Shall we dance?
02/26/2010 - & February 28*
Highlights from Tony Award®-Winning Musicals: The Producers – Kiss Me, Kate! – My Fair Lady – Hello, Dolly! – The Music Man – Bye Bye, Birdie! – Man of La Mancha – Cabaret – Fiddler on the Roof – Cats – A Chorus Line – Annie – The Will Rogers Follies – La Cage aux Folles – Damn Yankees – The Music Man – Hallelujah Baby
Kristen Drathman (mezzo-soprano), Sean Carter Campbell (baritone)
The Phoenix Symphony Orchestra, Lawrence Golan (conductor)
L. Golan (Courtesy of the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra)
Since its founding in 1947 by an occasional group of musicians performing a handful of concerts each year, the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra has developed into a major formation serving 300,000 patrons annually with almost 200 concerts. With Music Director Michael Christie at the helm since 2004, PSO, which operates on an $11 million budget, presents an annual season from September through the beginning of June, offering full-length classical and pops concerts.
And what a thrilling idea to have programmed those two performances of Salute to the Tonys®! Broadway and 42nd Street right here in the Sonora Desert, with giant Saguaro cacti tap-dancing, dazzled by the flashing neon lights of the Theater District’s marquees. A treat.
It is hard to give an exhaustive account of the many showstoppers that were played in this program. Under the enthusiastic baton of resident conductor Lawrence Golan, the Phoenix Symphony, broken as it is to a much heavier repertoire, demonstrated adaptability and great flexibility all throughout the performance, while complying with artistry to the musical genre. This was particularly noticeable in the selections for orchestra from The Producers (Mel Brooks & Glen Kelly) with its unprecedented 12 Tony Awards in 2001, from Annie, by Charles Strouse, scooping 7 Tonys in 1977, and Jerry Herman’s Hello, Dolly! winning 8 Tonys in 1964. Even more eloquently, PSO exhibited gusto in the selections of My Fair Lady (Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe), based on George B. Shaw’s Pygmalion. This 1956 blockbuster, called the “perfect musical”, won 9 Tony Awards: Best Musical (Lerner-Loewe-Levin), Best Actor (Rex Harrison), Best Actress (Julie Andrews), Best Featured Actor (R. Coote and S. Holloway), Best Scenic Design (O. Smith), Best Costume Design (C. Beaton), Best Choreography (H. Holm), Best Conductor and Musical Director (F. Allers), and last but not least, Best Direction (M. Hart), not to mention some other prestigious awards, the list of which I will spare the reader.
John Kander’s Cabaret was yet another smash hit. The original production (1966) won 10 Tonys, 3 in the 1987 revival (with mezzo-soprano Regina Resnik earning a nomination for her Mrs. Schneider), and 10 in 1998.
Mezzo-soprano Kristen Drathman is a talented, multi-faceted artist with a strong scenic presence. Her rendition of Sally’s “Cabaret” was incredibly sensuous, with dark vocal tones at times, and in perfect balance with the orchestra. Equally appealing were her “My Own Morning” from 1960 Hallelujah, Baby! and “Whatever Lola Wants” from 1955 Damn Yankees.
Sean Carter Campbell’s warm baritone fared well in Man of la Mancha’s “The Impossible Dream”, as well as in “If I Were a Rich Man” from Jerry Bock’s Fiddler on the Roof for which the singer received a well-deserved ovation. The original Broadway production was the first to make history with more than 3,000 performances. It held the record as the longest-running musical for 10 years, until Grease came to the stage and surpassed this milestone, only to be eclipsed again later by prolific musical composer Andrew Lloyd Weber with Cats (1981) and later by Phantom of the Opera. Sean C. Campbell did justice to deceitful and mysterious “Mr. Mistoffellees” from Cats.
Offered as an encore was “Send in the Clowns” from Stephen Sondheim’s 1973 musical A Little Night Music.
All in all, a high-spirited and exhilarating program where PSO and soloists never failed to deliver to an enthused audience.
One can only regret in this otherwise enthralling afternoon that no tribute was paid by the organizers to legendary soprano Kathryn Grayson, a Broadway icon of the forties and fifties, who passed away just a few days ago at the age of eighty-eight. In the words of A Chorus Line: “Son of gun, she [was] one of a kind”.
So, Ms. Grayson, “Shall we dance - one, two, three – […] say good night and mean good bye?”
ConcertoNet wishes to thank PBS for its encyclopedic reference material.
The Phoenix Symphony Orchestra