There's nothing like an evening at Carnegie Hall in the company of the New York Pops and four Broadway stars, as charming as they are talented, to put stars in your eyes and a song in your heart. Those four stars are Nikki Renée Daniels, Jordan Donica, Matt Doyle, and Melissa Errico--performing along with the New York Pops under the direction of Steven Reineke, and Essential Voices USA under the direction of Judith Clurman--and the occasion is the New York Pops' 40th anniversary season. To mark that milestone, the orchestra presented a night of Broadway Blockbusters at Carnegie Hall. And when I say blockbusters, I mean blockbusters. The concert included such iconic showstoppers as "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Misérables, "All I Ask of You" from The Phantom of the Opera, "Soliloquy" from Carousel, "Getting Married Today" from Company, "Home" from The Wiz, and "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" from The Sound of Music.
These blockbusters were in good hands--the best, in fact. The New York Pops never disappoints, and Daniels, Donica, Doyle, and Errico added both powerhouse vocals and deeply sensitive interpretations of each number. While it feels futile to choose a favorite from so many utterly enchanting performances, Jordan Donica's rendition of Carousel's "Soliloquy" stands out as the dynamo showstopper in a lineup full of showstoppers. I'm hesitant to say it's the best performance of that song I've ever witnessed, but strongly tempted to. Donica brought a natural warmth and feeling that only enhanced the sensitivity of the lyrics; and in eight minutes, created, inhabited, and brought to completion an entire character. The intuitive richness of his interpretation merited--and got--standing ovations midway through the concert.
Of course, if Jordan Donica's "Soliloquy" was the comet in a sky full of stars, the other performances shone almost as bright. It was a rare treat to once again see Matt Doyle in the role that won him a Tony Award, and he and Melissa Errico proved, not for the first time, that they're both consummate interpreters of Sondheim. (The pair also performed "Move On," and Errico gave a mesmerizing performance of "Losing My Mind"). Then there's Nikki Renée Daniels. I couldn't take my eyes off her as she sang "I Dreamed a Dream," but it was her rendition of "Home" that truly brought the house down. If there's a Broadway revival of The Wiz in the cards anytime in the near future, I believe we have our star.
Essential Voices USA was the final ingredient that lent an extra sparkle to the evening: playing the part of the supporting chorus, though they did get to own the stage for a spirited performance of "Oklahoma." By the end of the finale, a gorgeous "Climb Ev'ry Mountain," I was sufficiently dazzled. I left Carnegie Hall with stars in my eyes, music in my heart, and a sense of gratitude for the enchanted evening I'd just experienced.
For information about upcoming concerts by The New York Pops, visit newyorkpops.org.