Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

April 18, 2011

Oh, What A Night!

Springfield Symphony Orchestra
Symphony Hall, Springfield
April 16, 2011
by Shera Cohen

Question: when is it appropriate to give a standing ovation? One Answer: when it's impossible not to immediately jump up out of the seat with hands clapping almost uncontrollably at the end of a performance. That was the case for over half of the audience at Springfield Symphony Orchestra's latest Pops Concert. This reviewer was among those leading the Standing O.

One might assume that such accolades, particularly in the elegant and formal setting of Symphony Hall, only qualify for works of Brahms and Beethoven, et al. These were the masters; let us rise to the occasion. "Oh, What A Night," however, was an evening celebrating the Top Hits of the 60's. That's 1960's, not 1860's. This was the music whose tunes and lyrics were ever-present in the minds of the nearly 2000 in attendance. We got what we came for, and more!

The placement and pace of the 30+ pieces of music, made for a well-orchestrated (literally and figuratively) show. Genres swayed from Latin (the opening number "La Bamba") to funk (electric guitar intro of "Aquarius"), ballads (the haunting "Unchained Melody') to rock (the only female tribute in "Respect"). Memorable medleys included the Four Seasons, the Beatles, and Smokey Robinson. The entertainment balance shifted from orchestra-only (a rockin' "Tequila") to male vocal trio (semi acapella "Try a Little Tenderness") to solos (a sexy "It's Not Unusual"). Who would have guessed that scholastically trained and talented dramatic Broadway alums (i.e. "Phantom" and "Les Miz") could get down and wild on stage? Ron Bohmer, Tituss Burgess, and Bradley Dean enjoyed every moment that they gave to their audience. One particular skill, and perhaps competition, was holding the final note the longest. Each man's individual characteristics - Bohmer's mugging, Burgess' casualness, and Dean's feigned angst - added to their appeal.

Maestro Kevin Rhodes, along with some members of the orchestra and audience, took the theme of the night seriously. The normally bald Rhodes donned a huge Afro wig, tie-dyed shirt, and leather vest. He might not have been a baby boomer, but he played one at the podium. "Oh, What A Night" was a leisurely, memory-evoking, fun night.