BWW Interview: Keith Lockhart talks Bernadette Peters and Audra MacDonald at the Boston Pops

Maestro Keith Lockhart is fond of telling the story of how he first met Bernadette Peters:

"I was backstage at INTO THE WOODS in about '87 and I was debating my career in Pittsburgh which wasn't going anywhere and going into the Broadway pit. I'd been set up by mutual acquaintances to have lunch with Paul Gemingnani who was conducting the show. Paul invited me to stick around and hear the matinee from the pit. I was backstage during the show and was actually run into by Bernadette who was late making her entrance as the Witch. She bumped into me and bounced off and said, 'Oh, excuse me' in that adorable voice of hers and I told he she could bump into me anytime. That was our first meeting," he says in a phone interview.

That was the beginning of a professional relationship which was clearly on display at Boston's Symphony Hall as the Boston Pops opened their 2015 season on May 6th. Peters, in a dazzling land low-cut lavender gown which featured a multitude of bugle beads, was a sight to behold. It was difficult to believe that this stunning woman has been entertaining audiences for five decades, winning two Tony Awards along the way. Vocally, this Broadway diva is still in her prime. Her voice has retained its power and is remarkably supple. When she caresses a lyric, it becomes tender enough to soothe even the most restless child. She will perform with the orchestra once again on July 5th at Tanglewood.

Her fondness for Keith Lockhart was evident as she rolled out an elaborate cake to mark the maestro's 20th anniversary with the Pops. As the song from HAPPY HUNTING once stated, they've formed "A mutual admiration society". Lockhart has also retained his youthful good looks as was evident when film clips were shown when he first took over the Boston Pops from the legendary John Williams in 1995.

Bernadette Peters isn't the only Broadway legend who will be gracing the stage with the Boston Pops this season. Four time Tony Award winner Audra MacDonald will perform with the orchestra on June 2nd. "She may be one of the most talented people I'v ever shared a stage with," Lockhart comments. "It's king of frightening how talented she is." With both Peters and MacDonald performing under his baton, Lockhart says the Pops is blessed to have "two of the most incandescent performers ever to grace the Broadway stage" at Symphony Hall.

The Great White Way will also be represented with the Pops by The Midtown Men--the former stars of JERSEY BOYS. "We're doing a retro 60's-ish concert in honor of television's MAD MEN which a lot of us are going to be sad to see go away and we thought we'd pay tribute with a group that has a real 60's sound. And they are great. I just saw then for the first time when they performed live at the dedication of the Kennedy Institute. They were amazing!" said the conductor.

The Broadway husband and wife team of Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley will blend their superb talents with the Pops when they head a Sondheim Revue. "They will be our core people who will be joined by other new artists from our Tanglewood Music Center. We're doing that both in Boston and at Tanglewood on June 21st for the New York crowd," Lockhart comments.

The Boston Pops will also present a special showing of the film SINGING IN THE RAIN. "It what some people might consider THE greatest movie musical of all time. We'll be showing the whole film accompanied by the Boston Pops, so the crowd will get to see Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor and Debbie Reynolds sing and dance to the music of our orchestra," the maestro says. Lochkart admits, though, that this is an arduous task for a conductor. "It's hard. Those film coordination projects--especially in musicals; and even more when they include tap numbers--are very, very hard. It's one of those situations where you really can't stop thinking for two solid hours. It's tough but on the other hand it's one of those places where I'm wanted and needed because that's where a conductor is needed to get through it."

Televised performances by the Boston Pops may be exceptionally good but nothing rivals a live performance by the orchestra. Their sound is grand and the ambiance of Symphony Hall is truly special. Click the following link to book your tickets for any one of their upcoming concerts: Tickets and Events | Boston Symphony Orchestra | bso.org

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From This Author Joseph F. Panarello

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