Sunday, September 2, 2012

Blossom Festival Orchestra: Broadway's Greatest Hits

(The complete program is at the end of this post)

The Cleveland Orchestra's 2012 Blossom Festival season draws to a close with this weekend's concerts -- performed not by The Cleveland Orchestra but by the Blossom Festival Orchestra. Where has summer gone?

It's been two weeks since the last Orchestra program -- dedicated to the material of John Williams --and returning to Blossom after that sabbatical felt a little odd. Unlike the disappointing Williams concert with its trite  program and robotic execution, tonight's program was passionately played and the program was a nice blend of selections from a wide swath of Broadway.

I was not, however, enamored by the soloists -- in the pavillion they frequently overpowered the orchestra (more likely the fault of the audio engineer than the soloists themselves). Individually, the soloists fulfilled their roles well but troubling, when both Ms. Vroman and Mrs. Gravitte were singing the same thing at the same time the result was far from satisfying, and in a few occasions actually made me cringe.

That said, it is perhaps obvious that my favorite pieces from the program unequivocally came from the few orchestra-only selections on the program. At the top of that list the Disney Broadway Medley featuring seven and a half minutes of music known to any Disney fan, including Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah, M-i-c-k-e-y M-o-u-s-e, and Its a Small World among others. Maestro Russell encouraged the audience to sing along, and at times the low chant that rose from the lawn reminded me of a Latin mass. Incidentally, the later two in that medley hold special significance "Mickey Mouse" being the the first two words I knew how to spell, thanks to my grandmother's use of that song in her kindergarten classes, and It's a Small World being one of an aunt's most hated song [and my penchant for humming it around her about the same time in my early youth where I learned to spell Mouse].

The other two pieces for orchestra only, Seventy Six Trombones from The Music Man and the medley from Jesus Christ Superstar, though slightly less familiar were no less enjoyable.

Those that remember my sheer hatred of Chicago at PlayhouseSquare (the only musical I've ever walked out of at intermission, and one of only two where I've contemplated doing such) are probably not surprised that I had absolutely no attraction to Introduction and All that Jazz from Chicago. On the other hand, the medley from Mamma Mia! was sheer delight, though the sight of a full orchestra playing ABBA was a bit surreal. I'd certainly be up for a concert full of orchestral renderings of that music.

Mr. Labreque probably enjoyed the best individual balance with the orchestra of the night in Music of the Night from Phantom of the Opera, the last piece on the published program, and the encore, You Can't Stop The Beat from Hairspray was the only time all three sounded really good while singing together.

A somewhat somber note was touched when Mr. Russell dedicated Defying Gravity (from Wicked) to the memory of Neil Armstrong, and then in a serendipitous bit of irony, lead into Circle of Life from the Lion King  both of which were high on my list of "likes" from this show.

In a few weeks The Cleveland Orchestra returns to severance -- and someone please remind me to stop by the box office: I still need to buy by tickets.


The full program from tonight's show
Seventy Six Trombones from The Music Man
Be our Guest from Beauty and the Beast #$^
This is the Moment from Jekyll and Hyde ^
Till There Was You from The Music Man #
Defying Gravity from Wicked $
Circle of Life from The Lion King #$^
Disney Broadway Medley (arr. Bruce Healy)
Under the Sea from The Little Mermaid #$^
Shall we Dance from The King and I #$
Medley from Hello Dolly! #$^
Introduction/All That Jazz from Chicago #$
Bring Him Home from Les Miserables ^
I Dreamed a Dream from Les Miserables $
Medley from Mamma Mia! #$^
Medley from Jesus Christ Superstar
Think of Me from Phantom of the Opera #
Memory from Cats $
The Phantom of the Opera from The Phantom of the Opera #^
Music of the Night from The Phantom of the Opera ^
You Can't Stop the Beat from Hairspray#$^
John Morris Russell, conductor.
(# - Lisa Vroman, vocalist; $ - Debbie Gravitte, vocalist; ^ - Doug Lrecquie, vocalist)

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