A massive Blossom crowd, a nearly full amphitheater and a lawn on which not a blade of grass was not the covered with blankets, tablecloths, lawn chairs and people, came out to hear the “Best of Broadway,” a series of groovy music, jive, jazz, Tin Pan Alley and ballads from the golden years of musicals performed on the Great White Way.
America is noted for many things: democracy, hot dogs, apple pie, baseball and the musical. Yes, the art form known as musical theater was given birth in this country.
The date: September 12, 1866. The place: Niblo’s Garden, a 3,200-seat theatre on Broadway in New York City. The situation: A Parisian ballet troupe found itself without a place to perform when their venue, the New York Academy of Music, burned down. The manager of Niblo’s Garden invited them to participate as part of a Faustian play that was running in his theater.
Named The Black Crook, the production is considered a prototype of the modern musical in that its songs and dances were interspersed throughout a story and performed by the actors who spoke lines, sang and danced. The show ran for a record-breaking 474 performances and then toured the country. Thus, the American musical format was born.
On July 17, the Cleveland Orchestra, under the baton of conductor Jack Everly, presented compositions from Broadway musicals which spanned the Golden Age of the American Musical, the era after World War II, through the British Invasion of Andrew Lloyd Webber, and onward to more recent productions.
Act One opened with a sprightly rendition of the overture to Annie Get Your Gun by Irving Berlin. Next up was a somewhat disappointing rendition of “Man of La Mancha,” from the Mitch Leigh/Joe Darion musical by the same name, which featured vocalist Ron Remke who has a fine voice, but sang words, rather than stressing the meaning of the words. He acquitted himself later in the program with a marvelous rendition of “Gethsemane (I Only Want to Say)” from Jesus Christ, Superstar.
Act One continued with fine renderings of “Maria” from West Side Story and “This is the Moment” from Jekyll & Hyde. The Blossom Festival Chorus then sang an emotion-laden rendition of “Sunrise, Sunset” from Fiddler on the Roof.” A stirring “Oklahoma!” from the show of the same name was presented by Richard Todd Adams.
The act ended with Christian DeCicco, dressed in a classic white gown, leaving the audience spellbound with “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” from Evita, the orchestra finely playing selections from Miss Saigon and the three male vocalists blending their voices for a meaningful version of “The Impossible Dream” from “Man of LaMancha.”
Act Two started with a stirring orchestral rendition of “Seventy-Six Trombones” from Meredith Willson’s The Music Man followed by Richard Todd Adam’s crowd-pleasing “Trouble” which received a standing ovation.
It may be hard to say and spell, but Christina DeCicco and Ron Remke stopped the show with their fun-filled “Supercalifragillisticexpialidocious” from Mary Poppins. Then came what must be considered the program’s highlights: orchestral selections from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera, Ms. DeCicco’s “I Dreamed a Dream” and Mr. Keegan’s “Bring Me Home” from Les Miz.
“Make Our Garden Grow,” from Leonard Bernstein’s Candide, though well sung by the company, seemed like an unneeded tag on following the impressive Lloyd Webber compositions.
CAPSULE JUDGMENT: From their appreciative reaction, the large Blossom audience had no “Trouble” finding “The Music of the Night” to fill “The Impossible Dream” of hearing “The Best Broadway” played and sung by the Cleveland Orchestra, under the baton of Jack Everly, and Blossom Festival Chorus and guest singers (Christina DeCicco, Ted Keegan, Ron Remke and Richard Todd Adams). Next season we hopefully will have a similar program consisting of songs from musicals of the 2000s.