Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Of the three vocalists, Hugh Panaro is probably the most well known, having played the part of the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera more than 2,000 times including the record breaking 25th anniversary Broadway performance. Panaro's skilled phrasing in his delivery of the lyrics to these familiar songs ensured that every word was not only heard but filled with emotion and meaning. His performance of "Something's Coming" from West Side Story had an appropriate sense of urgency. Panaro gave a playful take on "Willkommen" from Cabaret that began with him out in the audience. His version of Bring Him Home from Les Misérables, a show in which he has played Marius (on Broadway) as well as Jean Valjean (in a recent production at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia), was stunning, with notes that soared to the top of Symphony Hall and for which he received a well-deserved standing ovation.
While Panaro was impressive, Capathia Jenkins got the most showstoppers of the night. Her take on "Home" from The Wiz started out small and then grew in both energy and power with her delivery of the notes assured and firm. This was matched by a firecracker delivery of "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" from Dreamgirls. She also delivered a superb version of the Ike and Tina Turner song "Proud Mary," from a forthcoming bio-musical of Turner's life, that brought the house down.
Anne Runolfsson's lilting soprano was incredibly effective on My Fair Lady's "I Could Have Danced All Night in an effervescent rendition of this beloved song, and her duo with Panaro on the title song from The Phantom of the Opera gave her the opportunity to hit some incredibly high notes with a sustained clarity. Runolfsson also sang two songs more closely identified with Tony winner Idina Menzel, "Defying Gravity" from Wicked and "Let it Go" from the film, which also has a forthcoming stage adaptation, Frozen. While her performance of these two well-known tunes was fine, she lacked some of the power that the songs require. She sing a sweet and sincere duet of "Suddenly Seymour" from Little Shop of Horrors with Panaro, as well as a sassy and fun duo version of "All that Jazz" from Chicago with Jenkins.
The PSO played four overtures from popular shows, including the opening to Gypsy which was brassy, lush and full, and allowed for every member of the orchestra to show what they are capable of. Leonard Bernstein's superb overture for Candide is a challenging piece that gives the whole orchestra a workout yet the PSO didn't falter once. They delivered a bright, detailed and bouncy take on the overture for Funny Girl and also had a chance to show off their jazzier side in the opening of Chicago. The evening ended, appropriately, with Panaro singing "Music of the Night" from The Phantom of the Opera in a superb delivery full of emotion, nuance and power, that can be expected only from someone who has played that part for so many performances. Bravo Broadway: Music of the Night was another excellent Pops concert from the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra that gave fans of Broadway tunes a chance to not only hear them sung by some talented singers but also with superb accompaniment from the always sensational PSO.
Bravo Broadway: Music of the Night with the Phoenix Symphony played three performances on September 30th and October 1st, 2016, at Symphony Hall in Phoenix. Information for upcoming performances with the Phoenix Symphony can be found at www.phoenixsymphony.org.