Concert Review: BROADWAY ROMANCE (San Diego Symphony at the Rady Shell)

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by Michael M. Landman-Karny on August 28, 2023

in Concerts / Events,Music,Theater-San Diego

On Friday, August 25th, attendees were treated to Broadway Romance, a delightful evening filled with romantic Broadway melodies at the Rady Shell. Situated in the heart of San Diego, California, the Rady Shell at Jacobs Park stands as a cutting-edge open-air concert venue. Nestled within the expansive Embarcadero Marina Park South, it graces the waterfront, offering a breathtaking backdrop of the San Diego Bay and the city’s skyline. The San Diego Symphony, known for its exceptional adaptability, boasts a world-class reputation in performing a repertoire spanning classical compositions and operatic masterpieces as well as Broadway and pop.

Guiding the evening’s musical journey was conductor Rob Fisher, celebrated as the founding music director and conductor of Encores! at New York City Center until 2005—a series that garnered a prestigious Tony Award in 2000. Fisher is widely recognized as one of the foremost directors of Broadway musicals working in the present day.

The evening fare consisted mostly of beloved well-known songs from evergreen shows such as Carousel, On the Town, Guys and Dolls, Show Boat, Into the Woods, and Brigadoon.

Joining Maestro Fisher were four superlative vocalists.

Mikaela Bennett, known for her performance as Maria in West Side Story at the BBC Proms and Chicago Lyric Opera. With a sensational lyric soprano range, Bennett’s voice exudes a fresh, radiant, and pure quality, accompanied by a remarkable flexibility and secure high notes. Her timbre carries a youthful innocence, and her vocal performance was a constant auditory pleasure. Notably, her vivacious rendition of Arlen/Mercer’s “I Had Myself a True Love” (St. Louis Woman) and her heart-tugging duet of “Tonight” with Carey Cott left an indelible mark.

Cott, recognized for his impressive roles in Broadway shows including Newsies, Gigi, and Bandstand, captivated the audience as a remarkable leading man. Possessing both handsome looks and charismatic stage presence, Cott’s voice shines like solid gold. His rendition of Bernstein and Comden & Green’s “Lonely Town” (On the Town) even caused a few audience members to swoon.

Elizabeth Stanley, a versatile Broadway star renowned for her Broadway performances in such shows as Jagged Little Pill, On the Town, and Million Dollar Quartet, and the tour of The Bridges of Madison County exhibited her exceptional soprano range capable of both soaring melodies and powerful belts. Her performance went beyond mere singing, incorporating nuanced glances, well-timed pauses, and expressive gestures that added profound layers to her renditions. Stanley’s ability to connect with the audience on a profound level was truly exceptional. Her rendition of Kern and Hammerstein’s “Bill” (Show Boat) and her duetting with Rob McClure on Mencken and Ashman’s “Suddenly Seymour” (Little Shop of Horrors) showed off her versatile

McClure, celebrated for originating numerous comedic leading roles on Broadway, including Honeymoon in Vegas and Mrs. Doubtfire, showcased his comic prowess through song and movement. McClure’s expert comedic timing was evident as he danced and sang the Jason Robert Brown patter song “I Love Amy” (Honeymoon in Vegas) and in joining Mr. Cott for the title song from Frank Loesser’s Guys and Dolls.

All four singers harmonized beautifully on Bernstein’s “Some Other Time” (On the Town), Cole Porter’s “From This Moment On” (added to the revival of Kiss Me, Kate) and Comden & Green/Jule Styne’s “Make Someone Happy” (Do Re Mi).

The orchestra knocked it out of the park in two instrumental sections: “The Carousel Waltz” from Rogers and Hammerstein’s Carousel, and in the overture of Bernstein’s Candide.

Accompanying the orchestra were accomplished Broadway pianist Andrew Resnick and skilled drummer Sean McDaniel. Their expert contributions provided invaluable support to the entire musical production. Jeff Thayer, the orchestra’s concertmaster, led romantic violin passages with consummate ease, while the brass section provided an old school Broadway horn oomph. Kudos to the conductor, singers, and orchestra for a magical evening under the stars.

photo of Rady Shell by the author

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