Back Home for the Holidays and The New York Pops Returns to the Stage after 22 months with Kelli O’Hara at Carnegie Hall
On December 17th, the first clash of the cymbals showed the audience at Carnegie Hall that after 22 months The New York Pops was back on stage and the 2021 holiday season was well on its way.
Earlier in the week Covid again reminded us that it had not yet been permanently put in the history books. While the Rockettes were forced to stop kicking, Hamilton stop rapping and Moulin Rouge stop lifting their skirts, The New York Pops showed that they still can can with the help of Kelli O’Hara. Laura Benanti was originally supposed to headline the Back for the Holidays celebration; but, she was in contact with a Covid positive individual earlier in the week and Kelli donned her holiday apparel to take her place.
Under the musical direction of Steven Reinecke, The New York Pops once again filled Carnegie Hall with holiday cheer with a wonderful overture. Kelli walked onto the stage in a beautiful red gown (which we find out later was lent to her by Ms Benanti) that transformed Ms O’Hara into a most beautiful Christmas tree topper. Singing a joyful “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” Kelli showed us why she is one of Broadway’s leading ladies. Paying tribute to another leading lady of Broadway, Kelli honored Barbara Cook with her rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” She then reminded us of the true meaning of Christmas as she gave us “I Wonder as I Wander,” a Christian folk hymn dating from 1933.
Leaving the stage for her second of four costume changes, she left us alone with Mr Reineke and The Pops who took us on a wonderful “Sleigh Ride“. Despite the temperature outside that day reaching an unseasonably warm high 50’s; the magic of The Pops with the exciting orchestrations transported us onto a brisk ride through imagined snow with the real neighing sound of the leading horses. As an added bonus I was able to see how they were able to create the sound of the whip to make the sleigh go faster (and no horses were harmed in the playing of this song.)
“I Saw Three Ships,” is a traditional English carol dating back to the 17th Century. The meaning of the three ships is always in question: the three wise men following the Christmas star?, three ships bringing religious relics to Germany in the 12th Century or a reference to good prince Wenceslaus. All of those references bring to mind small wooden sailing ships but The Pops with their exciting arrangement by Matthew Jackfert brought to mind three very distinct ships ranging from a small fishing boat to a Cutty Sark to an aircraft carrier. From the image of great sailing vessels, The Pops next brought us the beautiful melodies of the Carol of the Bells.
Kelli returned to the stage in a slit Christmas green dress which allowed her to “get crazy” as she finished the first half of the show dancing and singing to “Man with the Bag,” But first she gave us “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and “A Place Called Home” from Alan Menken and Lynn Ahrens’ A Christmas Carol. I was unfamiliar with this song as was Kelli, who admitted the same but has now put this in her playlist for the future. You could imagine a young 12 year old Scrooge singing this as old Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Past looks on.
After Intermission The Pops returned with “Jingle Bell Rock,” which was brought to lively heights with horns and an electric guitar.
Hanukkah came early this year from November 28 to December 6 and although all the candles on the city’s menorahs had been lit for over ten days, The Pops celebrated the holiday with the traditional “Mis Zeh Hidlik (Behold the Lights).” The English horn was the highlight of this arrangement played by a young lady whose name I sadly did not hear. From the quiet of the English horn Mr Reineke jazzed up the orchestra with I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm which included short solos on the electric guitar, piano and trumpet.
Kelli O’Hara returned to the stage now in a glittering silver dress adorned with crystal by Oscar de la Renta. She now complimented her tree topper first dress as a shimmering piece of tinsel and sang “Winter Wonderland.” She followed that with another tribute to Barbara Cook, whom she sang with years earlier on the Carnegie Hall stage, with Ms Cook’s version of “The Christmas Song.”
Ms O’Hara welcomed her guest performer (who was originally Ms Benanti’s planned guest), Brandon Michael Nase. Mr Nase was not a stranger to Kelli as she had worked with him on his nonprofit organization Broadway for Racial Justice (BFRJ) that fights for racial justice and equity in the theater community. Not just an organizer, Mr Nase is also a talented singer who has performed in Cats, Showboat, and Evita; he shared his gift in a duet with Kelli from “White Christmas” and “Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep).”
Kelli exited, leaving the stage to Brandon who gleefully exclaimed that this was his Carnegie Hall debut which I’m sure made the words “a very special Christmas” even more meaningful as he sang them in Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas. He should be proud of his first Carnegie Hall solo.
