BWW Review: BROADWAY TONIGHT at Florida Orchestra
If a Tony Award was given for Best Broadway Tribute By An Orchestra, The Florida Orchestra would have garnered several with their Broadway Tonight Broadway-musical-themed concert featuring Broadway stars Donna Vivino, Madison Claire Parks and Bronson Norris Murphy. The program, directed by Doug LaBrecque, was presented as part of the Raymond James Pops at the beautiful Duke Energy Center For The Arts, Mahaffey Theatre in St Petersburg. Under the spirited direction of guest conductor William Waldrop, the orchestra showcased their proficient repertoire for a broad range of beloved Broadway tunes.
To get the audience in a New York state of mind, the orchestra started with a beautiful arrangement of several songs from My Fair Lady, presently on Broadway starring Laura Benanti. With the iconic "I Could Have Danced All Night", "On the Street Where You Live", and "Wouldn't It Be Loverly" to "Get Me to The Church on Time" and "With a Little Bit of Luck", toes were tapping and audience members were singing or humming along.
Mr. Murphy then performed a sleek rendition of "S'Wonderful" from Funny Face. His smooth vocals are as handsome as he is and his smile can light up a room. His piercing eyes will capture your attention You can see why he was selected by Andrew Lloyd Webber to premier the role of the Phantom in Love Never Dies: The Phantom Returns, and made his principle Broadway debut in Harold Prince's production of the perennial hit The Phantom of the Opera.
Miss Parks exuded beauty and poise singing "Falling in Love With Love" from The Boys from Syracuse. She has a beautiful soprano voice with an accomplished vocal range, and is a third generation performer. No wonder she was so at home on stage. Her mother is Phantom of the Opera star Karen Culliver, her father is composer Garrett Parks, and her grandmother was legendary Broadway actress and MGM film star Betty Garrett. Miss. Parks is most well-known for starring as Luisa in the Fantasticks off Broadway.
Holding the longest note of the show was Broadway veteran Donna Vivino, thrilling the audience with "Johnny One Note" from Babes in Arms. Miss Vivino had the audience breathing for her as she easily powered through holding one of the longest notes I have ever heard. Perhaps that comes from defying so much gravity as Elphaba on Broadway in the blockbuster musical Wicked. Miss Vivino's stage presence started at a young age and by the time she was 8 years old she was cast as the original Young Cosette on Broadway in Les Misérables. She can be heard singing, "Castle on a Cloud" on the original cast album.
That was our introduction to Broadway in the first 3 songs of the show by what Conductor William Waldrop said, "these are some selections you would be hearing if you were visiting Broadway tonight". What a perfect title for the evening's performance - Broadway Tonight! The Maestro was interesting to watch as he directed the orchestra. His whole body got in to the music as he swayed and relished each note. It really showed that he has extensive experience under his belt. On Broadway he is known as both a conductor and pianist. His love of the American Songbook has made him a sought-after conductor on the symphonic pops stage. He was so charming interacting with the crowd and the performers and made this a fun and relaxing evening. One of his lines that got a good chuckle from the audience was, "When you live in New York, you never turn down a job in Florida in March!" I'm sure the folks that laughed the loudest were our visiting snowbirds friends escaping the cold, ice and snow of the North.
The evening was filled with one great song after another. "The Impossible Dream" sung by Mr. Murphy was so rich. Miss Vivino stunned the audience in a white ball gown singing, "Don't Cry for me Argentina". You could have heard a pin drop. Jeff Multer's violin solo from Fiddler on the Roof was glorious. Maestro showed his accomplished skills on the piano for the Broadway Tonight medley. Joining in, all three performers sang "Room Where it Happened" from Hamilton, then went solo on songs such as "You've Got a Friend" from Beautiful, the Carole King musical, with exquisite vocals by Miss Vivino. Miss Parks was the perfect Elsa, vivaciously belting "Let it Go" from Frozen. Mr. Murphy brought Aladdin to life with his warm version of "A Whole New World".
The evening ended much too soon, but with a bang. None other than Wicked's Elphaba herself, Donna Vivino, singing the song she sang on Broadway that continues to wow audiences worldwide - "Defying Gravity". You've got to have a powerful and well-trained set of pipes to not only reach the notes this song demands; you have to hold them. And hold them she did as she held our attention up to that last "Tarzan-like" yell.
The grateful audience gave a standing ovation for the orchestra's wonderful production and received an encore in return. We were treated to quintessential Broadway tunes by consummate pros with distinguished careers. When the Florida Orchestra says they are performing "Broadway Tonight", they aren't kidding. From the thunderous percussion section, lyrical woodwinds, elegant strings, bright horns and piano harmonics, each member was up to the task. The awesome performers and guest conductor they brought in, is a tribute to the caliber and class by which this orchestra upholds a high standard of performance.
The Florida Orchestra is recognized as Tampa Bay's leading performing arts institution, the largest professional symphony orchestra in Florida, and one of the most vibrant and innovative orchestras in America. Through extraordinary musical performances, the orchestra inspires the people of Tampa Bay and serves as a leader and beacon for the musical arts throughout the state. Regardless of where performances occur, The Florida Orchestra is committed to serving the entire Tampa Bay area. They perform nearly 100 concerts annually in the tri-city area of Tampa, Clearwater, and St. Petersburg. Concert series include Tampa Bay Times Masterworks, Raymond James Pops, coffee concert matinees, rock concerts, free Pops in the Park concerts, and educational youth concerts.
The mission of The Florida Orchestra is to enrich the life of the Tampa Bay area as it inspires, entertains and educates a wide and diverse audience with the unique experience of live symphonic music, ensuring that future generations will continue to enjoy this legacy that so magnificently celebrates the human spirit
For more information about the Florida Orchestra visit www.floridaorchestra.org
For more information on the vocalists visit:
Visit www.williamwaldrop.com on the latest from Conductor Waldrop