|Steven Reineke |
The concert opened with the 20th Century Fox fanfare, fitting to start off movie music, although the roar of Leo the MGM lion would work as well, before moving into "Hooray for Hollywood". The vocal stars were introduced through "Top Hat, White Tie, and Tails/Steppin Out" (there really is nothing quite like Irving Berlin) as a duet then were showcased in solos. Hugh smoothly, and in classic crooner style sang his way through Porter's "Begin the Beguine" which I just recently learned had words. The piece doesn't have the standard 4 bar phrase format (it is actually 108 bars long rather than the standard 32 bar song form of the time) making it harder to instantly stick in your head the same way a Berlin tune will, for example. However, I've heard it enough now that the melody has become familiar and it's one of those pieces you can always hear something new with each listen. The line in the piece "an orchestra's playing" is always smile inducing when sung with a full orchestra on stage, and this concert was no exception.
Jodi returned for "Over the Rainbow" and I wasn't feeling all that impressed. The light, airy but still rich Ariel voice disappeared as she switched on the belter style and it had too much vibrato on the high end for my taste. Particularly in a song such as this. In fact, the concert as a whole hadn't really impressed me yet.
The following two orchestra pieces changed my mind! I've heard "The Trolley Song" as a solo (classic Judy Garland Meet Me In St. Louis of course), a small ensemble (it was in the first symphony concert I attended "Those Glorious MGM Musicals" with the NAC Orchestra), and a full chorus ("A Chorus of Hits" same orchestra), but I can't recall seeing a strictly orchestral performance before. This one was fantastic, although with the arrangement being by Conrad Salinger there really was no doubt it wouldn't be. There were lots of chimes, and bells, and it had the rich, lush sound he's known for. From my seat I could see the first violin music and talk about some serious runs! It didn't go unnoticed by Mr. Reineke either, as he quipped to the violins after the piece "enough notes in there for you?" They didn't seem to have any problems with it though. Continuing with classic orchestrations, the next was by Robert Russell Bennett, who worked on many Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, including The Sound of Music. There were melodies in this arrangement not in the movie (perhaps "No Way to Stop It" from the Broadway version) and it was interrupted by audience applause during a switch into the slower "Edelweiss" and "Climb Every Mountain" section (incidentally exactly like the version in this clip, which sounds like a similar arrangement although pretty bad playing when compared to the TSO).
After that I was engaged, and was drawn in even more with Hugh's performance of "Sit Down You're Rocking the Boat". He played Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls In Concert, and it was fun to see him as Nicely Nicely Johnson. His enthusiasm and theatrics were especially entertaining. Jodi returned with "The Way We Were" by Marvin Hamlish, before they joined forces with Primus: The Amabile Men's Choir to conclude the first half with "Circle of Life". The Lion King was recently re-released in 3-D and was #1 at the box office 2 weeks in a row! Pretty impressive for a re-release. Go Disney :)
Post intermission things were restarted out west with Elmer Bernstein's "Main Title from The Magnificent Seven". This piece was on the program in the first and only concert I saw Erich Kunzel conduct in person and so will always remind me of him. I finally got around to watching the movie this past summer, and it's a classic, but I think made even better because of the music. Orchestral pieces in the second half also included the theme from "the best Hitchcock movie, Hitchcock never wrote" which would be "Charade" and because a Hollywood Hits concert just isn't complete without something by John Williams, his "Raiders March" from Raiders of the Lost Ark. There is only 1 person who has won more Academy Awards than Williams (who has over 40). Walt Disney himself!
But before returning to Disney music though we stopped in Kander and Ebb territory with pieces from Cabaret. Hugh is amazing! He continued to show his versatility by putting on this fantastic accent and announcing in "Wilkommen" style that "Roy Thomson Hall is bee-u-tiful, the TSO is bee-u-tiful, the conductor is bee-u-tiful", which got Steven laughing. In another Judy Garland link, only this time via her daughter, Jodi channeled Liza Minelli for "Cabaret" wearing a pretty stunning red dress.
Combining again they sang a subdued and sweet rendition of "Moon River".
|"Moon River" (toronto.broadwayworld.com/|
|The "it happens" moment (toronto.broadwayworld.com as above)|
|4th dress similar to this|
With a beginning to the season like this, I can't wait for the next Pops event! In case any TSO decision makers ever happen to find this, bring Hugh Panaro back ASAP! I vote for Rags to Ritzes: A Tribute to Irving Berlin :)