February 18, 2011
Broadway came to Cape Cod last weekend in the form of three superb soloists, sopranos Rosena Hill and Sarah Uriarte Berry, and tenor Edward Watts, supported in grand style by the Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Jung-Ho Pak. Featuring music from shows currently on Broadway, both original productions revivals, the concert was energizing, inspiring, heart-warming, and nostalgic.
The show began with an imposing voice-over narration from “The Phantom of the Opera,” one of the most popular musicals of all time, setting the stage for a dramatic entrance by the orchestra, in a selections of songs from that show. The brass, keyboard, flute, and strings were highlighted by turn as the orchestra expressed the gentle and powerful moods of the music before ending with the softly flowing “Music of the Night.”
Pak told the audience that the concert was “ecologically minded” due to “the amount of gasoline we are saving by not going to New York. Broadway is coming to us!”
And it was wonderful. Not only did we hear songs from 14 major Broadway shows, but we also had the rare experience of listening to three top-notch soloists, all delightful individually, in pairs, and as a trio. Throughout, Pak and the soloists provided background information on the shows, and the overhead screen reminded us of which musical the song being performed was from. Occasionally patterned lights were used on either side of the stage to add a little special ambiance.
The show took off with a “Momma Mia Medley” performed by Hill, Berry, and Watts as a trio, an upbeat, animated display of the power of all three voices. They immediately drew the audience in with their outstanding voices, engaging personalities, and simple, but spirited choreography.
Berry led a fun vampy “All That Jazz” from “Chicago,” dueting with the timpani; followed by Hill’s richly emotional “I Am What I Am,” from “La Cage Aux Folles,” delivering the potent message “Life’s not worth a damn until you can say I am what I am.”
In a similar mood of declaration of self, Hill followed with a plaintive “I’m Here,” from “The Color Purple,” in which she appeared. “I’m thankful for loving who I really am. I’m beautiful. Yes, I’m beautiful, and I’m here.” Her voice was warm and resonance, and mellow, a joy to listen to. The audience loved it, heaping applause on her.
“Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” offered a cheery change of pace by the trio, and “A Chorus Line” was presented as an instrumental medley. There was an exciting tension in “I Hope I Get It,” a flowing ease in “At the Ballet,” and a romantic vitality in the violin-filled “What I Did For Love.”
Watts was sexy and funny in “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You,” from “Jersey Boys.” He flirted with members of the audience from the stage and things got hotter when he descended from the stage from the stage to tease the audience members with his charm.
Berry and Hill teamed up for a medley from “Wicked,” including the humorous “Popular,” in which Berry was delightfully shallow; the tender and velvety smooth “For Good,” and the joyful “Defying Gravity.” This was clearly an audience favorite.
The first half of the show ended with a bouncy “Supercalifragilistixexpialidocious!” from “Mary Poppins,” performed faster and faster until Watts collapsed in exhaustion and fell to the floor.
Act 2 opened with the three vocalists in tie-dyed hippie attire, for songs from “Hair.” Hill began with a mood-setting “Aquarius,” and Watts was fantastic in “Hair,” authentically (except for his short hair) recreating the sound of the original (which I saw on Broadway long, long ago). There was lots of feeling, hippie ambiance, and psychedelic lighting effects.
To introduce the remaining numbers in the show, all Stephen Sondheim contributions, Pak came into the audience to quiz the audience, rewarding them with pairs of CCSO tickets for correct answers to questions about the Broadway songs.
Berry followed with a beautifully sorrowful rendition of “Send in the Clowns” from “A Little Night Music,” the clarinet soulfully echoing the melody.
“Tonight” from “West Side Story” brought out the operatic qualities in the voices of Hill and Watts. Their voices, together and separately, were breathtakingly beautiful in this song about the discovery and declaration of love: “I saw you and the world went away.”
“Mamba,” also from West Side Story, was full of Latin rhythms and percussion, tension, and vitality, a great show of the range and diversity of the orchestra.
Two songs from “Phantom of the Opera” ended the show. “All I As of You” was sung by Berry and Watts, with Watts. Watts gave us an outstanding “Music of The Night,” which showed off his impressive range, his significant talent for expressing emotion, and his big powerhouse ending.
The show ended with a sing-along from “Hair,” “Let the Sun Shine In,” as the disco lights pulsed and the audience clapped and sang along to the beat, letting the sun and the music warm our hearts.