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How to Dampen “An Evening of Broadway” with the N.C. Symphony in Three Easy Steps

The N.C. Symphony performed "An Evening of Broadway" June 19th in Booth Amphitheatre

The N.C. Symphony performed “An Evening of Broadway” June 19th in Booth Amphitheatre

If you’ve read any of the reviews Kurt Benrud and I have done, you know that Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary is one of our favorite places to hear music. It’s natural, wooded setting on a small pond is intimate, relaxing, and a perfect size for a concert. They let you bring food and wine, and you can come early and enjoy a picnic under the stars. It is a jewel in the crown of Cary.

Friday night’s weather promised a smattering of rain; but since the symphony was headed to Koka Booth, so was I. The bill was An Evening of Broadway, performed by the North Carolina Symphony and guest vocalists; and the program promised a taste of hit tunes from some of the greatest shows seen on the Great White Way: Annie, The Music Man, Chicago, Spamalot, and more.

The evening started out with great promise, although the oppressive heat that we’ve been having lately was wilting some less-hardy folks. Hand-held fans distributed at the door fluttered around the audience like paper butterflies.

Conductor David Glover ran a tight ship, and the symphony was in good form. The crowd sang along spontaneously to snippets from “My Favorite Things,” “That’s Entertainment,” and “Everything’s Coming up Roses.”

The band transitioned to Irving Berlin and two seasoned veterans, Lisa Jolley and Ken Griggs, took the stage to sing “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better.” Unfortunately, even though the singers knew the material and were obviously accustomed to the stage, their voices simply did not mesh well, with Ms. Jolley’s strong vibrato clashing awkwardly with Mr. Griggs’ smooth delivery. This issue followed them during their selections from The Music Man, Bye Bye Birdie, and throughout the rest of their musical selections.

Thereafter, some junior singers took the stage to perform selections from Annie and Oliver!. “It’s A Hard Knock Life” was fun. The kids donned full ragamuffin costumes and scrubbed the stage floor with buckets and rags.

During this section of the evening, there were two solos. Adele Baldina sang the perennial favorite “Tomorrow,” followed by Benjamin Farlow singing “Where Is Love?” from Oliver. These kids are no strangers to the stage; however, their performances this evening simply missed the mark.

The difficulty with performing such challenging and well-known solos is that they are, well, challenging and well-known solos, so there is no room for error. At the risk of sounding like Simon Cowell, Baldina was pitchy and wandered off key during “Tomorrow,” and Farlow strained uncomfortably to hit the high notes during “Where Is Love?” This isn’t a grade-school production, and these kids have been seen on stage before, train at conservatories, and sing for crowds often. So, with symphony goers paying nearly $40 per ticket to hear Broadway-level music, performers regardless of their age should not misstep in such a big way.

After the intermission, a light drizzle started; and some people started heading to their cars. The exodus continued as the conductor took up his baton, and those departing were a little distracting to those of us who remained, as folks packing up their picnics and folding their blankets blocked the view of the stage. But those of us who remained got more from Lisa Jolley and Ken Griggs, such as “Razzle Dazzle” from Chicago, “Till There Was You” from The Music Man, and “You’re the Top” from Anything Goes.

The evening was one of the first real disappointments that I have had at Koka Booth Amphitheatre. If it is any consolation to the symphony itself, they sounded spot-on, crisp, and professional. They were just upstaged by the oppressive heat, the drizzle, and the disappointing vocals of the guest singers.

I will, of course, be back to hear the symphony; and you will see me regularly at Koka Booth; but I will take greater care to review the guest artists who are joining the musicians on stage. Oh, and I will check the weather radar, too.

AN EVENING OF BROADWAY (North Carolina Symphony, June 19 at the Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary).

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Peggy Taphorn (director and artistic director of the Temple Theatre in Sanford): (North Carolina Symphony bio), (Temple Theatre bio), and (Facebook page).


EDITOR’S NOTE: Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she’s not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Click here to read her reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.

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