Bob Bernhardt, conductor
Review by Annette Skaggs
Entire contents copyright © 2014 by Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved.
Chances are, even if you haven’t watched a single episode of the phenomenon that is the television series Glee, there is a chance that you have heard of one of its stars, Matthew Morrison. Matthew is pedigreed in musical theater, having studied at the Tisch School of the Arts in New York, focusing on theater, vocal performance and dance. He is a triple threat. And with his boy-next-door good looks, one could count him a quadruple threat. He certainly displayed his abilities during the recent LO Pops concert at Whitney Hall.
We were treated to a set of theatrical standards that are featured on Mr. Morrison’s latest album, featuring songs from South Pacific and West Side Story. Also included were nods to Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly, who Matthew considered his idol while growing up in Southern California. I was delighted to be introduced to the off-Broadway songs like On the Street Where You Are, through Matthew’s warm and tender tones.
One can tell that Matthew comes alive when he is on stage. He is comfortable and loving every minute of it. He was playful with Maestro Bernhardt, even taking over the baton for a bit. Another person that Matthew was having a grand time with is his pianist, Brad Ellis, a well respected composer, conductor and orchestrator in his own right, who on Glee is known as “Brad the Piano Guy”, who orchestrated many of the arrangements that were heard throughout the evening and on Mr. Morrison’s album.
Mr. Morrison was high energy and engaging, and he interacted with the audience through playful dedication as well as coming down off the stage and dancing with a female attendee. He was also insightful and nostalgic, especially in his renditions of Send in the Clowns and the show’s finale Singing in the Rain, complete with umbrella and quick-footed moves. All in all, Mr. Morrison was a delight vocally, although, there were times that his voice would get lost in the sound of the Orchestra. It happens.
That was the second half of the evening; now let’s talk about the first half.
I am going to be honest. The Louisville Orchestra brought their A game! With a weekend that has them performing both with the Kentucky Opera and this POPS concert, I give each and every one of them an ovation for their musicianship. I was perfectly satisfied with the repertoire presented before Intermission.
With Maestro Bernhardt at the helm we, as an audience, can expect some fun and a few jokes, often bad, coming from the platform. The set list was put together to either mirror or flip the set list that Mr. Morrison was to perform. True to form the Maestro did not disappoint. The evening started with an arrangement by Peress of West Side Story that had a Latin-esque feel to it. Quicker rhythms perhaps, but nothing that veered too far from the original. Just a little different.
On to music from the steamrolling success that is Frozen. I will say that I liked this arrangement by Krogstad 100 times more than the original. The set that got my ears really perked up was an arrangement of some of Puccini’s greatest hits, Viva, Puccini!, which included an excerpt of the aria Ch’ella me creda from La Fanciulla del West, currently being performed by the Kentucky Opera. I can say that the Orchestra embraced every note just as Puccini would have written it.
In Fucik’s “Entry of the Gladiators” I believe that the audience may have learned a little something. If you are not familiar with this piece, think about the song that is often played at the Big Top. Yes, that song was originally written as a triumphal processional. Who knew, right? Fun tidbits about songs and melodies that we’ve grown up with.
The final piece, as Mr. Bernhardt stated, “this is my concert and there is some John Williams”, was a thematic compilation from ET: Adventures on Earth. Beautifully executed and a joy to listen to.
On the whole, Saturday night’s POPS was one of the more enjoyable and entertaining that I’ve had in recent memory. Thank you. Your collective talent keeps growing.
November 15, 2014
Kentucky Center for the Arts
501 West Broadway
Louisville, KY 40202
[box_light]Annette Skaggs is a heavily involved Arts Advocate here in Louisville and freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York and of course Louisville. Aside from her singing career she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York Opera and Northwestern University. She has a 25+ year knowledge of the Classical Arts.[/box_light]