This was the first of three concerts that the Philharmonic will be doing out at Harbison Theatre this season. This is a wonderful venue with intimate stadium seating, so no matter where your seat is, you still have a perfect view of every inch of the stage.
They opened with a medley of popular songs from Gypsy, The Fantisticks, and Funny Girl and proceeded to play selections from some of the most iconic shows from Broadway. I expected to be impressed just by the quality of the performance, but when they began to play "Show Me" from My Fair Lady, I knew we were in for a fun time. The arrangements suddenly had more character and personality than I remembered. I grew up listening to this music, and hearing it played by a 45 piece orchestra brought back so many memories.
Every song that they played, I could hear the words in my head, and I'm sure more than a few people in the audience wanted to burst into song. The conductor, Morihiko Nakahara, introduced the Sound of Music section by saying something to the effect of "I'd never say this at the Koger Center, but feel free to sing along." Thank goodness the whole audience did not take him up on that because then we would've missed some of the quieter moments of the show. The cello section took the lead on "Edelweiss" and it was perfection. I just wanted to close my eyes and wrap up in a blanket by the fire and listen to them play that soothing melody all night.
Nakahara introduced the other sections and did mention that two of the composers' work they would be playing are EGOT (Emmy, Golden Globe, Oscar, and Tony) and Pulitzer winners. Marvin Hamlisch and Richard Rodgers are the only two people to have one all five awards. "It's like winning 5 gold medals" Nakahara said.
Throughout the night we heard selections from West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, A Chorus Line, and the previously mentioned My Fair Lady and Sound of Music. I feel like you can't mention Broadway and not have something from The Phantom of the Opera, and they did not disappoint. I was suddenly on the edge of my seat listening so intently to every note. I would love to see this group do a full production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber classic along with some of our talented theatre and opera performers.
Towards the end of the night, Nakahara introduced the singers for the last portion of the concert. Avery Bateman performed "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" from Evita. The audience was blown away by her elegance and timbre. It was the perfect choice for the first song that we heard the lyrics to. Catherine Hunsinger sang "I Dreamed A Dream" from Les Miserables. She performed the part of the ingénue, Eponine, in the Town Theatre production last season, so it was nice to hear her perform a song she hasn't done before. I'm used to hearing Catherine sing soprano, which she does beautifully, but the low parts of this number were so mature and she blew me away.
At the closing number Nakahara, again invited everyone to join in and dance in the aisles, which was fitting for the Mamma Mia ballad, or as he said "Abba's greatest hits." Avery and Catherine were joined by Elisabeth Smith Baker and brought the evening home with 5 or 6 of the most popular Abba songs. All of these women are well known in the theatre community as Trustus company members and always provide professional performances; tonight was no exception.
If you haven't seen the South Carolina Philharmonic perform, please go to one of the many events happening this year, throughout the midlands. It'd be a shame not to witness this quality of musicianship while it's right at our fingertips. You don't have to go to Carnegie Hall to hear the classics; just go to the Koger Center or Harbison Theatre.