Marvin and two excellent singers do Broadway
Broadway singing style changed a lot from George M. Cohan to Jersey Boys. Marvin Hamlisch needed singers who can handle a century’s worth of changing taste for his MSO Pops program that surveyed nearly the entire history of Broadway.
He found them in soprano Christiane Noll and baritone Doug LeBrecque. Both convinced completely in the operetta delights of Victor Herbert and Jerome Kern, the jazz inflections of Harold Arlen, the urbane ironies of Stephen Sondheim and Kander and Ebb, the grandiose popera of Andrew Lloyd Webber and, most surprisingly, the gum-popping vintage rock of Big Girls Don’t Cry.
Both singers possess big, penetrating voices that don’t turn shrill at high pitch and high volume, even when amplified. (Kudos to the Marcus Center audio crew for casting their voices in the best light.) These two Broadway veterans brought both consummate musicianship and stylistic understanding to bear on everything. Noll, especially, is a marvel; she ranged from the airy ingenue soprano of operetta to chesty rock belter to moody chanteuse (Send in the Clowns) in one program. She made it look and sound easy. It’s not.
LaBrecque threw himself into Come Rain or Come Shine with admirable passion, but was no less touching in bringing out the subtle tragedy and resigned irony of Cellophane, from Kander and Ebb’s Chicago.
Between numbers, the two engaged in relaxed, good-humored banter with each other and the unpredictable Hamlisch. The Pops maestro was really on for the Friday-night opener. He had a good time with the audience and the singers, and he knew the scores and attended to his conducting seriously. The MSO played energetically, expressively and precisely for him.
This program, given at Marcus Center Uihlein Hall, will be repeated at 8 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets start at $22; call the Marcus box office, (414) 273-7206 or visit the MSO website.