Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

February 25, 2020

REVIEW: Springfield Symphony Orchestra, Love on Broadway

Springfield Symphony, Symphony Hall, Springfield, MA
February 22, 2020
by Lisa Covi

The latest program, “Love on Broadway,” by the Springfield Symphony showcased four vocalists for an enjoyable evening of selections from the 1950s-2000s. It was nice to see that the orchestra section of Symphony Hall was crowded, but not quite full of appreciative music lovers. The setting was relaxed, with audience members eager for the return appearances of Emma Grimsley and Jane Rhodes performing with two “bari-tenors” new to the annual themed program: Stephen Mark Lukas and Nathaniel Hackman. Conductor Kevin Rhodes' usual enthusiasm included his personal touch since he is married to Jane Rhodes and first met Emma Grimsley as the infant daughter of opera singers performing in Switzerland.

The concert opened with the only purely instrumental piece of the evening, “Carousel Waltz” from Carousel. Unfortunately, the prominent percussion section was slightly out of time with the rest of the orchestra, especially considering the necessity for snare drum. In contrast, the orchestra blended well for most of the evening's 20 selections and sound levels allowed for the vocalists to prove their musical and dramatic flair.

Grimsley performed a variety of ingĂ©nue parts with a lyrical soprano voice. She delivered a soaring melodic interpretation of “I Could Have Danced All Night” backed by wind instruments that supplied an almost choral accompaniment. Jane Rhodes provided strong comedic renditions notably channeling Lucy to Kevin Rhodes' Schroeder from You're a Good Man Charlie Brown. This song was a late addition to the program but tied in neatly to this season's tribute to Beethoven's 250th birthday as the lyrics float on top of “Moonlight Sonata.”

Ms. Rhodes excels at the spoken passages of her musical numbers particularly the rhythmic bridal part of “Getting Married Today” from Company. Rhodes and Grimsley performed the favorite “A Boy Like That” from West Side Story which contrasted the strong distinct tones of each vocal line against Bernstein's lovely oboe lines. The men's duet “Agony” from Into the Woods was tuneful and humorous. Nathan Hackman demonstrated his rich chest voice with a resonant vibrato in “If Ever I would Leave You” from Camelot and “Lucky to Be Me” from On The Town. In his upper ranges, his voice was sometimes difficult to distinguish from the horn section. Hackman and Stephen Mark Lukas achieved an optimal blend on the unusual melody “Lily's Eyes” from Secret Garden. Lukas' comedic duet with Grimsley, “The Song that Goes Like This” from Spamalot, was the most entertaining performance of the evening and elicited laughs.

The sole detractor from a pleasant evening occurred in the audience. The pervasive odor of alcohol, the knocking over and stepping on plastic cups and a late-coming, early-leaving couple reeking of cannabis was reminiscent of the neglectful intemperance of an arena rock concert. However, the majority of the audience was friendly, personable and considerate of fellow audience members. The enthusiastic applause filled a quiet winter evening with love and happiness in Springfield's Courthouse Square.