Manhattan Concert Productions’ Star-Studded Concert Proves There’s Nothing Like the Broadway Classics!

by Matt Smith


The stars came out in droves Tuesday night for the annual salute to Manhattan Concert Productions, now in their sixth year of celebrating Broadway’s brightest stars, composers and overall productions with specially devised concert renditions decked out with full orchestra and chorus members. In lieu of a remounted version of a singular Broadway classic production, however, this year’s extravaganza honored them all, paying tribute to past MCP productions, from Ragtime to Parade to The Hunchback of Notre Dame, with the stars of each concert reuniting to perform selections from each one. Backed by the luscious, full-sounding New York City Chamber Orchestra, and an unprecedented 600 singers from a variety of local high school choirs, the result was a splendiferously star-studded extravaganza attendees and performers alike won’t soon forget!


Carolee Carmello


The evening started off with in true Broadway fashion, with a reprisal of the overture from last year’s smash Crazy for You, stoking the fires for its rumored Main Stem return. And, as anticipated, a myriad of Broadway’s best and brightest followed suit. Notable highlights included Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess, who moved the room with their stirring rendition of the Finale from The Secret Garden, Norm Lewis, whose tenderly booming baritone took on Ragtime’s “Make Them Hear You,” and Carolee Carmello, who resurrected her Tony-nominated Lucille for “All the Wasted Time,” in a tribute to Parade. Nikki Renee Daniels, Quentin Earl Darrington, Tony Yazbeck and original Titanic player Allan Corduner (who also cameo-ed in the 2014 MCP rendition), were among those who rounded out the electrifyingly starry cast.


Norm Lewis


But this impressive celeb power wasn’t limited to those performing. Composers-of-the-hour Maury Yeston, Alan Menken, Lucy Simon, Jason Robert Brown, Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty were all among the famous faces roaming throughout the crowd during the spectacle, making appearances onstage via various multimedia clips, in which they offered insightful commentary regarding the evolution of their pieces through the years, and praised the progressive mission of MCP, in presenting them anew through this newfound concert series.

As an added bonus, the evening also included performances of work from these composers’ catalogues at large — songs not necessarily performed in their work with MCP, but well-enough associated with these composers themselves that, in a night honoring their songbooks, it’d be ludicrous not to include. Of note, standout Once on This Island director Michael Arden switched gears with a gender-bending twist on Maury Yeston’s “Unusual Way,” Laura Osnes, much to audience acclaim, mashed up Yeston’s “Shimmy Like They Do In Paree” with “I Want to Go To Hollywood,” before Lea Salonga surprised us all with her unconventional entrance, and joined her aforementioned Once on This Island collaborator in celebrating Alan Menken, with a certain “never-before-heard trunk song” from said composer’s Aladdin.


Michael Arden, Lea Salonga


Prior to an encore which declared, quite aptly, “What a Remarkable Age This Is,” the night proper finished with a just-as-apt reminder — courtesy of a tune from Menken’s previous Broadway outing, Sister Act — to “Spread the Love Around.” It’s an incredibly important message to articulate, and not just because of the current state of our country, and MCP proclaims it with aplomb. The evening is a celebration of collaboration — as are all of their productions, past and in the future. This concert specifically, for one, doesn’t emphasize a singular composer or score, but rather, provides an eclectic mix of distinct sounds from a variety of distinguished composers — allowing us all to not only experience them separately, but to appreciate the magic that occurs when we hear them presented successively.


Photo by: Heather Mitchell


Furthermore, on the subject of planning these concert performances in general, while making an effort to acknowledge the creators, the performers, and most importantly, these works of theatrical art themselves, as mentioned, MCP blends them in presentation with the performers of today, through the aforementioned high school choruses who perform live alongside the megastars at each production, letting score, stars, and choir each have their moment to shine. A truly remarkable feat on its own, but especially commendable in that it breeds a new group of theatergoers for the future, and, in a theatrical landscape moving more and more toward new-age pop-rock scores, introduces them, or allows them to experience, the original, full-sounding, richly orchestrated tunes that began it all — the true backbone of musical theatre. Thus, they’re confirming what we all know to be true: rock-pop, new-age scores may be all the rage in the current moment, but there’s simply no denying… there’s nothing like the Broadway classics.

Photos: Walter McBride (except as noted)


Manhattan Concert Productions’ Broadway Classics was presented at Carnegie Hall (57th Street and 7th Avenue) on March 10th, with Kevin Stites at the baton. For more information on future MCP productions, please visit