BWW Review: Broadway Stars Shine Bright in TSO's ON BROADWAY
* * * * (out of 4)
Two of musical theatre's finest voices filled the Roy Thomson Hall last night at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra's ON BROADWAY. Two-time Tony Award-nominee Stephanie J. Block joined Tony Award-nominated Canadian performer Ramin Karimloo and Steven Reineke, Principal Pops Conductor, in a night of Broadway highlights ranging from Rodgers & Hammerstein, to Stephen Sondheim, to Stephen Schwartz.
I am huge fan of concert programming that serves to bring new audiences to the symphony - which is exactly what ON BROADWAY achieved. The house was filled with a younger audience, some potentially experiencing the majesty of a live orchestra for the very first time.
Stephanie J. Block opened with Funny Girl's signature belt-number, 'Don't Rain on My Parade', bringing the house down with an exquisitely balanced voice that she manipulates into any vocal pocket with incredible ease. As a renowned Broadway belter, it was amazing to hear Block present more of a classical sound during this concert. 'If I Loved You' from Carousel gave her an opportunity to show-off a beautiful, soft cover and a goose bump-inducing vibrato that extends to seemingly endless heights.
Block's rendition of 'Children Will Listen' from Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods is a masterclass in how to build levels of dramatic and vocal intensity; starting from relative stillness, expanding into a grand, enveloping sound and receding back to a haunting calm.
Both performers are making their TSO debuts in this concert series - a significant milestone for Ramin Karimloo, who grew up in the Greater Toronto Area. Karimloo opened with the powerful 'The Streets of Dublin' from A Man of No Importance, by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, the same team behind Broadway's Anastasia - Karimloo's most recent Broadway stint. The silk-voiced singer has remarkable presence, with a voice that soars - especially in his gorgeous portrayal of 'Being Alive' from Company. In a touching tribute, Karimloo dedicated his performance of 'Bring Him Home' from Les Misérables to the Humboldt Broncos, bringing a contemporary relevance to the heartbreaking ballad.
The most magnificent selections from the evening were the Sondheim pieces, encouraging a lush sound from the orchestra that will send shivers down your spine. Block and Karimloo's duet, 'Move On' from Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George is a testament to the singers' artistic mastery - the difficult music and complex text rolls off their tongues as they sing in perfect harmony.
The Toronto Symphony Orchestra has created a night to remember with ON BROADWAY, proving once again that they are committed to artistic excellence in everything they do. The concert experience forces you to focus on the voice - and Broadway voices don't get much better than Stephanie J. Block and Ramin Karimloo. If you love Broadway, you don't want to miss this.
You have two more opportunities to catch the unmissable ON BROADWAY with the TSO -Wednesday, April 11th and Thursday, April 12th at 8pm at the Roy Thomson Hall.