Ryan Silverman with The New York Pops. (Photo: Richard Termine)
By Ryan Leeds
The New York Pops wrapped up another fine season last Friday night with Movie Mixtape: Songs from the Silver Screen. The verdict? A mixed bag. Conductor Steven Reineke, who just celebrated his tenth anniversary with the celebrated orchestra. opened the concert with the rousing 20th Century Fox fanfare, which melded perfectly into Tinseltown’s anthem, “Hooray for Hollywood.”
Broadway stars Ryan Silverman (Chicago, Side Show, Phantom of the Opera), Mykal Kilgore (Hair, Motown: The Musical) and Laura Osnes (Cinderella, Bandstand) joined brassy concert/recording Storm Large who, at one point, quipped with self-deprecation, “Thanks for letting riff-raff like me back in here.” Large, whose name matches her voice and persona, has performed with the Pops before.
The self-described, “Sexual Omnivore” mesmerized the audience with “The Man That Got Away” from 1954’s A Star Is Born, and later, with the title song from 1973’s The Way We Were. Towards the end of the concert, she returned to the stage in a sparkling teal dress to belt J.A.C. Redford’s arrangement of Skyfall, the 2012 hit from the James Bond movie of the same name. It clinched the Oscar, Grammy, and Golden Globe Award for Best Song. Had there been a prize for best concert performance, Large would have made an acceptance speech.
The Gershwin favorite, “They Can’t Take that Away from Me” from Shall We Dance and “The Rainbow Connection” from The Muppet Movie were both made fresh by Kilgore. Vocally, he’s gifted with one of the finest (and clearest) ranges of anyone working on Broadway today. Case in point: He joined Osnes in “When You Believe” from 1998s The Prince of Egypt — and sang the Whitney Houston track. Kilgore, who was basking in the glow of his Carnegie Hall debut, joined his fellow performers to collectively perform “Happy” from Despicable Me 2, and “This is Me” from The Greatest Showman. After thunderous applause, the foursome took center stage for Bohemian Rhapsody‘s “We Are The Champions” — an appropriate bookend to 90 years of movie music.
Osnes was a last minute replacement to The New York Pops line-up, having replaced Ashley Park less than a week before the concert. Patrons were greeted with a revised program in their Playbill stating that Park had “withdrawn from this evening performance due to an unforeseen schedule conflict.” Osnes rose to the occasion. Her sweet tones were tailor fit for The Wizard of Oz favorite “Over the Rainbow.” Reineke introduced the song with a bit of trivia; the studio heads nearly cut the song because they thought it slowed down the picture. The same thing almost happened to “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid, which Osnes sang in Act II.
Yet another incident of studios meddling into music happened with 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. After a dispute between star Audrey Hepburn and a studio executive who wanted to nix “Moon River,” the song remained and went on to win a Grammy for Song of the Year. Had that studio exec head heard Friday night’s version, he may have won the battle?
The Henry Mancini & Johnny Mercer tune received the poorest treatment of the evening. Ralph Hermann’s arrangement for two (performed by Osnes and Silverman) was bogged down with lethargy rather than love. Another dud in the bunch was “Falling Slowly” from Once. Throughout the number, Silverman and Large attempted to create onstage intimacy, but it failed to reach across Carnegie Hall’s vast Isaac Stern Auditorium.
Silverman fared much better in an upper register as he ignited the audience with the title song from Footloose. Later, he delivered some cheeky comedy with “Blame Canada” from South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut.
Reineke showcased the impeccable Pops with a tribute to the late composers Michel Legrand and Andre Previn; he opened Act II with Legrand’s Grammy Award-winning theme to Summer of ’42, followed by an orchestral medley of beloved Disney songs.
The New York Pops will celebrate its’ 36th birthday on Monday, April 29 as they honor pop star Cyndi Lauper and Ken Lowe, Food Network founder and media executive. Annaleigh Ashford, Boy George, Estelle, Bridget Everett, Nona Hendryx, Carly Rae Jepsen, Alex Newell, and Stark Sands are among the starry line-up.
Next season’s lineup includes Jeremy Jordan (October 29, 2019); a Frank and Ella Christmas with Tony DeSare and Capathia Jenkins (December 20-21, 2019; the songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein, featuring Laura Michelle Kelly and Max von Essen (January 24, 2020); I’m Every Woman – Divas on Stage with Mandy Gonzalez, Carrie Manolakos and Alex Newell (February 14, 2020); and Movie Night – the music of John Williams (March 27, 2020). For more information visit: www.newyorkpops.org
Ryan Leeds is a freelance theater journalist who lives in Manhattan. He is the Chief Theater Critic for Manhattan Digest and a frequent contributor to Dramatics Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @Ry_Runner or Facebook.