Review by Matt Smith
Carnegie Hall was aglow Monday night with an appropriately bright-and-beaming “Hat Full of Stars,” all of whom came out to salute singular songstress Cyndi Lauper, honored this year as part of the New York Pops’ 36th Birthday Gala Celebration.
With an illustrious career spanning stage, film, and, of course, her groundbreaking work in the pop world, there was certainly a lot of ground to cover, but once again, the feted orchestra hit it out of the park, with an eclectic program that kept us, again, aptly, dancing all through the night.
Famous faces like Boy George, Ingrid Michaelson, Carly Rae Jepsen and original Kinky Boots players Stark Sands and Lena Hall were also on hand to put their unique spin on such Cyndi classics as “Who Let In the Rain,” “Time after Time,” “Soul of a Man,” and “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”
Comedian Bridget Everett injected her signature antics into the aforementioned “All Through the Night,” the legendary Nona Hendryx asserted that “Money Changes Everything,” musician and “American Boy” standout Estelle reminded us of our “True Colors,” and self-proclaimed “Cyndi superfan” Alex Newell unsurprisingly brought the house down with his moving rendition — complete with riffs, runs and all — of Lola’s emotional “Hold Me in Your Heart.”
And, given Lauper’s pop prowess and the fact that she makes regular concert appearances today, this concert had the unique bonus opportunity to utilize the actual two backup singers that accompany her on tour, Neal Coomer and Elaine Caswell, within the performances, the latter of which even took center stage to offer the poignant “Sally’s Pigeons.”
The evening, as is tradition, singled out the Kids on Stage student musicians, handpicked through the New York Pops’ program, to play alongside the professional musicians in one of the numbers, and the kids of Camp Broadway, who punctuated the evening’s fiery finale with vibrant vocals, infectious enthusiasm, and their own original choreography.
Even the orchestra joined in on the fun, with their lush, full-sounding instrumental arrangements helping to further enrich Lauper’s iconic anthems of pop (Lauper herself even remarked, with a laugh: “Who woulda thunk my songs coulda sounded like that?”).
Of note, the evening also recognized corporate honoree Ken Lowe, President and CEO of Scripps Networks Interactive, which broadcasts HGTV, Food Network and the Travel Channel among others, for his boundless contributions to the general media landscape.
But on the whole, the focus was mainly centralized toward Lauper, her music and all she represents. Through her dedication to spreading inspirational messages through her music and her consistent, unwavering commitment activism in a variety of worthy causes, she’s certainly cemented her status as a pop culture icon, and changed the way we view music — and the world — forever. And, hearing all these songs together, sung by those to whom she was an idol and influence, only helps to further exemplify the impact she’s had on the music community and the world at large.
Well, she has, hasn’t she? She’s the one who instilled in us the belief that our true colors are beautiful… the one who reassured us she will catch us when we fall…. the one who declared that girls just wanna have fun… the one who encouraged us to tear apart hate… to just be who we wanna be, and emphasized that you can change the world when you change your mind.
And it’s clear that she recognizes the importance of not only getting her message out, but getting it out in the manner she does.
“Music is so important… to children… to adults… to all of us,” Lauper shares, toward the end of the evening. “Music truly has the power to change the mood of a whole room. It allows us to elevate ourselves and elevate our cause,” adding, for that reason that “it’s extremely important for children to learn music.”
“It’s really miraculous what it does and can do,” she continues, detailing her philosophy: “No matter what happens or what’s happening in the world, if you’re playing music, you’re elevating everything.”
Congratulations and thank you, Ms. Lauper. You’ve done exactly that for all of us, and we know you’ll continue to do so… inspiring generation after generation, with example after example, song after song… time after time.
Photos by Magda Katz
Hat Full of Stars: The Songs of Cyndi Lauper, honoring the titular singer with Ken Lowe of Scripps Networks Interactive, and featuring the New York Pops, was presented April 29th at Carnegie Hall (57th Street and 7th Avenue). For more information regarding future performances and the Pops’ upcoming season, visit www.carnegiehall.org or www.newyorkpops.org.