The best of Broadway and beyond descend upon Carnegie Hall to help celebrate the New York Pops 31st Birthday Gala, led by musical director and conductor Steven Reineke. The Broadway Blog had the opportunity to chat with Reineke about his beginnings, tonight’s gala performance, and how he maintains such sparkling composure under the bright lights of Carnegie Hall at the helm of the largest independent pops orchestra in the United States.
Reineke attended Miami University (in Ohio—not to be confused with the University of Miami in Florida) and after graduation became increasingly interested in writing music and becoming a composer. He won a grant to study film music and uprooted to Los Angeles. The Cincinnati Pops Orchestra eventually hired him as an orchestral arranger and he “started goofing around with conducting”—a career that he never intended to pursue. Under the guidance of mentor Erich Kunzel, who served as the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra for 32 years, Reineke acquired the knowledge and technique needed for such a role, and soon found himself as the musical director of the Modesto Symphony Orchestra back in California. He then started working with Long Beach Symphony Orchestra and by word of mouth, was increasingly in demand.
After the passing of New York Pops founder Skitch Henderson in 2005, the Pops began to look for new orchestral leadership. The search continued for three years, and in 2008 Reineke was invited to conduct their 25th Birthday Gala, which also happened to be his first time conducting at the legendary Carnegie Hall. For those who get a thrill out of hearing a live orchestra on Broadway, a New York Pops experience is tenfold. Typically comprised of 75 to 80 musicians, Reineke describes the Pops simply as “a standard symphony orchestra that plays popular music. It just opens up the door to us, from classics to the Beatles, show tunes, film scores, etc. We’re able to work with all kinds of artists in all sorts of genres, some may be cutting edge but then we can also pay tribute to the heritage of the great American songbook like Gershwin and Porter. And the great American songbook continues to be written!”
Such is the case with this year’s 31st Birthday Gala, which honors the work of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman. The Pops has alternately paid homage to both living composers as well as the legacy of popular music. Last year honored Jules Styne, Danny Kaye and Frank Loesser. This year’s celebration will be in full swing with dozens of legendary performers coming out to celebrate Shaiman and Wittman’s body of work, which includes Hairspray, the West End’s new production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
The spectacular lineup of stars from both stage and screen include Nikki Blonsky, Christian Borle, Laura Bell Bundy, Kerry Butler, Will Chase, Linda Hart, Megan Hilty, Capathia Jenkins, Jane Krakowski, Ricki Lake, Jenifer Lewis, Patti LuPone, Andrea Martin, Katharine McPhee, Matthew Morrison, John Pizzarelli, Corey Reynolds, Martin Short, Clarke Thorell, Aaron Tveit and Marissa Jaret Winokur.
The event will also feature Broadway Inspirational Voices, Ronald McDonald House® Rockin’ the House Band and Singers, Camp Broadway Kids, and The New York Pops Kids On Stage Students. Those lucky enough to have secured tickets will have a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It is “Carnegie f*cking Hall,” as Shaiman has so gloriously expressed in preparation for the evening’s festivities.
Even if you weren’t able to snag a ticket to the sold-out affair, The New York Pops is currently hosting an online auction at www.CharityBuzz.com/NewYorkPops, featuring over 40 packages generously donated by the orchestra’s PopsEd Ambassadors, Pops Culturalists, and many friends from the world of arts and entertainment, travel, fashion, sports, and more. The auction closes May 1, 2014. All gala and auction proceeds support the orchestra and its PopsEd programs throughout New York City.
As for next season? Best to book now, or you’ll be missing out on one-night-only performances from Matthew Morrison, Sutton Foster, Frankie Moreno and more. Visit www.nypops.org for more information.