Performed in chronological order, the concert included music from all 11 shows from the R&H canon. The genial host for the evening was The New York Pops’ musical director and conductor Steven Reineke who pointed out that the remarkable team’s work was revolutionary as they wrote about issues not usually included in musical theater up until that time: sexism, spousal abuse, murder and redemption.
The concert opened with the festive overture and main title from the 1955 film version of Oklahoma! as arranged by Adolph Deutsch and orchestrated by Alexander Courage. This included Ovenden’s unmiked rendition of “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’,” followed by an ovation for the Boggess/Ovenden duet of the anti-romantic ballad, “People Will Say We’re In Love,” in the Robert Russell Bennett orchestration as were the majority of songs. Ovenden related that he had sung with Boggess many times but the first time had been another special occasion: he had received a call from Andrew Lloyd Webber asking him to sing at a birthday party at his house. Ovenden immediately asked, “Whose birthday?” The answer: The Queen of England.
The selections from R&H’s second collaboration begin with the Carousel Waltz in the original Don Walker orchestration, a sweeping version a big sound and increasing rhythms. This was followed by Ovenden’s powerful rendition of the eight minute “Soliloquy,” almost a mini-opera in itself. Boggess and Essential Voices USA then joined him for an uplifting version of “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
The first act concluded with four selections from the 1949 Pulitzer Prize-winning South Pacific, based on the novel by James Michener which had also won him the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. This was a stage show which Reineke pointed out was culturally significant for dealing with social injustice and racism in a Broadway musical. The first selection was a stinging rendition by Ovenden of “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught,” in a Don Walker orchestration. This was followed by Boggess and the Women of Essential Voices in the genuinely romantic “A Wonderful Guy” which brought down the house. Ovenden then applied his mellifluous baritone to the haunting “Some Enchanted Evening.” The final number was the rousing and upbeat, “There Is Nothing like a Dame,” sung by the Men of Essential Voices USA and making use of seven soloists who donned sailor caps.
The second half of the evening began with the exotic sounding overture to The King and I in the Robert Russell Bennett orchestration adapted by Ted Sperling. Reineke reminded the audience that the show was currently playing down the street at Lincoln Center with star Kelly O’Hara, a board member of The New York Pops who has sung with them many times. This was followed by a Boggess and Ovenden’s duet of “I Have Dreamed” received a huge ovation. The selection ended with a delightful version of “I Whistle a Happy Tune” sung by the Men and Women of Essential Voices USA in counterpoint with each other which was fully enjoyed by the audience.
Among shows that were represented by one song each were Essential Voices USA in the lilting “It’s A Grand Night For Singing” from the 1943 film State Fair; Boggess’ rendition of the anti-torch song, “The Gentleman Is A Dope” from Allegro in the original version (better known in the one by Ella Fitzgerald); the melodic “No Other Love” from Me and Juliet (1953) beautifully sung by Boggess and Ovenden (a melody later reused by Rodgers as the theme to his TV score for Victory at Sea); the low-key “Everybody’s Got A Home But Me” from Pipe Dream about which Boggess enthused that she didn’t know why it wasn’t better known; the jaunty “Cinderella Waltz” (1957) from R&H’s only original television musical, and the 1958 Flower Drum Song’s witty “I Enjoy Being A Girl” which allowed Boggess to be both comic and feminine.
The evening ended with R&H’s last collaboration, the 1959 The Sound of Music. The opening selection was the “Prologue” using the Irwin Kostal version created for the Julie Andrews movie, which segued into Boggess’ lovely rendition of the title song. This was followed by “Edelweiss” (the final song written by R&H) sung by Ovenden which demonstrated why many people assume that this is a traditional folk song due to its hymn-like quality. The final musical number of the concert was “Climb Every Mountain,” in which Boggess, Ovenden and Essential Voices USA raised their voices in a glorious crescendo. As the audience would not let the performers leave the stage, they obliged with an encore of “Do-Re-Mi,” from The Sound of Music, inviting audience participation. The New York Pops’ “My Favorite Things: The Songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein” sent the audience out into the evening with many songs in their collective hearts.
Future New York Pops Concerts at 8 Pm at Carnegie Hall:
Friday, November 13 – “Sophisticated Ladies,” with guest artists Montego Glover, Capathia Jenkins,and Sy Smith
Friday, December 18 and Saturday, December 19 – “t’s Christmas Time in the City,” with guest artists Stephanie J. Block and Brian d’Arcy James
Friday, March 11 – “42nd Street on 57th Street: Broadway Today,” with guest artists Jeremy Jordan and Betsy Wolfe
Friday, April 8 – “Lights, Camera, Action: Spielberg and Williams”
The New York Pops presents “My Favorite Things: The Songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein” (October 9, 2015)
Issac Stern Auditorium/Ronald O. Perelman Stage, Carnegie Hall, Seventh Ave and 57th Street
For tickets, call CarnegieCharge at 212-247-7800 or visit http://www.carnegiehall.org
Running time: two hours and 15 minutes