Saturday, January 1, 2011

Cleveland Pops Orchestra: New Year's Eve (Wicked Divas)[Updated]

"So raise your glass if you are wrong in all the right ways...Just come on and come on and raise your glass" -- Pink, Raise Your Glass.

Cleveland Pops Orchestra 2011 Baloon Drop

[The program can be found at the end of this post]
Update: Aparently I forgot the program the frst time around. It now really is at the end of the post.

Ok. So there wasn't any Pink on tonight's program -- and I'm going to say that that's probably a good thing [though I would love to hear it] -- but that anthem seems like as good a way as any to ring in 2011.

I was seriously on the fence about attending the tonight's concert...neither my last Cleveland Pops concert nor my last orchestra concert at Severance Hall were anything to write home about (and I've had mixed feelings about past Pops New Years eve concerts) -- and I was a little worried about the whole two Sopranos thing. Combined with the fact that I'm in my end-of-the-year financial meltdown mode (writing my check for property taxes always depresses me). Especially with how ill I was feeling yesterday, spending a quiet night at home was a serious contender. This afternoon I decided moping was a bad way to start a new year and picked up a ticket.

I think this, The Cleveland Pops Orchestra's 15th annual New Years Eve concert is my favorite of the four I've attended. The program was tight; there was a good variety of music, and Mr. Topilow kept himself under control quite well. While the Pops usually draws a slightly more diverse crowd than Cleveland Orchestra concerts, tonight's audience seemed particularly eclectic, ranging from late teens to possibly great-grandparents (one of whom, during the "light rock" post-concert in the lower lobby could be seen rocking out to Earth Wind and Fire's Let's Groove (Make Love Tonight).

Featuring Erin Mackey and Stephanie J. Block, both known for having appeared in the various productions of Wicked (though never the same production at the same time) there was a mix of relatively straight classical, Broadway show tunes and a little bit in between.

The bad was quickly dispensed with: Opening with the overused introduction to Also Sprach Zarathustra which sounded fine save for what I can best describe as rounded edges or in other words lacking the sharp delineations that I normally associate with that piece. A near seamless and slightly confusing transition into Chicago's And All That Jazz came next. The first of several links to musicals I saw in 2010, Chicago at PlayhouseSquare has the distinction of being the only musical I've walked out on -- and this rendition didn't do anything to encourage me to give the show a second try.

I Could Have Danced All Night (from My Fair Lady) and Don't Rain on my Parade (from Funny Girl) were both delightful, and followed by the stunning performance of Zigeunerweisen (Gipsy Airs) featuring high school junior and grand prize winner of the Petit Memorial Musical Scholarship Competition, violinist James Thompson: A stunning performance including some whimsical touches.

That great performance was, rather unfortunately, followed by a rendition of Strauss's Feuerfest Polka with horn accompaniment by the audience. If I return next year, I shall need to remember to drink more. Far more. before this piece.

With the incessant honking of horns fresh in my mind, Think of Me from Phantom Of the Opera -- another musical I saw in 2010 (Broadway and PlayhouseSquare) -- was beautiful cleansing of the palette. Like the other songs on the program, the balance between the unamplified orchestra and amplified singers was quite good, my one and only technical complaint was the use of electronic reverb on the singers: Probably not noticeable to most audience members and only really noticeable when lyrics trailed off, I'm not convinced it was necessary for the hall.
Ring Them Bells featured some interesting interplay between Ms. Block and the orchestra.

Closing out the first half, What's Up At The Symphony, a great medley of classical that has been used in Looney Tunes cartoons, and I hate to say it but I thin my favorite from the concert: a very high spirited and high energy Conga -- complete with the name sake lines forming in Severance Hall's aisles.

The second half was as enjoyable as the first, with the less significantly less tiresome staples of Anderson's Syncopated Clock with an unfortunate audience member with good rhythm filling in for a member of the percussion section, and Ohio's official rock song Hang On Sloopy (O-H-I-O) -- the latter was rather fun. Erin Mackey made for a more than suitable replacement for Celine Dion in My Heart Will Go On (from Titanic).

Closing out the published program, were three selections from Wicked (yet another 2010 musical) -- Popular, Defying Gravity, and For Good. All three were fantastic, and of the various versions I've heard on, and particularly with the somewhat overused Popular, off the theatrical stage arguably the best to date. For Good and Defying Gravity were wonderfully spellbinding and uplifting.

Best wishes for a happy and prosperous 2011! Though I haven't made any resolutions...I wouldn't mind not ending the year single. If you know anyone...feel free to put her in touch.


The Program
Strauss: Also Sprach Zarathustra (Introduction)
Kander and Ebb: Introduction and All That Jazz (from Chicago)*/**
Lerner and Loewe: I Could Have Danced All Night (from My Fair Lady)*
Styne: Don't Rain on My Parade (from Funny Girl)**
Sarasate: Zigeunerweisen (Gipsy Airs)***
Strauss: Feuerfest Polka
Webber: Think of Me (from Phantom of the Opera)*
Kander and Ebb: Ring Them Bells (from Liza with a "Z")**
Various arr. Barber: What's Up at the Symphony (Bugs Bunny's Greatest Hits)
Garcia arr. Reineke: Conga
Strauss: Radetsky March
Roberts and Jabara: No More Tears (from Enough is Enough) */**
Horner and Jennings: My Heart Will Go On (from Titanic)*
Anderson: Syncopated Clock
Kander and Ebb: Cabaret (from Cabaret)**
Russell and Farrell arr. Cerulli: Hang on Sloopy
Schwartz: Selections From Wicked (Popular*, Defying Gravity**, For Good*/**)
Carl Topilow, Conductor; *-Erin Mackey, soprano; **-Stephanie J. Block, soprano; ***-James Thompson, violin.

1 comment:

  1. Happy New Year, Lincoln! Here's hoping that 2011 brings you all your heart's desires.

    Looking forward to reading about your adventures (and misadventures :) in 2011.