“Broadway Legends” is a superb evening of musical theatre songs from over the past 90 years. The performers all have extensive Broadway performance experience. Tenor Hugh Panaro holds the record for the most performances as the Phantom in “The Phantom of the Opera.” Soprano Dee Roscioli played Elphaba in “Wicked” for seven years. Soprano Scarlett Strallen performed the title role in “Mary Poppins,” a role she also played in the West End. Conductor Ted Sperling received a Tony Award for his work on “The Light in the Piazza.”
…a superb evening of musical theatre songs…
The first half of the concert started with the BSO playing what some consider the best Broadway overture—from “Funny Girl” by Jule Styne. The orchestra also performed a medley of songs from “West Side Story.” To hear this music played by a full symphony orchestra is an exciting event for any audience. The songs soared thanks to the dazzling playing by the BSO musicians. Special kudos go to the strings and percussion for a lively and thrilling performance. The vocal performances were solos and trios. Stephen Sondheim was well represented by Mr. Panaro perfroming the ballad “Not While I’m Around” from “Sweeney Todd;” Ms. Strallen sang “Send in the Clowns” from “A Little Night Music” with only piano accompaniment by Mr. Sperling; and the trio performed “Getting Married Today” from “Company,” with Ms. Roscioli’s frantic depiction of the terrified bride. They also performed songs by George Gershwin and Cole Porter. Ms. Roscioli sang Elphaba’s “Defying Gravity” from “Wicked” while Mr. Panaro tackled the difficult “You Got Trouble” from “The Music Man.” His diction enabled the audience to hear every word of the rapidly sung lyrics that propel the song and its story forward.
After intermission, the remaining program was devoted to the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber. The BSO was featured in a medley of songs from “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Jellicle Ball” from “Cats.” Ms. Strallen’s powerful, moving rendition of “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” and Ms. Roscioli’s beautifully anguished version of “Memory” brought cheers of delight from the audience. The trio did a cleverly harmonized “Any Dream Will Do” from “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” The finale was a nostalgic tribute to the now-closed “Phantom of the Opera” with Mr. Panaro’s high, lyric tenor soaring in “Music of the Night” and Ms. Strallen’s dynamic soprano voice hitting the unbelievably high notes in the title song to full effect.
The audience, clapping and shouting in a standing ovation, demanded an encore and got an amazing one. Mr. Panaro sang “Love Changes Everything” from “Aspects of Love;” Ms. Strallen performed “Unexpected Song” from “Song and Dance;” and Ms. Roscioli did “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” from “Jesus Christ Superstar.” After these solos, the performers sang all three songs in unison which was a very spectacular, harmonic arrangement.
Enhancing the program, Ms. Roscioli and Ms. Strallen wore a series of lovely red, green, black, and white gowns shimmering with sequins. As the Phantom, Mr. Panaro appeared in a black suit with a red kerchief and sang while strolling down the middle and left aisles toward the stage. Mr. Sperling also contributed interesting comments about some of the program’s material. Changing colored spotlights on drapery surrounding the orchestra added to the effect.
I hope that the BSO administration will quickly find a principal pops conductor to ensure that pop programs of this quality continue to be programmed. I left the hall filled with the satisfaction of a wonderful evening of music.
Running Time: Two hours with one 20-minute intermission
“Broadway Legends” ran November 11 and 12, 2023, with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, 1212 Cathedral Street, Baltimore MD 21201, and on November 9, 2023, at The Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda MD 20852. For more information and to purchase tickets for future performances, go online or call the Box Office (Baltimore 410-728-8000) or Bethesda (1-877-276-1444). Box Office hours are Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturday/Sunday, 12 noon-5 p.m. The Box Office is also open 60 minutes before each performance and through intermission for walk-up sales.