Undeterred by Thursday night’s rainstorm, it was a slightly soggy yet enthusiastic crowd that turned out for Matthew Morrison in concert with the National Symphony Orchestra and special guest Laura Benanti at the Filene Center at Wolf Trap on July 10, 2014. They were not disappointed—the energy of the performers, as well as their amazing talent, made for one of the most entertaining concerts I have attended in a while.
Matthew Morrison is most known for his role as “Will Schuester” on the hit TV show Glee, as well as his many performances on Broadway, including South Pacific and The Light in the Piazza. Laura Benanti was recently seen on television as “Elsa” in the NBC live telecast of The Sound of Music starring Carrie Underwood, and is a Tony Award-winner for her role as “Louise” in Gypsy on Broadway. As their many credits might suggest, both are consummate performers. Their screen and stage credits alone however do not reflect just how charismatic and energetic they are in front of a crowd—with their easy humor and lively dancing they had the audience eating out of the palm of their hands.
Under the consummate direction of Steven Reineke, the National Symphony Orchestra was fantastic backing up the singers as well as performing in their own right. They opened the concert with a bouncy arrangement of “New York, New York,” starting the concert with an energy that continued throughout the night.
The songs were chosen mostly from Broadway and the American Songbook, though with updated arrangements to fight the contemporary styles of Morrison and Benanti. They were clearly very comfortable with the song choices, and able to perform them with ease and mastery. Morrison has a jazzy sensibility that is perfectly suited to the lounge songs such as “The Lady is a Tramp”, “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” and “It Don’t Mean a Thing if It Ain’t Got That Swing”, and his smooth tenor voice more than did them justice. Benanti showed her capability with big Broadway numbers, singing the standards such as “The Sound of Music” and “I Could Have Danced All Night” with her creamy, golden soprano.
The best part of the night however was not one particular song or moment, but rather was Morrison’s dancing in every number! This self-proclaimed “song and dance man” was exactly that, as he danced all around the stage during his numbers, soft-shoeing, dancing with the microphone stand, taking over the conductor’s baton to conduct the orchestra, dancing with his fedora, and even dancing with an umbrella during his fantastic performance of “Singin’ in the Rain.” His humor was infectious and had me completely enthralled.
Other highlights were the duets between Morrison and Benanti. They sang a lovely, intimate duet of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” during which Morrison also showed off his ukulele skills as their voices blended and complemented each other wonderfully. Their best duet though was their encore: a symphonic arrangement of Pharrell’s “Happy.” They had the audience on their feet, clapping along and laughing and wishing that the concert wasn’t over already.
While there were occasional sound issues (the orchestra at times overpowered Morrison, and there was a startlingly loud “blat” during one of the numbers), the stalwart souls who braved the rainstorm and the DC traffic to get out to Wolf Trap were well rewarded with an evening of fun, entertainment, and good song.
Running Time: 2 hours, with a 15-minute intermission.
Matthew Morrison, with special guest Laura Benanti and the National Symphony Orchestra played for one night only at the Filene Center at Wolf Trap-1645 Trap Road, in Vienna, VA. For future performances and Information: Call (877) 965-3872, or check their calendar of events.