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Tickets for Broadway shows cost an "arm-and-a-leg." Getting there is half the cost before factoring in the hotel, cab rides, and an overpriced rum-and-coke: suddenly, you're over-budget. And then you find out Kelli O'Hara is out sick in The King and I and her understudy is playing Anna.
On the other hand, folks who'd rather save a trip to the Big Apple for another time, might have traveled down to Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary for a candy-colored offering of Broadway hits, old and new. Armed with sangria, cold-cut sandwiches, and lawn chairs, audiences there beat the foreboding rain forecast to enjoy a lively evening of musical tunes, sung by stage veterans Lisa Jolley and Ken Griggs.
The North Carolina Symphony, under the baton of Associate Conductor David Glover, expressed a love of this kind of music while playing medleys from shows like Wicked and Chicago sans vocalists. Tempi in these medleys flowed much better in transitions from song to song than with the soloists, although the concert never felt uneven in terms of musical flow.
Lisa Jolley – a picture of diva comedy and soprano elegance – and Ken Griggs – among NC's most desirable leading men – performed their duets with deft timing and passion. Together, their onstage chemistry bore witness to the fact that they performed together in Spamalot last fall. In addition, there may be rivalry of "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better" proportions between them!
Enter eight or nine tiny tots dressed in rags, carrying buckets…. In a rousing rendition of "Hard Knock Life" followed by "Tomorrow" – sung with impressive heart by Adele Baldina – these talented kids, gathered together by director and Temple Theatre mainstay Peggy Taphorn, acted like real pros. Benjamin Farlow (rounding out the youth contingent) gave the audience an endearing "Where Is Love?" from Oliver.
Following Griggs' suave rendition of "Razzle Dazzle" from Chicago and Jolley's showstopping "Don't Rain on My Parade," there was lightning, and thunder was heard from far away. Though the drizzle of rain had ceased after the Act I finale, "People Will Say We're In Love," the concert was ended early for the safety of the patrons getting home. Sad, because I was really looking forward to seeing Jolley and Griggs reprise their Spamalot memories with "The Song that Goes like This." Concertgoers didn't seem disappointed as, even abbreviated, the concert had given everybody something to talk (and sing) about on the way home.
The programming was like a vanilla flavored ice cream cone on a hot day, satisfying yet predictable. The standards were there, things similar to last year's Summerfest Broadway evening – with the exception of Bye Bye Birdie and Spamalot – to give some range of musical history for audience members. The program entertained this year, but last year audience members discovered lesser known gems such as Gershwin's Of Thee I Sing overture and Kern's "All the Things You Are." Both stopped the show, so I hope that in programming next year's Broadway program, the NCS does not shy away from giving audiences a taste of something different. After all, vanilla ice cream cones go better with sprinkles on them!
Note: There's sort of more of the same on Saturday, June 20, as David Glover leads music from the Harry Potter series. Click here for details.