By Joel Benjamin, Cabaret Scenes
The New York Pops' 29th Birthday Gala - Journey On - came as close to perfect as a concert could. Listening to one incredible singer after another interpreting the beautiful songs of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty was to marvel at the wealth and breadth of musical talent that makes New York City so special.
Playwright Terrence McNally, who collaborated with Flaherty & Ahrens on two Broadway hit shows, was a congenial and informative host. Essential Voices USA and Camp Broadway, two large choral groups, enhanced the proceedings. The former backed up the individual singers and the latter was an act in itself: youngsters in bright outfits who sang and danced on stage and up and down the Carnegie Hall aisles with professional aplomb.
Jason Danieley performed “The Streets of Dublin” from A Man of No Importance and was joined by his wife, Marin Mazzie (pictured), in “Our Children” from Ragtime. Mazzie passionately re-created “Back to Before,” which she introduced in the original production of that show. Once on This Island was represented by “Mama Will Provide” sassily sung by Kecia Lewis-Evans and “The Human Heart,” given warmth by LaChanze. Andrew Rannells was passionate on the anthem “Love Who You Love” and Kevin Chamberlin was absolutely charming as Horton singing “Alone in the Universe” from Seussical. The lovely Rebecca Luker shone on “Something Beautiful” from Legacy, and lush-voiced Brian d’Arcy James sang “I Was Here” from The Glorious Ones. Rachel York undulated through a very sexy “Speaking French” from Lucky Stiff. From a new musical, Little Dancer, Boyd Gaines performed “In Between,” while the lovely dancer Tiler Peck interpreted Susan Stroman’s evocation of Degas’s Little Ballerina sculpture. Ending the evening on a high note, Norm Lewis and Nikki M. James were robust and inspiring on “Wheels of a Dream,” the ever-hopeful number from Ragtime.
The New York Pops has never sounded better. This concert celebrated not only the glorious singing talent of New York’s theater stars, but the incredible educational programs of the Pops.