There is no question that Principal Pops conductor Jack Everly and executive producer Ty Johnson possess similar qualities of creativity and inventiveness as the prolific team they paid tribute to in “On Broadway with Kander & Ebb: Celebrating Cabaret & Chicago and All That Jazz.” It was a concert which opened the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s Printing Partners Pops Series Friday at the Hilbert Circle Theatre in downtown Indianapolis.
Created by Everly and produced by Johnson, this sparkling fully orchestrated production of “On Broadway with Kander & Ebb,” celebrated the 40-year songwriting partnership of John Kander and Fred Ebb. Engrossing and highly entertaining, it included many of the legendary duo’s Broadway hits, many of which have become classics.
The cast, which performed in front of the ISO above which hung huge reproductions of Kander & Ebb show posters, featured an all-star cast. Included were Tony Award-winning Beth Leavel and Broadway veterans Nick Adams, Nikki Renée Daniels, Ted Keegan, and Jessica Rush — all of them, accompanied by the always stellar ISO playing Everly's inspired arrangements. Ultimately, the orchestra and performers did more than proper justice to the music of Kander & Ebb through high-caliber performances.
Vivacious Beth Leavel, who appeared with the ISO in January as Velma Von Tussle, in its Pops concert version of “Hairspray,” once again showed her big voice and prowess as a comedienne in her hilarious rendition of “Everybody’s Girl,” from “Steel Pier.” She also reinforced her Broadway leading lady credentials in “City Lights,” from “The Act.”
Nick Adams, who also appeared in the ISO’s “Hairspray” concert as Link Larkin, oozed vitality, while demonstrating his triple threat finesse as a performer in “Willkommen,” from Cabaret. He also stood out in “The World Goes Round and Round,” from “New York, New York,” and during a medley of songs from “Chicago,” the musical in which he made his Broadway debut.
Nikki Renée Daniels, who was most recently on Broadway, as Clara, in the 2012 Tony Award-winning revival of "Porgy & Bess," was particularly moving in her heartfelt performance of the yearnful ballad “Go Back Home,” from “The Scottsboro Boys.”
Ted Keegan, who played the Phantom in “Phantom of the Opera,” on Broadway and on the national tour, provided one of the most memorable moments of the night with his expansive vocals in “First You Dream,” from “Steel Pier.” He also displayed versatility as an actor when he sang “Mister Cellophane,” from “Chicago.”
The attractive Jessica Rush, who is currently on Broadway, playing Lorraine in “Jersey Boys,” was a striking presence throughout the concert but was especially appealing in “The Grass is Always Greener,” from “Woman of the Year,” and “Roxie,” from Chicago.
Deserving of special praise is Jennifer Ladner whose choreography, especially that which replicated Bob Fosse’s distinctive style, was impressive as was the dancing of members of the chorus.
Designer Clare Henkel’s whose costumes, especially the women’s gowns, were glitzy and glamarous, also deserves plaudits. So does lighting designer extraordinaire Laura Glover who created a Great White Way atmosphere and writing and creative consultant David Levy who gave the production polish.
The concert concluded with the entire cast singing “New York, New York,” made famous by both Liza Minnelli and Frank Sinatra, from the film, “New York, New York.” Towards the end of the iconic salute to Manhattan, confetti rained from the rafters onto the stage, making for a glorious spectacle and celebratory kick-off for another season of Pops concert offerings from the ISO and visionary team of Everly and Johnson.
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