Vancouver Symphony

Broadway Rocks

Dates 7 & 8 December 2007@ 20.00 Venue Orpheum Theatre

Conductor Erich Kunzel Featured vocalists Christina Marie Norrup, Mark Willett & Stephen Mazurek

Reviewer John Jane

The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra thrilled a nearly full house with its second Pops concert of the 2007-08 season by bringing in renowned pops conductor Erich Kunzel to the podium. As an added bonus, the UBC Opera Ensemble and an audience-friendly trio of excellent performers augmented an inspired programme of both original and adapted musical scores from such diverse composers as Fats Waller and Phil Collins.

Many fine singers have shared the stage with the VSO over the years, but vocalists, Christina Marie Norrup, Mark Willett, and Stephen Mazurek are, prima facie, the best-looking trio to perform with the Orchestra.

The music certainly had moments of inspiration, marvelous orchestrations, and a wealth of musical ideas. Maestro Kunzel’s tribute to “The Great White Way” included selections from shows with such varied leitmotivs as so-called “Jukebox Musicals” like Mamma Mia and Movin’ Out that use previously released popular songs as its musical score as well as stage musicals built around classic novels like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and The Scarlet Pimpernel.

What better way to start the evening than with one of the most memourable tunes ever, “This Joint is Jumping” from the show Ain’t Misbehavin’ featured the entire orchestra along with the fifty-member choir and three solo vocalists.

I suppose no Broadway tribute concert would be complete without featuring at least a couple of songs from Andrew Lloyd Webber. For reasons best known to himself, Maestro Kunzel chose the “Biblical” productions of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and Jesus Christ Superstar. The song choice of “I Don’t Know how to Love Him” gave Ms Norrup the opportunity to demonstrate her phenomenal vocal range.

In complete contrast, the orchestra next served up “a spoonful of sugar” (figuratively and musically) with a medley from Mary Poppins. Disney’s assault on Broadway was well served with medleys from Tarzan and The Lion King (two different Disney productions) that featured the UBC Opera Ensemble.

The first half ended in spectacular fashion with a medley from Jersey Boys – a brand new stage musical that recounts the career and music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. The audience didn’t have to be coaxed to clap along when Norrup, Willett, and Mazurek showed off their dance moves with “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” This time it was Mark Willett’s moment to shine and he made the most of it, mimicking Frankie Valli’s signature falsetto with “What a Night.”

Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller’s legendary 1963 tune “On Broadway” was offered up in an unfamiliar symphonic arrangement to kick-off the second half. Show music lovers and jazz aficionados are well acquainted with this tune, since George Benson’s defined interpretation was used in the 1980 film “All That Jazz.”

The concert ended on the same zestful note that it started on, with the vivacious Ms Norrup leading the way with a nimble rendition of “All That Jazz” from Chicago. For an encore, Maestro Kunzel returned to the stage to lead orchestra and chorus with the appropriately titled “Can’t Stop the Beat” for Hairspray.

© 2007 John Jane