BWW Review: BPO BROADWAY COMEDY TONIGHT! at KLEINHAN'S MUSIC HALL
Broadway Trio Joins BPO for a COMEDY TONIGHT!
The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra's Pop Series concluded with a robust program entitled BROADWAY COMEDY TONIGHT! Packed with gems from Broadway's heyday to present day blockbusters, the varied program allowed it three soloists to shine.
The talented trio included Sirius XM's own Broadway diva of many voices, Christine Pedi, showman Jason Graae and the multi-talented Christiane Noll. Conductor Stefan Sanders started the evening with a lagubrious reading of Frank Loesser's Guys and Dolls Overture, and one wondered if the plodding tempos were from a tragedy, instead of a the advertised comedy. Luckily, once the singers took to the stage, the proceedings lightened up dramatically. Mr. Graae packs a large personality into his small frame and acted much as the comedy ringleader. His rewriting of Lorenz Hart's lyrics in "My Funny Valentine" was clever and punny, while his agile dancing skills were spot on, especially as Rooster in the Annie trio, "Easy Street." His gender bending rendition of "Popular" from WICKED was a clever diversion that put it's originator Kristin Chenoweth to shame.
Ms. Pedi is known to many as a radio personality, but her days in "Forbidden Broadway" allowed her to hone her many impersonations. When else does one get to hear Eartha Kitt, Ethel Merman, Carol Channing and Joan Rivers belt out the disco era hit "I Will Survive" with a full orchestra! Although sounding a bit gravelly voiced in a few spots, Pedi's rendition of the "Ring Them Bells," made famous by Liza Minelli, showed that this woman know hows to sell a song. After playing Mama Morton in CHICAGO on Broadway on short notice, Ms. Pedi explained how she was able to literally surprise her parents who were sitting in the audience, unknowing that their daughter would be making her leading lady debut on Broadway. She belted out "When You're Good to Mama" masterfully, in a role that seemed custom made for her voice.
Christiane Noll is one of those powerhouse singers equally at home at belting out a pop tune while sequing into a classical aria with aplomb. Her recent success in Connecticut in NEXT TO NORMAL is rumored for a Broadway transfer and one can see why based on her gutsy rendition of "The Diva's Lament" from SPAMALOT. After an impressive and rousing Overture to CANDIDE by Leonard Bernstein, where Sanders seemed much more at home, we were treated to that show's challenging aria "Glitter and Be Gay," originated by Barbara Cook. Ms. Noll reveled in the campy drama of the aria's introduction, and when she pulled strings of pearls and assorted jewels from her bosom during the high flying coloratura passages it was obvious that she is a true theatrical pro who can captivate an audience.
The trio joined forces to sing Alan Menken's "Under the Sea" from THE LITTLE MERMAID, and closed the official portion of the evening with the infectious "You Can't Stop The Beat" from HAIRSPRAY. Despite some persistent sound issues and unequal balance with the performer's microphones, the concert ended joyously. A full on encore of hits from HAIR had each of the performers return to the stage in psychedelic sixties wigs and costumes, while the BPO Chorus transformed into hippies. The audience ate up the schtick and "The Age of Aquarius" allowed for a grinning audience to exit from a genuine "Comedy, Tonight!"