3/12/16 – Broadway Rocks!
From the moment maestro Ward Stare began dancing and jumping along with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra during the “Rocks Overture” to start Broadway Rocks, the audience got a big, goofy grin that wouldn’t let up. In a show that unabashedly went from hit to hit, Broadway stars Rob Evan, Christiane Noll, and Capathia Jenkins (along with their many outfits), accompanied by the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and the Roberts Wesleyan Festival Choir, directed by David Chin, didn’t disappoint.
The first half of the concert featured more of the choir than the second, and the guest singers were happy to interact and wave with the choir in their opening tune “Everybody Rejoice” from The Wiz, in which all the singers were featured. After introductions by Evan, the concert got going in the fun and celebration vein with belting chords and dancing around. Evan then took the opportunity to showcase his classic Broadway voice by singing one from his claim to fame, “This Is the Moment” from Jekyll and Hyde. The choir and Noll then took over with “Good Morning Baltimore” from Hairspray. Noll has a classic Broadway girlish and soprano voice, and it was a delight to hear. She immediately switched gears and sang some bass parts with the whole group in “The Jersey Boys Medley,” which inspired a shared laugh from the audience.
Next, Evan introduced “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” which he sang with his friend from Jekyll, Noll. A popular duet in the 80’s, the song actually originated from a play called Dance of the Vampires, known as the biggest flop in Broadway history. Evan freely admitted his participation in the play. The two clearly enjoyed singing this together. Jenkins came back on stage for the choir-centric “Circle of Life” from the Lion King. The choir was most featured here, and performed admirably with the soloists.
It was finally Jenkins’ turn to take the limelight, and she did not disappoint with her Tina-esque version of “Proud Mary,” which truly “raised the roof,” as predicted by Noll. It included Tina’s signature opening spoken lines, but Jenkins’ performance was truly her own. Ward Stare, music director of the RPO, took a hold of the mic to welcome the audience, and the orchestra played the “Jesus Christ Superstar Overture.”
To close out the first half, Evan sang “Seasons of Love” from Rent, which had everyone singing or lip-syncing along, and then one of the truest “big hits” of Broadway, “You Can’t Stop the Beat” from Hairspray, sung by the choir and all three singers. According to Stare during the choir rehearsal, the guest singers affectionately called this one “You Can’t Stop to Breathe.”
The second half, Evan, the choir, and the orchestra came out with “Come Sail Away,” which is one of the “fun” songs that the guests had mentioned that wouldn’t be associated with a play.
Following that, Jenkins and Noll did a very touching duet from Wicked called “For Good,” a song of love between two friends. Evan changed the pace with a tune from Chess called “Anthem,” a song he called “patriotic” and “appropriate for the times.” The next two the ladies just their chance to strut their stuff.
Jenkins came out with some serious sass, ‘tude, and soul, giving the Stare the stare down before singing “I Will Survive.” Stare waved his arms at her to cool her down after the sizzling performance. Then Noll sang “the song that everyone wanted to sing before ‘Frozen,'” “Defying Gravity,” again from Wicked.
Before another Jenkins solo, the piece that everyone knew was coming, the “Mamma Mia Medley,” had the whole audience grooving in their seats. Jenkins’ solo was the blockbuster from Dreamgirls, “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” the many-times-nominated song that may have launched Jennifer Hudson’s career in the 2006 movie version.
To close the concert, Noll and Evan teamed up again for “The Phantom of the Opera Theme,” with Evan again showing his vocal range, and Noll demonstrating her vocal range by effectively singing the more “Broadway” and “operatic” sections. Evan closed it all out with “Music of the Night,” which upon the ending, launched the audience from their seats. To those who stuck around, the three came back out in full seventies gear for an encore of “Aquarius (Let the Sunshine In),” which everyone was on their feet, and clapping to the beat.
In all, it was a supremely fun concert. The accompanying orchestra and choir were on point, and added much to the star power. The three guests were each fabulous in their own ways, and did a great job of both staying with the Broadway tradition and the nights, while showing their own personalities and tastes. It was a treat for the audience to see Stare so loose and revved up for his first Pops Series concert with the RPO.
A special note should be added that although it was a “Broadway” show, all the performers did a great job in making it fun for both the Broadway versed and the lay person.