Reviews ...

Polymnia joins Broadway with baseball

... a fine ending to a first season

by Jackie Wattenberg

By Jackie Wattenberg/Special to the Free Press
Thu May 22, 2008, 11:24 AM EDT

Melrose - From his opening concerts as new conductor of the Polymnia Choral Society, we noted that Murray Kidd was serious in seeking the finest music for his chorus. Saturday night in Memorial Hall for the traditional spring Pops Concert, we noted that this young conductor also likes to Kidd around.
    Photo by Mark Teiwes
    A Red Sox balloon floats in the back of Memorial Hall as the Polymnia Choral Society sings during the 'Broadway and Baseball'
Said program was titled “BROADWAY and baseball” — devoted Red Sox fans might have winced at baseball’s lower case, but the seated throngs laughed and cheered through the show, and the standing ovation demonstrated that the whole show produced an unquestioned touchdown — or would that be a home run?

The unquestioned theme of the evening was fun. And the fun began with funny bits about his baseball days by Polymnia president Steve Francis, recalling his one-time joy when he heard his name called to get into the game — “but it was called by the other team!” Then, of course, the baseball part had to begin with “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” not shouted out by rowdy men’s voices, but refined with soaring sopranos — joined by many in the audience.

The show was sparked by a marvelous tenor, Brad Peloquin, a popular singer throughout New England, who has a strong, assured, bright tenor and the easy, genial, colorful manner of putting over a song that is seen on Broadway. Kidd meandered into past time of baseball in the last century, the ‘20s, to star the evening’s pianist, John Ferguson, in a stunning “Ragtime Dance,” ripped off with dazzling excitement and that music’s dancey rhythms. Ferguson is a busy pianist throughout the country and teaches both piano and stringed instruments. In one ambitious number, he was joined by pianist Starr Dimitre.

Mr. Kidd dashed about throughout the evening, joining in a duet, donning a baseball shirt, telling us that his wife’s name, Nancy Kidd, was carelessly omitted from the program ‑ after which she beautifully performed on her string bass a bourrée by Bach — did Bach play baseball? Who knows? Anyway, Mr. Kidd is not one to be confined to a strict regimen, bringing in a little always-welcome Gilbert and Sullivan to the mix. As usual, Blue of a Kind, the men’s group founded, directed and with arrangements by Bob Eggers, added color to the program.

“Sit down, sit down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat,” from the terrific “Guys and Dolls,” was given a rousing, true-to-Broadway treatment by Mr. Peloquin. Engaging, too, was a duet by fine-voiced Dan Larkin and Elaine Steblecki, she adding a nicely supportive guitar. Amazing was a barely recognizable “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow” in a frantically charged, fascinating performance by Karl Geller. No less energy was in “The Cheap Seats,” with Bob Eggers, Steve Francis and Todd Milam.

The second half, “Broadway,” was especially pleasing, with music by Richard Adler, whose classical works, such as the beautiful “Wilderness Suite,” are too little known and appreciated. But Mr. Kidd brought a lot of good show tunes here — “Goodbye, Old Girl,” from “Damn Yankees,” really lovely and touching in the expressive choral dynamics. Brad Peloquin was again expressive, and this time romantic, in “Listen to My Heart,” and suitably dynamic in Adler’s jaunty “You Gotta Have Heart.” Contralto Liz Donaldson, usually classical and dignified, turned wonderfully seductive for “Whatever Lola Wants,” using her body, face and chest tones to put this one over.

The great “Hernando’s Hideaway” was given a peppy turn by the chorus, and “She Loves Me,” a nice legato sweep. Lots of variety with soloists: Adler’s “Six Months Out of Every Year,” well done by altos Pam Ross, Taylor Rubbins and Elaine Steblecki; Adler and Ross’ “Racing with the Clock” with Peggie Robertson, Eileen Christiansen, Richard Cook and Karl Geller.

Blue of a Kind, doffing their usual blue garments for white shirts, as worn by the chorus, did their usual handsome, darkly shaded, male-voice renditions of several appealing songs, including a charming folk song, “To the Sky.” As usual, this was arranged by director Bob Eggers, who was all over the program, singing solo and arranging chorus numbers. To welcome applause, they added “Sleep, Kentucky Babe,” winning in its close-textured harmonies and high descant, a song rarely heard these days.

Oh, yes, there was more humor — “Who’s on First,” the old Abbot and Costello routine, brightly done by Karl Geller and Phil Kukura — Kukura confused, Geller cool and offhand in “That’s right!” responses. Someone tossed out, “He hits from both sides — he’s amphibious!”

Not only fun, but good performers, good light music. Mr. Kidd is off to a fine start with Polymnia. Now, what will next year bring?

Jackie Wattenberg is a Melrose resident and is the arts correspondent for the Free Press.
Reprinted with permission from the Melrose Free Press of May 22, 2008.

June 6, 2008

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