which did not favor him. He was at his best with “Footloose” (Footloose, 1984) where he was most free and enjoyed himself immensely.
Osnes’ other songs included “Part of Your World” (Alan Menken/Howard Ashman, The Little Mermaid, 1989), fresher and more vibrant than Jodi Benson’s own reprise in last May’s concert. Her beautiful treatment of the title song from The Sound of Music (Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein II, 1959, sung to the original arrangement from the movie, opened with its famous lush orchestral buildup and was so glorious that one could almost imagine Osnes swirling on a green mountainside as she sang.
Kilgore’s several returns to the stage were embellished with gold-clipped braids, enviable sparkling shoes, and bright, expressive vocals; his resonant tenor voice and refreshing demeanor delighted with each number, such as in the innocent “Rainbow Connection” (Paul Williams/Kenneth Ascher, The Muppet Movie, 1979).
Large’s much anticipated remaining numbers included a delicate and touching “The Way We Were” (Marvin Hamlisch/Alan Bergman/Marilyn Bergman, The Way We Were, 1973) underscored beautifully on the keyboard by Lee Musiker, and “Skyfall” (Adele Atkins/Paul Epworth, Skyfall, 2012), sung with such power and conviction that one can easily overlook the repetitiveness of the song.
There were several duets throughout the evening which did not eclipse the individual performances, mostly due to the noticeable style differences between the singers and the either forced or absent connections between them. The most notable exception was an organic and inspiring “When You Believe” sung by Kilgore and Osnes (Stephen Schwartz/Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, The Prince of Egypt, 1998), rendered with more poignant sincerity than both the film’s original version and the commercially released pop cover.
The best of the group numbers was a joyful “Happy” (Pharrell Williams, Despicable Me 2, 2013), stirred to a rousing finish by Kilgore’s ecstatic physicality and vocals.
The evening’s vocal guests are exceptionally strong singers, although their talents are not equally evident in a concert format. Silverman probably shines best in a book show, as well as Osnes, although she did demonstrate more spontaneity and connection with the audience. Kilgore brought even more freedom, energy and levity, and Large’s vocal and physical presence was sheer dynamite, and never to the detriment of ensemble moments.
The amazing caliber of The New York Pops itself cannot escape mention; its underscoring of each of the singers was exquisite. Their ad hoc dedication to the late Michel Legrand and Andre Previn with a superb “The Summer Knows” (Michel Legrand/Marilyn and Alan Bergman, The Summer of ‘42, 1971) and the second act opener Disney Classics Overture were wonderful moments featuring its amazing musicians.
New York Pops: “Movie Mixtape: Songs from the Silver Screen” (March 15, 2019)
Carnegie Hall, Stern Auditorium, 881 Seventh Avenue, in Manhattan
For more information about New York Pops, visit http://www.newyorkpops.org/events
Running time: one hour and 30 minutes, one intermission