BWW Review: The Boston Pops Orchestra Celebrates Bernstein and HAMILTON

BWW Review: The Boston Pops Orchestra Celebrates Bernstein and HAMILTON

The Boston Pops Orchestra

Keith Lockhart conducting

Presenting Renée Elise Goldsberry with special guest Phillipa Soo

Celisse Henderson, Crystal Monee Hall, Chelsea Packard, backing vocals; Michael Mitchell, piano; Orlando Le Fleming, bass; Steven Walker, guitars; John David, drums; Senfuab Stoney, hand percussion

Film by Susan Daniel and Dick Bartlett

Steve Colby, Sound Designer; Pamela Smith, Lighting Designer

Performances June 12-June 14 at 8 p.m. at Symphony Hall, Boston

Ticket Information 888-266-1200 or www.bostonpops.org

The 133rd spring season of The Boston Pops Orchestra at Symphony Hall is winding down, but the final week is a whirlwind of activity, culminating in three performances of West Side Story: In Concert (June 15 at 8, June 16 at 3 and 8), as part of the celebration of composer Leonard Bernstein's 100th birthday. Before that happens, the penultimate trio of concerts brings a little bit of another great Broadway composer to the venerable stage with the appearance of two of the stars of Lin-Manuel Miranda's groundbreaking Hamilton: An American Musical. Tony Award-winning actress Renée Elise Goldsberry and her special guest, Tony-nominated Phillipa Soo, stepped in to replace Leslie Odom, Jr. (another Hamilton alum) when a scheduling conflict made him unavailable.

Perhaps owing to the popularity of the 2016 Tony Award-winning Best Musical, the audience skewed to the younger demographic, and both Goldsberry and Soo were greeted with thunderous applause and yelps before they sang a note. Having played the Schuyler sisters (Angelica and Eliza Hamilton, respectively) side by side on Broadway, they proclaimed their sibling-like connection and showed genuine affection for each other. Soo took over midway through Goldsberry's set for a solo rendition of "Children Will Listen" (Stephen Sondheim, Into the Woods), and her Hamilton character's haunting and fierce "Burn." Goldsberry and her trio of backup vocalists came back out to perform a smokin' "No More Tears" ("enough is enough") with Soo, making one actually long for the return of disco if these two are singing it.

In her Boston Pops debut, Goldsberry opened her set with a delightful medley of "On a Clear Day" (Burton Lane/Alan Jay Lerner) and "I Can See Clearly Now" (Johnny Nash). She followed with an incredible version of "Beat Out Dat Rhythm on a Drum" (Georges Bizet/Oscar Hammerstein, Carmen Jones), boasting her rapid articulation of the lyrics in tandem with the virtuosic hand percussion of Senfuab Stoney, and the contributions of her combo featuring Michael Mitchell (piano), Orlande Le Fleming (bass), Steven Walker (guitars), and John Davis (drums). After sharing a bit of her performing back story, Goldsberry and her vocal trio (Celisse Henderson, Crystal Monee Hall, and Chelsea Packard) sang "Shadowland" from The Lion King (her Broadway debut), showcasing their beautiful harmonies beneath her powerful belt. Not one to disappoint, Goldsberry provided a delicious taste of Angelica Schuyler with "Satisfied," as her besotted acolytes in the hall mouthed every word. She closed out her set with a pairing of the emotional "Without You/Finale B" from Rent, in which she played the last Mimi. For her encore, Goldsberry chose to go out on an uplifting note with an affirming, bouncy take on "You'll Never Walk Alone" (Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein, Carousel).

Keith Lockhart and The Boston Pops Orchestra did an all-Bernstein opening act, leading off with Conductor Laureate John Williams' composition "To Lenny! To Lenny!" as the underscore to a fantastic film montage (by Susan Daniel and Dick Bartlett) of still photos from Bernstein's life, as well as clips from some of his musical theater compositions. The program included "Overture to Candide," "Love Theme and Finale from On the Waterfront" (Bernstein's only film score), and "Mambo" (West Side Story), also as underscore to a series of film dance scenes. The only selection not from musical theater was the simple and lovely instrumental "Simple Song" from Mass, which was written for the 1971 opening of the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, followed by "Bernstein on Broadway," comprised of "New York, New York" (On the Town), "Lonely Town" (On the Town), and "America" (West Side Story). They returned to conclude the evening with the de rigueur John Philip Sousa march, "The Stars and Stripes Forever," replete with piping piccolos, unfurling American flag, and unbridled audience clap-along.

Photo credit: BSO Press Office (Renée Elise Goldsberry)

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From This Author Nancy Grossman

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