The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra Pops series took a show-stopping turn this weekend presenting "Wicked Divas," a literal title for a concert highlighting not only songs from the blockbuster Broadway musical "Wicked" but also songs celebrating divas from other Broadway musicals and from the world of movies, opera, and pop music. In diva-speak, the orchestra and the concert itself were fabulous.
Guest conductor Steven Reineke is both the Principal Pops Conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra and Music Director of the New York Pops at Carnegie Hall. Reineke seamlessly conducted the FWSO through the delightful program, which seemed much shorter than its 2.5-hour length. Joining Reineke were Broadway vocalists Alli Mauzey and Julia Murney both of whom have starred, appropriately, in "Wicked" as Glinda and Elphaba respectively.
Mauzey covered Broadway gold with "I Could Have Danced All Night" ("My Fair Lady"), "Think of Me" ("Phantom of the Opera") and joined Murney in "All That Jazz" from "Chicago".
Murney paid tribute to diva Liza in Kander and Ebb's popular "Ring Them Bells," which they wrote especially for Ms. Minnelli, who included it in her concert on the very same stage in 2008 as part of the Bass Hall 10th Anniversary celebration.
The program double-dipped with divas as Murney and Mauzey joined forces in "Enough is Enough," the 1979 Streisand/Summer disco anthem. Mauzey impressed with her nod to diva Dion with the love theme from the film "Titanic." Even the stereotypical diva character is acknowledged in Diva's Lament from "Spamalot" sung by Murney. Tony-winner Sara Ramierez, now better known as playing bisexual surgeon Callie Torres on "Grey's Anatomy," originally sang "Diva's Lament" on Broadway.
Reineke led the orchestra through a wonderfully supreme medley of diva Ross' Motown classics. Similarly, Reineke and the orchestra players shined as they honored one of opera's greatest divas with fiery selections from "Carmen".
But not every song on the program worked. Two numbers from "Ragtime" didn't fit the evening's theme. There was a very awkward attempt to go for a Latin diva with Conga, which should never be performed by anyone other than Ms. Estefan and her band. Perhaps most disappointing was the billed "Overture to Gypsy."
As any diva knows, the "Gypsy" overture is one of the most thrilling and most recognized overtures in all of Broadway starting with those four dreamy notes. Reineke directed the orchestra through a Reineke-arranged medley of "Gypsy" tunes. It was a lovely medley, but if you're going to advertise prime rib, you shouldn't serve chuck steak.
The last numbers on the program were reserved for the "Wicked" tunes, but were preceded by a sumptuous "Over The Rainbow" featuring the brilliant Michael Shih on violin. Mauzey had the right blend of manic perkiness to pull off "Popular." Both ladies performed the lovely duet "For Good" as the program finale. However, the last number should have been "Defying Gravity, delivered by Murney, who soared through the climactic bars producing cheers and goose bumps.
"Wicked Divas" runs through February 19 at the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra at Bass Hall, 525 Commerce St, Fort Worth. For info on upcoming shows, visit http://www.fwsymphony.org/