THE ARTS ETC

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Springfield Symphony Orchestra

presents

ROCK ON! BROADWAY

Kevin Rhodes, Music Director

Sarah Uriarte Berry, Soprano and Ron Bohmer, Tenor

CHESS OVERTURE

HAIR

TOMMY

NEXT TO NORMAL

THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW

JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR

RENT

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS

GODSPELL

Reviewed by Donna Bailey-Thompson

The talent on the Symphony  Hall stage was first-rate, leading off with the incomparable Kevin Rhodes, a master musician, dedicated to always doing his best, beloved and admired at home and abroad. The never-fail SSO musicians were ready to rock 'n roll. Bringing their remarkable vocal pipes into the mix were two super-talented, super-seasoned voices -- Sarah Uriart Berry's on-pitch soprano and Ron Bohmer's tenor (he can also function as a macho baritone).

The program represented a classic who’s who and what’s what of the Rock 0n! Broadway scene leading off with “CHESS OVERTURE.” Had R&R abbreviated something named “Chess”?

I need to be candid. What’s this Chess Overture? What’s it attached to? I liked a lot of what I heard but I didn’t know what I was listening to or how to categorize it, and I didn’t have a clue about how I would write about it. (Later, even Googling didn’t help.)

The Rock On! Broadway program brought home how isolated I was during various surges of pop culture. HAIR penetrated because “Aquarius” and “Let The Sun Shine” were ubiquitous. Also, I saw the revival this past April. The soloists gave the songs full throttle – “Aquarius,” “Easy To Be Hard,” “Hair,” “Let The Sun Shine.” http://www.theartsetc.com/HAIR.htm

I was familiar with Tommy because back when the movie was in wide release, my teen daughter insisted on taking me to see the film. (Another time, she introduced me to a concert in the original Civic Center where audiences ignited matches and I was saddened by a phrase within one of Harry Chapin’s songs –“...just like you, dad.”) The “TOMMY OVERTURE,” “Smash the Mirror”, and” I’m Free” jogged my memory. The sharp colors, the ultra-modern sets, Elton John banging the piano, a super intense Ann Margret, but mostly Tommy’s painful life made strong impressions. Sarah Uriarte Berry’s frustrated mother and Ron Bohmer’s joy at feeling free provided enough glimpses into the rock opera to bring back hazy memories.

How did a song from a relatively new kid on the block, NEXT TO NORMAL, become part of an aging mix of R&R? This is how: In awarding the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the Pulitzer Board called the show "a powerful rock musical that grapples with mental illness in a suburban family and expands the scope of subject matter for musicals." Everyone in the family is affected by the mother’s bipolar illness. In reference to the dead son, Ms Berry sang an impassioned “How Could I Ever Forget?” that received warm applause.   http://www.theartsetc.com/NexttoNormal.htm

Selections from THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW wrapped up the first half of the program with, fittingly,”The Time Warp.” During Intermission, two women in their 80s were especially enthusiastic about the program and for the same reason: the music rekindled happy memories of their kids playing the hit songs over and over. Bringing contemporary skills to the concert were the pianist who kept busy swiveling between a keyboard and a concert grand and the guitarest’s electrifying guitar solos.

Following Intermission, the selections were somewhat lighter, and/or maybe the volume had been adjusted. (When it’s too loud, the lyrics congeal.) The SSO delivered a rousing Overture to JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR followed by Ms Berry searching for guidance, “I Don’t Know How To Love Him.” Even more troubled during his private retreat in “Gethsemane,” Mr. Bohmer pondered the fate awaiting him, worried about how he will acquit himself while people watch him die.

RENT and its lighthearted (in comparison) duet, “Seasons of Love” arrived just in time. This welcome respite continued with LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS and “Somewhere That’s Green” and “Suddenly Seymour.”

Before beginning selections from GODSPELL, Maestro Rhodes reminded the audience that JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR was based upon the Gospel according to Matthew whereas GODSPELL was based upon the Gospel according to John. There’s a profound difference.

The soloists’ energy did not flag. Ms. Berry and Mr. Bohmer wrapped up the evening imparting levels of enthusiasm unchanged since the original downbeat: “Light Of The World,” “Day By Day.” “All Good Gifts,” and “Prepare Ye.”