As Oklahoma City Philharmonic’s season comes to a close, the orchestra takes a look at some of the best music American theater has to offer with the Broadway’s Best concert March 17 and 18 at Civic Center Music Hall, 201 N. Walker Ave.
“Like so many people, I have a deep love and respect for musical theater,” said Oklahoma City Philharmonic music director Joel Levine. “It’s the true American art form. We pretty much invented it and developed it into a major artwork.”
The show has special meaning for Levine, whose background is in musical theater and who retires at the end of the 2017-2018 season after nearly 30 years leading OKC Phil and over 40 years in the local music community. OKC Phil’s executive director Eddie Walker suggested that Levine put together one last Broadway-inspired concert during his tenure.
“I’ve never really left that field,” Levine said.
Joining OKC Phil for the show are Broadway veterans Ryan Silverman and Rachel York. Silverman is known as the go-to guy for pops concerts, Levine said. He saw Silverman’s YouTube videos and thought he’d like to work with him. Levine knew of York from her role as Kate in the revival of the Cole Porter musical Kiss Me Kate and always hoped he’d get the chance to work with her.
“Sometimes it’s just good timing, and that seems to be what happened here,” Levine said. “People who got on the radar because of their reputation turned out to be happy to come here.”
Silverman’s Broadway credits include playing Billy Flynn in Chicago and Raoul in Phantom of the Opera. His film and television credits include Gossip Girl and Sex and the City 2. He has also performed with several orchestras, including The New York Pops, and has been nominated for Drama Desk and Drama League awards.
York’s Broadway credits include Les Miserables, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and The Scarlet Pimpernel. She has been nominated for several Drama Desk awards, winning for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical in 1996 for her role in Victor/Victoria. Her film and television credits include starring as Lucille Ball in the CBS biopic Lucy and a recent episode of the hit Sherlock Holmes series Elementary, as well as Reba, Diagnosis Murder and several other shows.
Selections featured in the concert include the overture from Gypsy, “Suddenly Seymour” from Little Shop of Horrors, “All I Care About (Is Love)” from Chicago and “Defying Gravity” from Wicked. The entire cast will perform “One Day More” from Les Miserables and Silverman will perform “Ya Got Trouble” from The Music Man, a song that Levine describes as “dense and somewhat daunting.” The song “Anthem” from the musical Chess is also featured. While people might not be as familiar with that musical as some of the others featured, they likely know one of the songs from its soundtrack, the 1980s hit “One Night in Bangkok” by Murray Head.
“We’re doing something that is a little new to local audiences, I think, because it’s a show that’s not been seen often,” Levine said.
Levine compared putting together a Pops concert to preparing a complicated recipe, adding that it took a week just to select the songs for Broadway’s Best.
He chose which arrangement to use for each of the 21 songs and balance the show in terms of fast and slow pieces, contemporary and classic and other factors. He also had to ensure the concert flowed smoothly from one piece to the next and that he didn’t wear out the vocalists by giving them demanding pieces one after another.
“It’s like the porridge for the three bears: not too hot, not too cold; it has to be just right,” Levine said.
The concert is designed for Broadway lovers, no matter what age they are or their knowledge of the genre. For some, the featured songs will be old favorites they grew up listening to, while younger audiences or those new to Broadway might be just discovering the songs because they come from contemporary or recently revived shows.
“I hope they will be able to hum along with their favorites, and in the case where it’s a song they don’t know well or don’t know at all, hopefully they will discover a new love,” Levine said. “That’s why you do an evening like this, to have a healthy dose of people’s favorite music and to help them discover something.”
While putting together a Pops concert can be a time-consuming and complex process, Levine said both he and the orchestra have a deep love and appreciation for musical theater and Broadway.
In fact, many of the orchestra members play in musical theater either with local productions or with touring productions that come through town.
“It amazes me that some orchestras just don’t seem to get it,” Levine said. “This one does, so it’s a joy to get up in front of them and rehearse and perform this.”
8 p.m. March 17-18
Thelma Gaylord Performing Arts Theatre
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N. Walker Ave.
Print headline: Theater tunes, Oklahoma City Philharmonic recruits serious stage talent for its Broadway’s Best Pops concert.