BWW Review: The American Pops Orchestra Sings a Joyful Tribute to STREISAND
The American Pops Orchestra, founded in 2015 by Maestro Luke Frazier has a mission to "breath new life into orchestral pops programming and inspiring new audiences to discover the wealth of material in the Great American Songbook in dynamic ways."
Dynamic is a great word to use. The new orchestra, under exceptional leadership from Maestro Frazier is pushing the boundaries of traditional pops orchestras and breathing new life into cherished favorites. On Friday, January 13, 2017, the orchestra presented "Don't Rain on my Parade: 75 Years of Streisand" at George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium. The powerfully sung concert featured some major Broadway and local talent and none of it disappointed.
The evening was hosted by Golden Globe and Emmy nominated actress, Fran Drescher, who besides being a well-loved television star, is also the Founder and President of Cancer Schmancer, an organization dedicated to cancer prevention and early detection. Ms. Drescher, who was on point with her one-liners throughout the evening, was a perfect emcee for the evening, and had a nice mixture of heart and soul with her personal stories and triumphs, as well as her own trials.
The main performers of the evening were all high caliber performers and many familiar names to the theater going audience. Broadway star Lindsay Mendez open the show with a beautiful and powerful rendition of "Don't Rain On My Parade" with "Before the Parade Passes By" mixed in. Not only is Ms. Mendez booming voice a good "stand-in" for Ms. Streisand, she makes it her own with a very unique performance. Tony nominee, Laura Osnes, who will be returning to Broadway this spring, was also present with her gorgeous voice on "My Man".
Audiences expect great things from performers like Ms. Mendez and Ms. Osnes, but for those who were not familiar with local favorite Bayla Whitten, she may have stole the show from her Broadway costars. Ms. Whitten's voice was mesmerizing on two songs from Yentl, in addition to a fantastic rendition of "On A Clear Day". Just like her predecessors on stage, her voice was a wonderful tribute to Ms. Streisand, but also a unique in a personal way. The remaining performers of Amber Iman, Lucia Spina, and Will & Anthony Nunziata were all perfect and enjoyable.
The main star of the show, of course, is Maestro Frazier and his expert orchestra. Mr. Frazier's energetic conducting was beautiful and brought some great moments out from his use of color and tone with the orchestra and led them on a fantastic musical journey. One notable player is harpist Kate Rogers, who got a moment in the spotlight on a beautiful solo on "The Way We Were".
The American Pops Orchestra has a variety of concerts in their upcoming season. Check out their website for more details.
Photo credits: Daniel Schwartz