By Brian Scott Lipton
Performance Photos: Maryann Lopinto
Gala Red Carpet Arrivals Mandarin Hotel – Video Montage: Magda Katz
“Wilkommen, bienvenue, welcome” a pink-suited Alan Cumming beckoned us from the stage of Carnegie Hall on Monday, May 4, setting the perfect opening tone for The New York Pops 32nd Birthday Gala (subtitled “The New Golden Age”) saluting those award-winning siblings, director/choreographers Rob Marshall and Kathleen Marshall.
For much of the extremely entertaining 90-minute show, Pops’ music director Steven Reineke and the superb orchestra were joined by top-notch performers re-creating songs they had made famous in shows connected to the Marshalls. Victor Garber was a hoot as the devilish Applegate from “Damn Yankees” recalling “Those Were the Good Old Days;” Brian Stokes Mitchell gleefully pined for “Where Is the Life that Late I Led” (from “Kiss Me, Kate”); Sutton Foster belted “Anything Goes” all the way to 55th Street; the exquisite Laura Benanti offered up an equally gorgeous “Unusual Way” (from “Nine”), and Kelli O’Hara was a dream come true in “Someone to Watch Over Me.”
The leggy Rachel York, joined by four hunky male dancers, made the most out of “Le Jazz Hot” (from “Victor/Victoria”), and later, dressed in a sparkly floor-length gown, sang a sensitive “Children Will Listen” (from “Into the Woods.”). Margo Seibert and James Snyder, joined by composer Zina Goldrich, soared through the lovely “Out of the Darkness” from the upcoming “Ever After.” And two numbers from “Chicago” almost brought down the house: the ageless Bebe Neuwirth vamping spectacularly through “All That Jazz” and Queen Latifah giving her best sass and sizzle to “When You’re Good to Mama.”
In Pops tradition, children got to participate in three numbers: the kids from Camp Broadway gave their all to “76 Trombones” (from “The Music Man”); 20 talented instrumentalists from the PopsEd program joined the orchestra for “Themes from ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stronger Tides; and four brave youngsters from the Ronald McDonald House provided the perfect back-up to the ever-charming Rob McClure on “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile” (from “Annie”).
You can also expect a surprise or two in these shows, and the Pops didn’t disappoint. Japanese film star Ken Watanabe, a current Tony Award nominee for “The King and I,” helped introduce a gorgeous orchestral selection from “Memoirs of a Geisha,” the Rob Marshall-film that he starred in a decade ago. Best of all, opera great Renee Fleming – who just closed the Broadway production of “Living on Love” (directed by Kathleen Marshall) – stopped the show with an unamplified rendition of the Gershwin’s glorious “Summertime.”
Fittingly, the evening ended with a cast sing-along, led by Cumming, to the title tune from “Cabaret.” Indeed, when there are nights like the New York Pops Gala to attend, what good is sitting alone in your room?