BWW Recaps: DO YOU HEAR THE PEOPLE SING with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
What an evening it was. A cast of five phenomenal voices accompanied by the huge Baltimore Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Jack Evely, Principal Pops Conductor, accompanied by the Baltimore Choral Arts Society (Tom Hall Director) singing the canon of the great French musical composers Alain Boublil and Claude Michel Schoenberg. Who could ask for anything more.
I have been critical in the past of BSO programs which seemed to emphasize only Rodgers and Hammerstein and Lerner and Lowe and neglecting more contemporary Broadway music. But no more.
In a program entitled Do You Hear the People Sing? A Concert Celebrating the Work of Boublil and Schoenberg, the huge Baltimore audience was mesmerized with solid renditions of the creative composers' five musicals: La Revolution Francaise (1973), Les Miserables (1985), Miss Saigon (1990), Martin Guerre (1996) and The Pirate Queen (2006).
This Alain Boublil/Bouberg Production was first presented with the Indianapolis Symphony in October 20, 2011, then performed with the Dallas Pops at the huge American Airlines Center in Dallas and will end the tour in Ottowa, Ontario May 10, 11, and 12, 2012.
If you didn't make it to the concerts in Baltimore, have you ever been to Ottowa in May? I highly suggest it.
It was evening of non-stop hit after hit after hit. Many in the audience may not be Broadway afficionadoes or familiar with the music presented, but the audience was spell-bound by the five soloists: Eric Kunze, Jennifer Paz, Kathy Voytko, and Marie Zamora and the incredible Terrence Mann.
Kunze was a replacement for Peter Lockyer and I was surprised the BSO program did not have an insert in the program with his bio (which is available at www.erickunze.com). Also missing from the program was any information on the composers.
Suffice it to say, Kunze has appeared on Broadway in Damn Yankees (Joe Hardy) Miss Saigon (Chris) and Les Miserables (Marius).
Paz played Kim in Miss Saigon's first national Broadway tour.
Voytko was on Broadway in The Pirate Queen (standby for Grania), Next to Normal (standby for Diana), originated the role of Ariadne opposite Nathan Lane in The Frogs, and appeared in Oklahoma and Nine.
The French Zamora was the original Cosette in the Paris production of Les Miserables, played Kate in Kiss Me Kate (Geneva and Paris) and performed in the concert Hey, Mr. Producer in London celebrating 25 years of Cameron Mackintosh's career.
Terrence Mann. I remember seeing Mann in the original Broadway production of Cats (Rum Tum Tugger), the original Inspector Javert in Les Miserables (why he's not doing the film is beyond me) and he also originated the role of Beast in Beauty and the Beast.
What a quintet!
The evening opened with a delightful overture with snippets of the music to come. It was fun trying to name each song and show.
Then very slowly from stage right comes the tall elegant Mr. Mann accompanied only by the male chorus (females joining later) singing the stirring "Bui Doi" from Miss Saigon.
Conductor Everly was in rare form. He truly seemed inspired by the performers and the music. His asides included the mention of the film of Les Miserables (now underway in Paris) with Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Ann Hathaway, and Helena Bonham Carter. He also revealed that next year there will be a Miss Saigon revival at the Drury Lane in London. The idea of Miss Saigon he added was fueled by a photo that Schoenberg saw of a young Vietnamese mother handing her daughter to a GI hoping to find her father.
The Baltimore Choral Arts Society then proceeded with a rousing rendition of "The Heat is on in Saigon". The male chorus especially was having a ball.
Everly commented that the casting of Kim was an enormous challenge. They had to find an Asian, who could look 15, have the belt of a pop star, and hit a high E Flat. Jennifer Paz fit the bill. She sang a stirring rendtion of "I'd Give My Life for You". This was followed by a lovely duet by Paz and Kunze in "Last Night of the World" which featured a great sax solo.
One of the surprises of the evening was the unveiling a NEW song for the London production of Miss Saigon entitled "Maybe" by Voytko. It's not often one gets this kind of opportunity.
Who will ever forget Jonathan Pryce's rendition of the "Engineer". Well, Mann put on some shades, proceeding from stage left, very slowly, milked the audience with "The American Dream" stroking the heads of three cellists from behind as he made his way center stage. While the Chorus was singing he mingled with the appreciative audience.