As Brandon left stage left Santa with his peppermint patterned masked elf entered stage right wishing us all a Merry Christmas” and taking Mr Reineke’s baton to conduct the Pops while dancing on the conductor’s platform.
Kelli entered as a vision of pure white snow in a crystal shining gown with a ruffled bottom. Ms O’Hara’s operatic voice truly came out as she sang “O Holy Night.” It is an amazing thing when one voice can be so strong and beautiful that an entire choir can be heard from that solo performer. With Mr Reineke’s conducting the glorious New York Pops, Carnegie Hall was transformed to all the grandeur and emotion of a Christmas service in St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.
Despite Ms O’Hara and Mr Reineke leaving the stage we knew the evening was not over and they soon returned with Mr Nase. Kelli and Brandon sang a duet of “Auld Lang Syne.”The song was a perfect way to end the evening as it is the traditional midnight song on New Year’s Eve. Even more poignant in 2021 as we look forward to a better 2022. Yes we do look back and want to leave the hardships that the past year…past 22 months… have presented us; but, it is also a song that makes us look forward to better times, healthier times, happier times and definitely more times with Ms O’Hara, Mr Nase, Mr Reineke and The New York Pops.
The Glorious Corner
WOODSTOCK COVER STARS — (Via Best Classic Bands) — Bobbi Ercoline’s name may not be familiar to most, but millions own her photograph: Bobbi, whose last name at the time was Kelly, and her then-boyfriend, Nick Ercoline, were huddled together under a quilt at the 1969 Woodstock festival when photographer Burk Uzzle snapped their picture. The couple, both then 20, were unaware that their photo had even been taken until several months later, when the three-LP Woodstock soundtrack album was released. They were among friends when they first realized the couple on the album cover was them.
“We were passing the jacket around when someone pointed out the staff with the orange and yellow butterfly,” Nick told AARP in 2019 for the organization’s magazine. “That belonged to Herbie, a guy from Huntington Beach, Calif. He was lost and having a bad trip, and we hooked arms with him until he was clear-headed. Then we saw the blanket. Oh my lord, that’s us!”
Bobbi and Nick only lasted one night at Woodstock, and never even got near the stage. They had given it their all trying to get to the festival, ditching their car when traffic became snarled and walking the final two miles. They spent most of their single day there on the hillside where the famous photo was taken.
Two years later, in 1971, they married. They remained together until Bobbi Ercoline’s death Saturday (March 18, 2023).
Nick posted the news on Facebook: “It’s with beyond great sadness that I tell my FB family and friends, that after 54 years of life together, of the death of my beautiful wife, Bobbi, last night surrounded by her family. She lived her life well, and left this world in a much better place. If you knew her, you loved her. She lived by her saying, ‘Be kind.’ As a School Nurse she always championed the kids … ALWAYS! As a person, she always gave. ‘How much do you really need if you have all you need or want?’ So she gave and gave and gave. She didn’t deserve this past year’s nightmare, but she isn’t suffering from the physical pain anymore and that brings some comfort to us.”
We’ve spoken much over the years about how that Woodstock event was so cataclysmic – culturally; musically; and certainly philosophically. Elliot Tiber wrote beautifully about it in his first book Taking Woodstock – a classic if you’ve never read it.
They tried to re-create it in 1994 and though it was good, it just didn’t have that magical flavor of the first one. I wasn’t at either, but as you can imagine, music from that 1969 concert still lives passionately today. I was, however, at Live Aid and that was my Woodstock for sure.
Not to get too poetic, but I came across a great quote yesterday: It’s worth being older now, to have been young then.
SHORT TAKES — Derek & The Dominoes Bobby Whitlock on Jim Gordon: “Carl Radle and Jim Gordon … Didn’t get any better than that. The only other alternative [for Derek and the Dominoes] was Jim Keltner. And that’s who should have been the guy and who was supposed to be the guy. But it didn’t turn out that way. He was busy. The rhythm section of Carl and Jim propelled the songs we put together. Jim Gordon is the most musical drummer I ever heard. All of the drums were in tune. literally tuned to a key on the piano. Big kit. But Jim had this wonderful ability to interpret the nuances you could feel but not hear. Carl was solid as a rock. A downbeat player and right on it. So, we have Carl who is solid and down and Jim who is up and on it. So, it was perpetual motion” …
Do you remember “Vehicle” by The Idea of March back in 1970? It became the fastest-selling single in Warner Brothers history. A little-known fact is that 14 seconds of the completed master of “Vehicle” was accidentally erased in the recording studio, (primarily the guitar solo), and the missing section was spliced in from a previously discarded take. The song reached #2 in Billboard, and #1 in Cashbox. The album “Vehicle” reached #55 nationally … Dolly Parton sings with Elton John on “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” on her forthcoming rock ‘n roll album. I bet it’ll sound great, but how many covers of that song has there been? Maybe they should have picked a John/Taupin deep-cut like “Come Down In Time” or “Amoreena.” Just saying … Does the phrase DLYZECOMKIN mean anything to you?
