On the night of Feb. 20, theater fans were treated to a star-studded event in Carnegie Hall’s Isaac Stern Auditorium. “Broadway Classics in Concert,” the sixth installment in Manhattan Concert Productions’ Broadway Series, featured musical selections from past shows presented by the company. Performed by Broadway stars, the songs combined to create a phenomenal program.
A cabaret of sorts, the event was a summation of five years of musical theater concert productions presented by MCP in Carnegie Hall. Past productions in the Broadway Series have been “Ragtime,” “Broadway Classics in Concert,” “Titanic,” “Parade,” “The Secret Garden” and “Crazy For You.” A variety of Broadway legends brought pieces from these and other shows to life with remarkable success. The most notable members of the cast were Lea Salonga, Laura Osnes, Norm Lewis, Michael Arden, Carolee Carmello, Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess.
Highlights of the show included Boggess and Karimloo’s heartbreaking rendition of “Where in the World/How Could I Ever Know?” from “The Secret Garden” and Arden’s dark and taciturn delivery of “Unusual Way” from “Nine.”
Lewis also stunned in his features. His solo performance of the famed ballad “Make Them Hear You” from “Ragtime” beautifully highlighted his rich bass vocals. Karimloo charmed audiences with his enchanting performance of “The Streets of Dublin” from the lesser-known musical, “A Man of No Importance.”
And as usual, Salonga — the Broadway star and original singing voice of Jasmine in “Aladdin” and Mulan in “Mulan,” in addition to her generous Broadway success — stunned with a solo performance of “Back to Before” from “Ragtime” and warmed hearts with a performance of “A Whole New World” for which she was joined by Arden, the current director of “Once on This Island.”
Salonga’s appearance broke the formality of the evening and engendered laughter in the audience as she rushed onstage after a number from Jason Robert Brown’s “Parade” and asked if she had missed the “Ragtime” section. The show’s pseudo-host — actor Allan Corduner, of “Titanic” fame — informed her that although the “Ragtime” portion of the evening had passed, an exception could be made for her.
Salonga disclosed that she had rushed to Carnegie Hall from a performance of “Once on This Island” a few blocks downtown and had changed in her taxi. Like any true legend, Salonga made it otherwise impossible to know that she was executing her second show of the night.
The Broadway Series is unique in its utilization of young artists, Broadway professionals and the New York City Chamber Orchestra. “Broadway Classics in Concert” was no exception to this. Hundreds of high school students were featured on stage, performing a backing chorus role for many of the selected songs.
During the transitions between groups of songs from different shows, video footage was played of the shows’ composers explaining their creative processes. Most of the composers also lauded MCP’s approach to Broadway concerts and its unique way of providing opportunities for young artists. The high school choirs onstage participated in a four-day residency and master class leading up to their big performance.
The most remarkable part of the evening, besides the sparkling venue and the talent onstage was that the featured musicals’ composers and lyricists were sitting in the audience. Just feet away from audience members: Alan Menken, Jason Robert Brown, Lynn Ahrens and more enjoyed the evening.
From some seats, it was possible to witness the composers watching their own pieces being performed — an extraordinary privilege and a fascinating sight.
The evening delighted audience members. Young and old artists and art-lovers alike were brought together via Broadway, music and the indisputable magic that comes from a marriage of the two.
A version of this article appeared in the Feb. 26 print edition. Email Emily Fagel at [email protected]