Glee versus Smash was a playful, reoccurring theme at Forrest Hills Stadium recently when the New York Pops Orchestra presented an entertaining night of song with two stars of the hit television shows.
Matthew Morrison, who played glee club director Will Schuester, shared the stage with Megan Hilty, known for her brassy turn as Ivy Lynn on Smash. The audience demographic was diverse but it was obvious that die-hard fans of both series showed up for their leading players. With the help of extraordinary maestro Steven Reineke and the New York Pops, the goods were delivered.
At the sprawling outdoor venue, the Pops opened the evening with Kander and Ebb’s famous anthem, “New York, New York.” A self-assured Morrison continued the Frank Sinatra theme with “Come Fly With Me” and “The Lady is a Tramp” . He followed it with a gorgeous rendition of “As Long as She Needs Me” from the musical Oliver. It is not heard often and was a welcome contribution to an already rich night of songs.
Enter Hilty, who kicked off her portion with the ever popular “Luck Be A Lady” and continued to thrill Smash fans with “They Just Keep Moving the Line”, a difficult song from the musical drama that Hilty sliced through with ease. With a nod to her star turn on Broadway and National tours, she performed the cutesy number “Popular” from Wicked. Morrison, with a ukulele he newly named “Kaia”, joined Hilty on a Hawaiian version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Unfortunately, technical difficulties prevented Kaia from being heard, but the duet maintained its’ sweetness. Act 1 ended with a fast and fun medley from Morrison’s early Broadway tuner Hairspray.
Act II opened by showcasing the Pops in a swingin’ Duke Ellington number, “Take the A Train”. Hilty catapulted us towards a cooler season with a “mash-up” of two Johnny Mercer classics: “Autumn Leaves” and “When October Goes”, the latter of which was an unfinished lyric that Barry Manilow completed. The pairing was as elegant as fine wine and cheese. After the Pops rousing arrangement of “Copacabana”, Morrison returned and sang a few tunes, including a medley from his most recent Broadway show, Finding Neverland.
Though there wasn’t a traditional house to bring down, one might say that Hilty brought down the heavens with what might be considered her signature song: “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend.”
After last year’s sensational concerts with Sutton Foster and Pink Martini, it is comforting to see the New York Pops’ return engagement to the Stadium. Fewer things are more enjoyable than listening to this tremendous group of musicians on a warm summer evening.
Equally as encouraging is their continued commitment to bringing arts to students with their “Kids in the Balcony” program. At every concert, the orchestra provides tickets to students in one of the 5 boroughs.
The Pops will become a bit more intimate on September 19th for a fundraiser at Feinstein’s/54 Below. The night will be hosted by Reineke and will feature Montego Glover and Joshua Henry. In October, they return to their home at Carnegie Hall.
For more information on upcoming appearances, click here.