Saturday, October 15, 2011

Kate, Alex and Paul give their regards to Broadway at the Manhattan School of Music

I'm still thinking about last Monday's concert at the Manhattan School of Music.  It brought together two of my favorite singers Kate Baldwin and Alex Gemignani with a legend of Broadway - Paul Gemignani.    Also featured in the concert were Tedd Firth on piano and Larry Lelli on drums.

Yes, Paul Gemignani is Alex's dad - but it's not every day you get to hear son accompanied by magnificent orchestra under the direction of dad. Paul Gemignani has been the musical director for over 35 Broadway productions, including  13 Broadway productions of Sondheim shows and often conducts for special Sondheim concerts.  Mr. Gemignani has also served as conductor for many filmed  Broadway events and even the 2007 film of Sweeney Todd.   My favorite story from Mr. Gemignani is from when he was conducting the original production of Sweeney Todd  on Broadway:  "By the first preview I had the score memorized, so I put a big piece of white paper on my music stand so the television backstage could pick me up cause they were taking ques off of me.  The first time Len (Cariou as "Sweeney") slit a throat, a great big blob of stage blood came and went pouf right on the white paper and [made a big red stain].  I left it there the whole time just to hear people go by and go 'Ew no, look at that!"

Mr. Gemignani opened the concert with a few words of introduction, saying that the set list was not included in the program on purpose.   He noted that they would perform songs that were chosen by all of them - Kate, Alex, Tedd, Larry and himself - which were songs that they had always wanted to perform.    They chose pieces are among the best of Broadway's golden age.   He also gave a brief but impassioned lecture about the importance of the young orchestra learning to play this music of the American theatre, since it was "Our music.  We invented it."

Before we the concert, our only hint of what the evening would bring was from Kate Baldwin herself.  She told us, "So. Many. Overtures."   She was write of course, but I think she also knew that she was about to blow our musical theatre nerd minds.    Oh, she's a sly one alright.  Truth be told, Kate is a bit of a musical theatre nerd herself so I'm sure this concert was no busman's holiday for her.

Interspersed with some of the greatest overtures ever, from South Pacific, Oklahoma, Fiorello! (I thought Kevin might have a coronary on this one), Funny Girl, Gypsy, and the "Sondheim Birthday Overture," (orchestrated by Paul Gemignani and Jonathan Tunick) were songs performed by Kate and Alex that fueled our hopes that we were getting a glimpse into the future.   With every new song, Kevin, Tylerand I gasped exuberantly with anticipation and satisfaction.

I always love hearing Alexander Gemignani perform.  For this evening, he was billed as a lyric baritone.   I have seen him on the New York stage many times - Assassins, Sweeney Todd, A Little Night Music, Road Show, The People in the Picture and at special Sondheim concert events.   Alex is a pleasant performer, always sharing his beautiful voice with a twinkle in his eye.  I always get the idea that he really loves being on that stage.   I love his rendition of "Something's Coming" from West Side Story  - I heard him sing it at last year's Sondheim Birthday Concert and was thrilled to hear it live again.   He also delightfully delivered the fun on "Where is the Life That Laid I Led" from Kiss Me Kate and the rare gem "Rumble Rumble Rumble" by Frank Loesser that also featured some absolutely raucous piano playing by Tedd Firth.

My love for Kate's talent continues to grow and it's no secret that she was my main reason for attending this performance.   She's incredibly versatile - she can bring the sweet and sublime as well as the sultry or even the cold.   Every time she performed another number, I couldn't help but thinking, hoping and even wishing that she would some day play some of  these characters behind these songs in full productions.  On this particular evening, she sang "Rose" from Gypsy, "Phyllis" and "Sally" from Follies, "Amalia" from She Loves Me, "Babe" from The Pajama Game, "Julie" from Carousel, "Cinderella" from Into the Woods, and Thea LaGuardia from Fiorello!  What a thrill to witness this range of vocal interpretation from Ms. Baldwin.

The magnificent orchestra is the Manhattan School of Music Chamber Sinfonia, comprised of Manhattan School of Music students.    Not only are they terrific, it's exciting to see them actually smiling when they take their bows, unlike the older and seemingly jaded professionals I'm used to seeing at Lincoln Center.    It was a true delight to hear this large orchestra play the original magnificent orchestrations of all of these songs.  It was 90 minutes of musical theatre heaven.

The Set List:

South Pacific Overture
Oklahoma Overture
Oh What a Beautiful Morning - Alex
What's the Use of Wonderin' - Kate
Fiorello Overture
When Did I Fall In Love - Kate
Where is the Life That Laid I Led - Alex
Funny Girl Overture
A New Town is a Blue Town - Alex
Hey There - Kate
Gypsy Overture
Everything's Coming Up Roses - Kate
Together - Kate & Alex
Something's Coming - Alex
Sondheim Overture
Giants in the Sky - Alex
On the Steps of the Palace - Kate
I Want to Be with You - Kate & Alex
Could I Leave You - Kate
Rumble Rumble Rumble - Alex
Will He Like Me - Kate
There Once Was a Man - Kate & Alex
Too Many Mornings - Kate & Alex

Photos by Brian Hatton

Photos by Brian Hatton

Photos by Brian Hatton

Photos by Brian Hatton

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