The New York Pops celebrated its 34th birthday on Monday night with a star-studded Carnegie Hall concert honoring actress Kelli O’Hara, director Barlett Sher, and Karen van Bergen (CEO, Omnicom PR Group). It was the first time The Pops paid tribute to an artist/director collaboration. O’Hara and Sher’s longtime creative partnership dates back to 2005’s The Light in the Piazza and also includes South Pacific, The Bridges of Madison County, and The King and I.
The evening, helmed by music director and conductor Steven Reineke, featured works from the pair’s creative endeavors as well as tributes to their solo efforts. The evening began with a sweeping orchestration of music from The Bridges of Madison County, arranged and orchestrated by the show’s composer/lyricist Jason Robert Brown.
Next on the roster was Brian D’Arcy James singing “At the Fountain” from Sweet Smell of Success, in which he co-starred with O’Hara. James — always in terrific voice — overcame what has become a common issue with Pops concerts at Carnegie Hall: poor sound design. Muffled and flat, the mix was eventually fine-tuned by mid-evening, but it’s a continuing frustration at one of the world’s most notable concert venues.
Other highlights included opera star Gioachino Rossini (appearing courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera), singing “Una voce poco fa” from Il barbiere di Siviglia; Steven Pasquale’s stunning rendition of “It All Fades Away” from The Bridges of Madison County (so powerful that it actually brought the audience member sitting in front of me to tears); Marin Mazzie’s luminescent rendition of “Hello, Young Lovers” from The King and I; and a trio of Mazzie, Judy Kuhn and Rebecca Luker singing “Make Someone Happy.”
In an unusual turn, the honoree took to the stage. For the finale, O’Hara sang “Fable” from The Light in the Piazza for a captivating conclusion. Visibly touched by the evening’s outpouring, O’Hara truly has one of the most magnificent voices on Broadway and beyond.
With the mission to broaden public awareness and enjoyment of America’s rich musical heritage through a presentation of concerts of the highest quality in traditional and non-traditional settings, The New York Pops is also a big proponent of arts in education. More than 60,000 students have participated in the orchestra’s free education programs since 1990, and there were more than 800 of them in the balcony for this year’s birthday celebration.
The New York Pops returns to Forest Hills Stadium on June 8 for a concert featuring the music of John Williams, including selections from Star Wars, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Indiana Jones, and more.