Believe it or not, in one of those crazy-jumble games online, the phrase translates into Micky Dolenz. Crazy, right? See for yourself: https://invasion24.com/2023/03/19/daily-jumble-puzzle-answers-march-19-2023/
… Speaking of Dolenz, he departs Thursday on a Flower Power Cruise; then starts his Headquarters-tour on April 1 in Orlando …
Charles F. Rosenay does the Zach Martin Big Fat American Podcast next week, for his new release, The Book of Top 10 Beatles Lists (KIWI Publishing) … HAPPY BDAY Gia Ramsey!
NAMES IN THE NEWS — Carol Geiser; Bob Meyerowitz; eYada; Andy Rosen; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Paul Haig; Terry Jastrow; Anthony Pomes; Mark Bego; Charles F. Rosenay; Bill Graham; Kip Cohen; Heather Moore; Charley Crespo; [Robert Miller; John Luongo; LIME; Carl Strube; Jen Ramos; and CHIP!
Rockefeller Center presents Ice Theatre of New York, Inc
Ice Theatre of New York (ITNY) is proud to hit the ice at The Rink at Rockefeller Center on March 23, 2023 at 12:30pm with ITNY Ensemble members Liz Yoshiko Schmidt and Danil Berdnikov performing Lorna Brown’s Timelessness. For more information, visit icetheatre.org/calendar.html.
Jason Robert Brown, Chuck Cooper, Janet Dacal, Sutton Foster, Lillias White and More To Perform at TheaterWorksUSA Spring Gala
TheaterWorksUSA, currently presenting the hit family show Dog Man The Musical at New World Stages, will host its annual Spring Gala on Monday, April 24 (cocktails begin at 6 PM) at The Current at Chelsea Piers.
100% of the net proceeds from the event will support our mission to create exceptional, transformative theatrical experiences that are accessible to young and family audiences in diverse communities across New York City and North America.
This year TWUSA will honor Lisa Chanel (TWUSA Board Chair 2019-2022), Andréa Burns (Award-winning Broadway actress & educator), Peter Flynn (TWUSA alumnus and award-winning director, writer, and educator), and Holly McGhee (Founder and Creator of Pippin Properties, New York Times best selling author). The event will feature appearances by some of Broadway’s biggest stars, including Jason Robert Brown, Chuck Cooper, Janet Dacal, Kevin Del Aguila, Sutton Foster, Lillias White and more.
On behalf of TheaterWorksUSA’s Board of Directors, we are thrilled to celebrate the people who have generously supported our mission, making it possible for us to bring high-quality theater to young audiences of all backgrounds throughout the country. We look forward to recognizing Lisa, Andréa, Peter, and Holly publicly at this very special event. – Tracy A. Stein, Board Chair
It’s a privilege to honor these individuals for playing such an important role in the work we do. Their vision, creativity, and ongoing commitment to our mission is truly something to celebrate. They are very much a part of our TheaterworksUSA family.- Barbara Pasternack, Artistic Director
TheaterWorksUSA (Barbara Pasternack, Artistic Director; Michael Harrington, Executive Director) has led the Theater for Young and Family Audiences movement in New York City and across North America for over half a century. At TWUSA, we believe that access to art—and theater, in particular—is vital for our youth. Since 1961, the 501(c)3 not-for-profit has captured the imaginations of 100 million new and veteran theatergoers with an award-winning repertoire of over 140 original plays and musicals. Acclaimed alumni include Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez (Disney’s Frozen), Daphne Rubin-Vega (Rent), Jerry Zaks (The Music Man), Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Dear Evan Hansen), Miguel Cervantes (Hamilton), Kathleen Chalfant (Angels in America), and Chuck Cooper (Tony award-winning actor, The Life). WWW.TWUSA.ORG
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