What a gorgeous, festive evening The American Pops, under the direction and the quietly flowing baton of Luke S. Frazier, gave the Lisner audience last night with their entertaining and joyful A Broadway Christmas. Featuring the legendary Elaine Paige, The American Pops provided the musical tunes for a wide range of tastes.
This is the first season of presenting orchestral programming by the American Pops. Under Frazier’s guidance the orchestra aims to develop and inspire “a new audience for the 21st century.” Some in the local area may more readily know Frazier from his work with the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra.
A Broadway Christmas was an evening of delicious holiday pop music hits and timeless spiritual Christmas classics with special guests featuring an array of fabulous voices, like Elaine Paige, who has graced musical stages in the UK and America and introduced many a Broadway classic to audiences on both sides of the Pond.
Let me clearly say that A Broadway Christmas featured a knock-out, full of authentic personality singing performance by award-winning actress, singer, producer, and radio personality Elaine Page. Paige was affectionately introduced as “The First Lady of Musical Theater” by Frazier as she cheerfully walked to center stage from stage right and brought the spotlight with her with a huge sunny smile.
Paige sang holiday favorites like the spiritually and emotionally rich “Silent Night” and a few moments later, an up-tempo, swinging, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” with the American Pops Orchestra binding together with strings and horns alike. After the intermission, Paige gave the audience what many seemed to have come for – her very own musical theater anthems including a powerful – if not mystical – rendition of Evita’s “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” and then Sunset Boulevard’s “With One Look.” Needless to say, she brought the house down, with people on their feet having just taken in the feelings and range of her presentations.
Featured with Ms. Paige, was a 17-year old powerhouse named Julie Goodman who some might know from her performances on America’s Got Talent. She is also a winner of the Michael Feinstein Great American Songbook High School Vocal Competition. Goodman has one delightfully dusky voice range which showed itself both during her bright work on “All I want for Christmas is You” which brought the audience to clap along with big smiles and confidently sang the iconic “Santa Baby” first heard from Eartha Kitt in the early 1950s.
Showcasing his velvety, effortlessly-smooth sounding voice was the dashing Matt Doyle. Doyle has starred on Broadway in The Book of Mormon, Bye Bye Birdie, and Spring Awakening. Doyle easily held the audience in the palm of his hand when he effortlessly crooned “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “The Christmas Song,” and a “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” – a favorite of mine. It is a song covered by a wide range of artists and Doyle made it is own, which was no easy task.
Conducted by Luke S. Frazier and directed by Nathan Brewer, The National Broadway Chorus (NBC) with about 30 members singing, were in sweet total harmony whether performing an adorable fugue-like the soprano, alto, tenor, bass/baritone version of “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” or a deeply spiritual performances of “O Holy Night,” or “In the Bleak Midwinter.”
Yes, even with the unseasonably warm weather the past weeks here in the DC area, A Broadway Christmas brought the audience what it had hoped: a holiday spirit well needed for these current turbulent times around the world.
After walking out of Lisner we were greeted by a delightful display of white lights on bare trees and many of the handsome George Washington University gates that were brightening the night’s darkness.
Running Time: 90 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission.
A Broadway Christmas was performed by the American Pops for one night only on December 16, 2015 at 8 pm, at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium – 730 21st Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For more information on The American Pops’ season, go to their website.
Note: Next up for Elaine Paige and the American Pops is a concert at Town Hall in New York City celebrating the 100th anniversary of Edith Piaf’s birth.