If you are an Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra Pops concert devotee and were present Saturday at the Hilbert Circle Theatre, along with the sold-out audience for “The Golden Age of Broadway: Rodgers & Hammerstein, you would have thought you died and were in musical theatre heaven. I sure did.
Led by Principal Pops conductor, Jack Everly who was his usual ebullient, and clever self, the always splendid ISO played some of the most popular works of composer Richard Rodgers (1902-1979) and lyricist-dramatist Oscar Hammerstein II (1895-1960). The two were regarded as one of America’s most innovative, influential and successful theater collaborations when it came to writing. During a period that is considered as having been the “golden age” of musical theatre they created some of the most popular Broadway shows such as “The Sound of Musical,” “South Pacific,” The King and I,” and “Oklahoma, in the 1940s and 50s.
Interpreting this glorious music were guest artists for “The Golden Age of Broadway: Rodgers & Hammerstein,” were Broadway stars, soprano Kelli O’hara who won the Tony Award for Best Lead Actress for a Musical for the 2015 revival of “The King and I at Lincoln Center; baritone/bass Ben Crawford who plays Mr. Salt in “Charlie & The Chocolate Factory”; and tenor Ted Keegan, the 12th in the Phantom in “The Phantom of The Opera.”
Joining the ISO for Act 2 of the concert was The Indianapolis Symphonic Choir. Led by artistic director Dr. Eric Stark, the ISC provided the multitude of voices required for the lush arrangements of the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical film scores chosen by Everly for the concert.
Highlights of Act 2 for me included the ISO playing “Carousel Waltz” from “Carousel” and Crawford’s powerful vocal and dramatic interpretation of Billy Bigelow’s “Soliloquy” from the same show,” Reprising her role as Anna, in “The King and I” was O’Hara along with a group of costumed children, who charmed in “Getting to Know You.” Also captivating was her duet from the same show, of “I have Dreamed,” with Keegan.
With the addition of the ISC in Act 2, the ISO captured the magnificent grandness of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s melodies beginning with the “South Pacific Main Title” with the women from the ISC shining as they joined in on the haunting “Bali Hai.” Other songs I enjoyed from the concert were Crawford and O’Hara singing “Some Enchanted Evening” and Keegan and the women from ISC singing “Younger Than Springtime.” also from “South Pacific.” Once again, the women of the ISC were magnificent in “The Sound of Music Main” and “Rex Admirabilis.” Finally, giving me goosebumps was O’Hara and the ISC singing the soaring and uber-inspirational “Climb Every Mountain.”
Whenever I review shows I purposely eavesdrop on patrons as I am exiting a theatre or concert hall. It’s an excellent way to gauge how a show or concert was received. After this concert, I heard words like “lovely” “romantic,” “inspiring” and “magical.” I concurred with all those sentiments as I left the Hilbert. I for one, was not only superbly entertained but also uplifted by Rodgers and Hammerstein’s timeless music, lovingly interpreted by the ISO and ISC. I couldn’t be more grateful that they are keeping this music alive.
For tickets and information about the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s 2017-2018 season call the Hilbert Circle Theatre ticket office at (317) 639-4300 or visit www.indianapolissumphony.org.