What a spectacular concert! The National Arts Centre Orchestra, in collaboration with the Ottawa Festival Chorus and the Ewashko Singers celebrated the work of Boublil & Schönberg, creators of the massive Broadway hits, “Les Misérables” and “Miss Saigon.” The program featured hit songs from these as well as from two other of their highly successful shows, “Martin Guerre” and “The Pirate Queen.”
As if the music and orchestra were not enough to draw us, imagine our delight when onto the stage stepped Terrence Mann, Broadway’s original Inspector Javert from “Les Mis” followed by Lea Salonga, who in 1997 was the teenaged original Broadway “Miss Saigon.”
A wonderful element of the “Pops” concert series is the informal connection the artists create with the audience. Maestro Jack Everly conducted marvelously; the relationship he created with the audience was warm, open and friendly. He set the tone for the vocalists to follow suit. Mann was a delight to hear and watch- his voice is spectacular. He was excellent not only in the songs he originally sang as Inspector Javert, but also in his rendition of songs that had been done by others of very different styles. His extensive experience originating numerous roles on Broadway as well as a film & television director/ composer, showed through in everything he did. It made this critic feel quite privileged to have him on our stage.
Ms. Salonga delighted us with her exquisite voice, her beauty, her poise and also with her ability to connect with her audience making us feel as if she were singing in our living room. She has played Eponine and Fantine on Broadway and reprised the latter in the show’s 25th anniversary to a sold out audience.
Other lead vocalists Eric Kunze, Kathy Voytko and Marie Zamora have also played leading roles on Broadway and around the world. The three were delightful. Their voices are charming, their stage presence – engaging and fun. Kunze portrayed the romantic leading man and Voytko the charming young leading lady. Fantastic! Zamora particularly delighted French-speaking members of the audience by singing songs from Les Misérables in the original French. Not many people actually know that the show was originally written by Boublil and Schönberg in that language!
A highlight of the show was Voytko & Mann’s rendition of “Master of the House’. Here we had a handsome leading man and a delightfully seductive leading lady singing a bawdy comedy song that would have been very much out of character for them. Without the aid of the outlandish costumes and make-up that usually adorn this song’s performers, the duo brought the house down. The acting was fabulous, the singing terrific and the comedy a hoot!
The orchestra and vocalists were supported by a magnificent 70-member choral roster under the direction of chorus master Laurence Ewashko. Former conductor of the Vienna Boys’ Choir, Ewashko is an award-winning vocal coach, clinician and adjudicator who is currently Associate Professor of Choral Studies at the University of Ottawa. He did a spectacular job of combining voices from various choirs for this production. The Ottawa Festival Chorus is a community-based choir composed of independent singers and members of many of Ottawa’s fine local choirs. The Ewashko Singers are a flexible choral ensemble with a core group of 24 singers that skillfully performs a wide range of music. One might easily imagine these two groups had been singing together for years. Much more than accompaniment, they were an integral part of the show’s success.
All in all, “Do You Hear the People Sing” is a fantastic production. This particular scribe recommends it without reservation. Last night was just another demonstrative instance showing why the NACO concerts are held in such high professional regard.