Music Theatre

From Broadway to La Scala 2019 review

In its third incarnation, From Broadway to La Scala nimbly sidesteps the law of diminishing returns, showcasing a terrific sextet of stage talents in a generous, well considered program.

While the general concept, clearly telegraphed in the title, is appealing, the injection of new artists has given the popular concert tour a welcome lift in 2019. International musical theatre star Caroline O’Connor and beloved opera diva Emma Matthews are drawcards in their own right, joining proven touring talents Teddy Tahu Rhodes and David Hobson. The next generation of artists in represented by Alexander Lewis and Genevieve Kingsford, who have each enjoyed recent triumphs on the Melbourne stage.

The sense of occasion is completed by the presence of a grand stage orchestra, working under the nimble, precise baton of maestro Vanessa Scammell. Meticulously prepared, Scammell shows extraordinary musical dexterity, leaping from Sondheim and Sullivan to Bernstein and Bizet with barely a moment of transition. Musical theatre numbers particularly benefit from the lush accompaniment. As a final cherry on the musical sundae, Scammell accompanies the singers of grand piano for an encore of “The Prayer.”

Broadway begins the evening, as the six singers are introduced in a Golden Age medley. Moving across the decades, the evening’s selections are naturally focused upon proven, popular material, and yet when there is a director with the intelligence and insight of Tyran Parke involved, more interesting angles are practically guaranteed. Parke’s deft skill is seen in numbers that are “acted” rather than simply sung, with a liberal sprinkling of Sondheim and Bernstein to balance the traditional Rodgers and Lloyd Webber.

Numbers that really come alive under Parke’s direction include Hobson and O’Connor leading “Master of the House,” and a vibrant West Side Story medley that includes the memorable combination of O’Connor and Matthews singing “A Boy Like That/I Have A Love.” Similar highlights in duets include Rhodes and O’Connor drawing on their experience to perform “A Little Priest” from Sweeney Todd, and Lewis and Kingsford throwing themselves into a romantic recreation of The Phantom of the Opera’s “All I Ask of You.”

Individual musical theatre highlights include Kingsford’s gorgeous rendition of “Till There Was You” from The Music Man, and Rhodes’ stirring performance of “If I Were A Rich Man,” which proves an ideal fit for his vocal range. O’Connor is in her element with “Broadway Baby,” also treating the audience to Sally Bowles’ soulful “Maybe This Time.”

Operatically, one of the highlights of the concert is the unexpected choice to have all six singers perform as a background ensemble to sing the “Humming Chorus” from Madama Butterfly, a risk that pays off handsomely. La traviata’s “Drinking Song” buoyantly opens the second half of the program.

One of the most delightful aspects of the concert is the opportunity to hear Matthews sing again, an aspect that is all the more special when it becomes abundantly evident just how strong, pure and clear her nightingale voice remains. Matthew’s virtuosic rendition of the “Bell Song” from Lakmé is one of the true showstoppers of the night, leaving the audience hungry for more.

With performances characterised by warmth and camaraderie, the six singers give generously of themselves while providing an entertaining evening. It is not clear how future instalments of From Broadway to La Scala will be able to top this combination, but audiences can only hope that the producers will try.

 

From Broadway to La Scala played at Hamer Hall, Arts Centre Melbourne, 7.30pm Thursday 26 September 2019.

From Broadway to La Scala plays at Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House, 1.00pm Saturday 28 September 2019.

Photos: provided

11 replies »

  1. There were indeed many gloriously soaring vocal moments in this outing for From Broadway to La Scala.
    Emma Matthews was sublime and Caroline O’Connor perfectly embodied the Broadway baby dazzle.
    In fact, I felt Caroline seemed the most comfortable with the format overall, being able to draw the audience in.
    I attended the opening performance of the tour in Adelaide on September 7th and I did feel at the time that it was a show that would improve with practice .Not withstanding the wonderful vocals, the linking narrative was clumsy, under rehearsed and at times simply awkward. Many segues did not explain or support how the song fit into the narrative.
    It does seem however that before hitting Melbourne some of these creases had been ironed out.
    I appreciate that some artists find linking banter challenging and in this case it left the continuity a little uneven.

    • Thanks for this insight, Edward.
      I feel confident to say that the banter must have improved by last night. David Hobson, in particular, was very comfortable with this aspect. There were even a couple of very funny moments.
      How I would love to hear Emma Matthews in a full length opera again. Maybe one day..

  2. A wonderful night, with some standout moments – Emma Matthews in opera mode was glorious – and David Hobson was in his element. Whether it was opera (with bonus Rossini, and guitar), swash-buckling G&S, pop/swing or classic Broadway – plus some nifty footwork – he was a true crossover, triple-threat artist, and the banter is his usual concert style, so he was right at home with it.

      • I agree with you Simon, however the Sydney afternoon Opera House show left me a little disappointed with David’s unusually “out of tune” voice with many of the numbers he sang; this was also commented on by the audience around us!

      • Thanks for your comments, George. David brought plenty of personality to the concert, but I would have to just say that I prefer to hear him sing light musical theatre fare these days rather than opera. The idea to have Alexander do The Pearlfishers duet with Teddy was a good one.

      • ditto re David’s pitch problems and withdrawing from the Pearl Fisher’s duet. It’s interesting with the plethora of pitch issues with many reality tv singing competitions that most members of the public don’t seem to notice .I feel David is slowly morphing into smaller character parts that allow him full rein to project his lively personality. The lyric tenor voice shows no mercy when off the note.

      • To be honest, I just took Alex’s participation in The Pearlfisher’s duet as being for the sake of variety. Also, Alex has been working to modulate his voice from high baritone to tenor, and I am sure he welcomed the chance to demonstrate this aspect.
        Definitely agree that warm character parts suit David Hobson well. Hope to see him embrace this angle in future stage outings.

  3. Wow Simon!! Can’t you manage to praise the newcomers without kicking Greta Bradman and Lisa McCune in the guts? They were both wonderful and your comments are mean/ spirited and offensive. I usually look forward to your reviews because I consider you a fair- minded and generous reviewer – up until now that is. I won’t be coming here any more. What a shame.

    • I’m sorry Justine but I am finding it hard to find Simon’s welcoming the new members of the cast and their subsequent diversity as being vitriolic toward Greta Bradman and Lisa Mc Cune whom I too dearly love as performers. With some changes in the cast it was inevitable that there was going to be an element of freshness and re-invention.

      • Yes, the intention was simply to comment on the lift provided by the new cast members, and the improvement in going from four performers to six, not to cast any aspersions on past performers. I look forward to future iterations, whomever might be involved.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s