‘The American Pops Orchestra Presents Stairway to Paradise: A Gershwin Spectacular’ at Lisner Auditorium

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The American Pops Orchestra presented Stairway to Paradise: A Gershwin Spectacularstarring Christine Ebersole, directed by Nathan Brewer, at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium on Friday, October 16, 2015.

The American Pops Orchestra brought a fresh perspective to the American Songbook in its inaugural DC concert, Stairway to Paradise: A Gershwin Spectacular. Orchestra founder and Music Director Luke Frazier has commissioned some inspired arrangements of beloved Gershwin songs that reinvigorate the material and highlight the skill of his musicians. “Fascinating Rhythm” featured the xylophonist to joyous effect, and “Summertime” (in seven variations) showcased the immense talent of Concert Master Henry Flory.

Christine Ebersole.

Christine Ebersole.

Tony Award Winner Christine Ebersole (42nd Street, Grey Gardens) shined as the evening’s star. Always the epitome of vocal perfection, her vivacious renditions of the up-tempo songs “I Got Rhythm,” “Strike Up the Band,” and “Clap Yo’ Hands” (the latter to backed by the National Broadway Chorus) were rousing audience pleasers. Ebersole’s artistry on “The Man That Got Away” was incredibly moving.

The program also featured Broadway’s Paige Faure (Cinderella) and American Songbook Ambassador Nick Ziobro. Faure was touching on her two melancholy tunes, “Where’s the Boy? Here’s the Girl” and “Someone to Watch Over Me,” and brought the house down with “But Not for Me.” Ziobro seemed ill at ease at first, but warmed up quickly and soon was totally in the groove. In particular, he performed the shows title song, “Stairway to Paradise,” brilliantly.

Faure and Ziobro collaborated on “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off.” It was fun and vocally fine, but the pronouns made no sense the way the verses were halved between them. Throughout the song, for example, he sang, “You say either,” and she sang, “And I say eyether.” Odd that no one commented on that in rehearsal.

Maestro Luke Frazier.

Maestro Luke Frazier.

Jason Sparks provided the choreography for the dance team of Julia Freyer and Johnny Stellard. With limited stage space, their repertoire ranged from exuberant tap to the elegance of America’s Ballroom Challenge. 

Let’s hope that the The American Pops Orchestra takes these arrangements into the recording studio. 

Running Time: 90 minutes,  including a 15-minute intermission.

Stairway to american pops logo

Set List
“Overture”/”Strike Up the Band” / Ebersole, Freyer, Stellard, and National Broadway Chorus
“They Can’t Take That Away from Me” / Ziobro
“Fascinating Rhythm” / Freyer and Stellard
“I Got Rhythm”/ Ebersole
“Where’s the Boy? Here’s the Girl”/ Faure
“Love Is Here to Stay”/ Ziobro
“Embraceable You”
“Nice Work if You Can Get It”/ “Freyer and Stellard”
“Summertime”/ Flory
“Someone to Watch Over Me”/ Faure
“Shall We Dance”/ Freyer and Stellard
“Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off”/ Faure and Ziobro
“But Not for Me” / Faure
“The Man That Got Away”/ Ebersole
“(I’ll Build a) Stairway to Paradise/ Ziobro
“Clap Yo’ Hands “/ Ebersole, Freyer, Stellard, and National Broadway Chorus

Stairway to Paradise: A Gershwin Spectacular was performed for one night only, October 16, 2015 at 8 pm, at George Washington University Lisner Auditorium – 730 21st Street NW, in Washington, DC.

For more information, visit Luke’s website.

LINK:
Christine Ebersole, Paige Faure, & Nick Ziobro Join The American Pops on 10/16@8 pm at Lisner for ‘Stairway to Paradise: A Gershwin Spectacular.’

RATING: FOUR-AND-A-HALF-STARS7.gif

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One Response to ‘The American Pops Orchestra Presents Stairway to Paradise: A Gershwin Spectacular’ at Lisner Auditorium

  1. Gary F. October 20, 2015 at 6:11 pm #

    Agree with Mr. McMillan’s review 100% Especially about the incorrect pronoun use in “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off” and the virtuosity of Lead Violinist Henry Flory Overall, it was an enjoyable evening hearing this talented new orchestra.