Next came Zamora singing in French (with a gorgous peach and silver gown) "Au Petit Matin" from their first project, the 1973 Revolution Francaise. Zamora in fact was in that production which featured 53 musicians, 40 cast members, and 4,000 patrons.
I became hooked with the story of "Martin Guerre" due to the 1982 brilliant Gerard Depardieu film, "The Return of Martin Guere" which was based on a legend of a soldier who disappears for 7 years and returns to a small French village in the 16th century, seeming to be a changed man. The 1993 American version was called "Sommersby" and starred Richard Gere. I was fortunate to see the musical in London in 1996 and the American tour in 2000. I love this show.
Kunze performed "Martin Guerre" and this was a followed by a lovely duet he had with Zamora, "Live With Somebody You Love". Then came the entire company with the haunting "In the Land of the Fathers" which literally brought tears.
It's not often one gets a chance to hear songs that were cut. Zamora's "I Saw Him Once" was cut from Les Miserables (when it lasted almost four hours). Paz sang a gorgeous song that was cut from Miss Saigon, "Too Much for One Heart". She commented the composers still regret they agreed to cut the number at the insistance of Nicholas Hytner.
Act I concluded with the anthem "I Dreamed a Dream" in a "Glee" inspired rendition by Paz and Voytko. They looked like they were having a ball along with the Chorus.
At intermission, it dawned on me how terrific it would have been to sell CD's of the Boublil/Schoenberg shows.
The second act opened with an Irish tilt. The Entr'acte/The Pirate Queen was played by the inspirational BSO with a lovely Irish solo by the BSO's Associate Concertmaster Madeline Adkins. Two songs from the show were performed - "Woman" by Voytko and "If I Said I Loved You" a nice duet with Voytko and Kunze.
Then...came Les Miserables. What a treat to hear the duet sung in French and English Mon Histoire/On My Own by Paz and Zamora. It was breathtaking. I could see the tears in Zamora's eyes. This was the first song in fact written for the show.
The full company performed the wonderful "At the End of the Day". I would have liked more French Horns though.
Then came the hilarious rendition of "Master of the House". Mann is such a talented actor. He unveiled an apron, attempted to mess up his long silver locks of hair (to play the role of inn-keeper Thenadier) and proceeded to BRING DOWN THE HOUSE along with Voytko and the chorus (who were cheering and toasting). To add to the scene, while Mann was singing, Voytko was distracting conductor Everly in a sensual manner and Mann proceeded to pick his pocket of his wallet and red panties. Remember...you've got to pick a pocket or two...
The beautiful "In My Life/ A Heart Full of Love" was sung by Kunze, Paz, and Zamora.
I had never thought I'd ever hear and see the original Javert again sing the classic "Stars" one more time. But I was fortunate to hear Mann once again recreate his role from the 1987 production. In my mind, I could see Mann so desperate as Javert jump from a bridge into the Seine at the end of the number. He still got it!! What a performance.
"Bring Him Home" was performed brilliantly by Kunze.
Then it was "goose bump city time" to hear the entire company perform "One Day More". The entire audience erupted with applause and gave the perfomers a standing ovation, even with one number to go!
Then the surprise came. Out of the wings stepped Alain Boublil. The audience went crazy.
The final number was "Do You Hear the People Sing?" What a way to end the evening that will be remembered forever.
For you fans of the composers, I recommend two books: "The Complete Book of Les Miserables" by Edward Behr and "The Story of Miss Saigon" by Behr and Mark Steyn.
There's also a nice CD entitled "Hey, Mr. Producer! The Musical World of Cameron Mackintosh" which includes music of Les Miserables, Miss Saigon, and Martin Guerre.
BACKSTAGE WITH Alain Boublil
It certainly was an honor to meet the esteemed Alain Boublil after the show. When I asked him about the future of Martin Guerre, he stated that they are still working on the show with hopes of a revival. When I mentioned how much I enjoyed the Eric Schaeffer production of Les Miserables which he enjoyed, I asked why not invite the Signature Theatre to attempt Martin Guerre? He then admitted they tried without success.
When I suggested that a CD be made of Do You Hear the People Sing, he smiled and commented, "Do you know what that would cost?"
Photo by Charles Shubow
L. to R. Kathy Voytko, Marie Zamora, composer Alain Boublil, Terrence Mann, Jennifer Paz, and Eric Kunze.