The Wichita Symphony Orchestra, joined by four noted Broadway headliners, presented a pleasing array of hits as it performed “Broadway Rocks” in the Century II Convention Hall on Saturday night.
Led by guest conductor Thomas Douglas, the singers were tenor Robert Evan, alto Capathia Jenkins, baritone Doug LaBrecque and soprano Christiana Noll.
During the course of the concert, each guest artist shared a bit of his or her life and enough background on the selections being performed to provide a meaningful context for the music. The 104-voice Butler Community College Choir did an admirable job adding a choral dimension to the concert.
The pacing of the program was slow at the outset. The “Rocks Overture” that began the concert was more safe than scintillating and the welcoming remarks by executive director Don Reinhold would have been better placed at the end of intermission in light of the time devoted to introductory comments by the performers.
Early in the concert, Evan gave a good, but emotionally slightly flat, performance of “This Is the Moment” from “Jekyll and Hyde.”
As the concert progressed so too did the energy level. The winsome Noll displayed a terrific dramatic range from the comic in “Good Morning Baltimore” to the dramatic in her lyrical singing in “Phantom of the Opera.”
Jenkins was also personable and engaging in her performance, delivering “Circle of Life” dramatically and beautifully. LaBrecque’s voice was rich and expressive, and his rendering of “Anthem” from the show “Chess” was especially rewarding. The quartet worked together well to provide the audience with a delightful array of melodic treasures from the Broadway tradition.
The Convention Hall isn't the most satisfying concert venue, but presents a compromise that permits the more relaxed atmosphere that is part of the traditional “pops” format.
Some patrons enjoyed relaxed seating around linen-clad tables on the floor near the stage and many concertgoers enjoyed the opportunity to sip and snack in their seat during the performance.
The sound of the orchestra in the hall was not unpleasant, but some of the pieces left the violins scrambling. And even in the less-than-ideal acoustics, there were some glimmers of beauty and brilliance from the winds and brass.