BWW REVIEW: Sydney Symphony Orchestra Celebrates A Great American Composer With THE BERNSTEIN SONGBOOK, A MUSICAL THEATRE CELEBRATION
Thursday 10th May 2018, 6:30pm Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House
In celebration of what would have been the year of Leonard Bernstein's 100th birthday, Sydney Symphony Orchestra (SSO) pays tribute to the acclaimed American composer, conductor, author lecturer and pianist with a concert of THE BERNSTEIN SONGBOOK, A MUSICAL THEATRE CELEBRATION. Showcasing Bernstein's contributions to musical theatre, opera and cinema the SSO joins with Australian and International singers to delight audiences under the baton of John Wilson and staging direction by Mitchell Butel.
The Massachusetts born Bernstein received global acclaim for not only his record as being the first American appointed as a Chief conductor for a major orchestra when he took the role for the New York Philharmonic, but also his televised concerts and lectures and his work composing a range of music, from choral work, theatre and cinema. The concert, which is included in SSO's Meet The Music and Kaleidoscope programs, focuses on Bernstein's the theatre and cinema works but delightfully includes some less covered works alongside the regularly performed favourites.
With a specific interest in music from the golden age of Hollywood and Broadway, going so far as to leading his own orchestra dedicated to the genre, John Wilson is an ideal conductor to lead the SSO for this delightful concert. Wilson and the SSO are joined by American Broadway and West End mezzo-soprano Kim Criswell, English television star and tenor Julian Ovenden and Australian Helpmann Award winning soprano Lorina Gore. The headlining soloists are supported by the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs and a bevy of beautiful Australian musical theatre men, Ryan Gonzalez (The View Upstairs, In the Heights), Michael Hart (My Fair Lady, South Pacific), Todd Keys (My Fair Lady, South Pacific), Matthew Manahan (Cabaret, Paris A Rock Odyssey) and Shaun Rennie (Mamma Mia, Fiddler on the Roof and winner of 2016 BroadwayWorld Award for Best Director of a Musical for RENT).
Given that the featured songs are drawn from musical theatre works, award winning director Mitchell Butel ensures that the concert is presented with a degree of dramatization, elevating the work from a standard concert. For some pieces Butel utilises other performers to round out dialogue such as during the Opening Scene from ON THE TOWN where Key's gives a rich depth to I Feel Like I'm Not Out of Bed Yet whilst Manahan and Rennie presents the drama that surrounds the song. Other works are presented with a playful physicality, particularly the songs selected for the delightful Criswell who is perfection in the character roles of ON THE TOWN's I Can Cook, Too, WONDERFUL TOWN's A Hundred Easy Ways To Lose A Man, and I Am Easily Assimilated from CANDIDE which she also infuses a brilliantly amusing accent to go with the tango with Gonzalez and Manahan. Ovenden's glorious tenor is utilised for the more reflective works of Lonely Town (ON THE TOWN), Nothing More Than This (CANDIDE) and a heartbreakingly beautiful and emotionally connected Maria (WEST SIDE STORY) and his stillness is presented as a contrast to the energy presented by the other men. Gore's Glitter and be Gay (CANDIDE) is presented with the requisite seductiveness in keeping with the underlying impression that Cunegonde will resort to using her wiles to get things with an impressive reveal of the trinkets that have been her payoff and the additional encore with Criswell is a fabulous treat for those smart enough to stay after curtain call. Hart, Gonzalez, Manahan and Rennie's Gee, Officer Krupke (WEST SIDE STORY) is a wonderful inclusion in the lineup and a chance to see these Australian musical theatre lads play up and have fun with a piece whilst delivering good accents and expressions and it is a treat to hear Rennie singing again after focusing his recent career as a director rather than performer.
Whilst THE BERNSTEIN SONGBOOK, A MUSICAL THEATRE CELEBRATION was only on for a short season, if you missed out on this concert, make sure to book to see something else from Sydney Symphony Orchestra's offering and any production that includes any of the singers featured in this concert.