Sunday, March 6, 2011

Winter Escape with the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra

February 22 I had the opportunity to experience yet another orchestra.  Knowing I was going to be escaping the cold weather at home and heading for the warm climate of Florida I planned ahead and discovered that the Naples Philharmonic was performing Broadway's Leading Men, conducted by none other than their Principal Pops Conductor Jack Everly!  How perfect is that?  Warm weather and what's guaranteed to be an enjoyable show.

Outdoor Box Office
A short note about The Philharmonic Centre for the Arts, which is both an art museum and the concert hall for the orchestra.  It's an intriguing place.  The first thing that hit me was free parking!  Something you never have in Toronto!  Second to that was the outdoor box office.  It's amazing what gets done in warm climates that I would never even consider!

Inside there were a few rooms with sculptures to peruse, alas no picture taking was allowed so the art images are from the Phil's website.

The best pieces (in my totally unqualified to judge opinion) were on the stairs going up to balcony level.  They were musical in nature and one was titled "Symphony for the Deaf" and was a mass of various instruments.

The somewhat creepy Sentinels were in the lobby rather than outside in the garden area (maybe they get taken in for the winter).

The Sentinels
The funky red chandelier by Chihuly reminded me of Medusa and hung in the area above some other sculptures.

Chihuly Red
Our seats were in one of the side boxes.  Hayes Hall is carpeted in lush forest green, and each box only has 8 seats.  There's a rather exclusive feeling associated with opening the heavy full door (no curtains here) from the hall into the box.  The seats were decently comfortable as well.  The box directly across the theatre from ours had only 2 people but other than the back edges of the orchestra seating it appeared to be a fairly full house.  The orchestra seemed rather squished on the stage and I'd put the average age as quite young.  It was nice to see a strong female contingent particularly in the woodwind and brass sections.

The performance opened with a signature Everly arranged "Overture" which included, among others, themes from "If I Were a Rich Man" played by concert master Glenn Basham, "Where Is the Life That Late I Led", "Ol' Man River", and "The Impossible Dream".  The overture itself covered over 5 different musicals.  The following four pieces introduced each of the leading men vocalists.  Jacob Clemente, the 13 year old current Broadway Billy Eliot, sang and tap danced through "When I Get My Name in Lights" from The Boy From Oz; Ted Keegan, a former Broadway Phantom, sang "Maria" from West Side Story; Heath Calvert, another Broadway veteran, gave a well sung but rather plain rendition of "This is the Moment" from Jekyll and Hyde; and Ben Crawford (same one mentioned in previous Yuletide post) wowed the crowd as Prof. Harold Hill announcing "Ya Got Trouble" from The Music Man.  Perhaps I was underwhelmed by "This is the Moment" because I had read reviews of Ashley Brown's Broadway with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra from the weekend before which had Ben Crawford's rendition garnering an ovation.  So I was expecting him to also perform it here.  However, I don't think either of the other gentleman could have put across "Ya Got Trouble" in quite the same excellent fashion.

The orchestra was featured playing "Selections from Oliver" before the leading lady, in the person of Brynn O'Malley, took the stage in a nod to Julie Andrews with "Le Jazz Hot" from Victor-Victoria.

Closing the first half was the other Everly arrangement of the evening, "Leading Men Medley".  He has this amazing ability to cover the best parts of a song and fit them all together so well that you hardly notice the transitions between them.  Out of the 10 songs covered there were only 2 I didn't recognize.  The orchestra introduction was "Luck Be a Lady" which led to "Guys and Dolls" sung by Ted, Ben, and Heath.  Following was "Oh What a Beautiful Morning" and "I Have Dreamed" before Jacob joined them in a leather jacket singing "Summer Nights" from Grease.  The song has some interesting chuckle moments coming from a 13 year old.  A mini John Travolta he's not, I'd say his dancing is superior to singing, but he's still got a huge career ahead of him.  Ben took over with "Some Enchanted Evening" which HAS to have bass singer for the song to have weight (for example), and it was perfect.  Camelot and My Fair Lady were featured through "If Ever I Would Leave You" and "On the Street Where You Live" before they finished together with a vocal of "The Impossible Dream".  Talk about a great closing to the first half.

Intermission was interesting.  Typically nothing happens on stage.  The odd musician may remain and practice some parts, and the librarian swaps out the music on the conductors podium, but that's about it.  There was much more activity this evening however.  Two gentlemen (presumably at least one was the librarian) placed a green notice and piece of music on each stand.  My own wild speculation abounded, but really the only reason for adding more music to an already full concert is that something is being replaced.  Indeed after "Seventy-Six Trombones" highlighting the brass section particularly, Jack turned to the audience and all was explained.  Brynn was very much under the weather and unable to perform the "Love Duet Medley" (she would return for the finale), so to feature the orchestra and since no leading men concert would be complete without West Side Story they were going to replace it with the  "Overture to West Side Story" (played much better than this link, but I believe it was a very similar arrangement).  He continued with, "the orchestra has not rehearsed this.  See you at the end".  Unrehearsed or not, they must have been familiar with the music because Jack did not slow it down.  In fact it was one of his most lively conducted numbers of the night!  The transitions between sections of the piece may not have been as clean or tight as they could be and I'm not sure if all the percussion was bang on (although with the off beats it's hard to tell at the best of times), but there was a lovely horn solo in "Somewhere".  Given the extremely energetic "mambo" shouts from the orchestra the enthusiasm from the podium paid off.  Jack's breathlessness at the end was well deserved.

Jacob continued to demonstrate his dancing skills in "All I Need is the Girl" from Gypsy, before Ted tapped back into his Phantom days performing, as described by Jack, "the most romantic song from the musical".  I really liked the arrangement which began with the imposing instrumental "The Phantom of the Opera" as Ted walked out slowly to centre stage before it softened into "Music of the Night".  It's been a long time since I've seen the Phantom, yet his rendition took me back.  All the nuances were there right down to the wrist motion at the "close your eyes and surrender" line.  "Selections from La Cage aux Folles" was inexplicably dropped, yet the musical was still represented with Ben's "I Am What I Am" rendition.  *sigh* he has a voice one could happily listen to all night.

The evening of great music concluded with the powerhouse from Les Miserables.  A medley of "Look Down"and "At the End of the Day", as part of the orchestral intro; "On My Own" exquisitely sung by Brynn, I would never have been able to tell she wasn't felling well; "Stars" (one of my favourite lines in the whole musical is "and so it has been, and so it's written on the doorway to paradise that those who falter and those who fall must pay the price", I just love the melody there) where Ben got to return to his Javert understudy days; Ted matched Brynn with a poignent "Bring Him Home"; and the entire cast and a 14 voice male chorus joined in for the powerful "One More Day" and "Do You Hear the People Sing?" finale.  I wonder if this will be part of the Do You Hear the People Sing? concert celebrating the music of Boublil and Schonberg which Jack's debuting with several orchestras (NACO and Baltimore so far) for the 2011/12 season?  If so, it's definitely worth going to see.

Broadway's Leading Men is also making a stop next month in Ottawa with the NAC orchestra.  It is however going to lack Ben Crawford.  But hopefully will include a healthy Brynn and some great love songs.  So GO!

No comments:

Post a Comment