Performing Arts

FWSO duels with ‘Hamilton’ for Fort Worth’s biggest Broadway fans

Guest conductor Ron Spigelman conducts the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra as vocalist Christiane Noll performs during the "And the Tony Goes To..." program for Concerts in the Garden at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden on Sunday.
Guest conductor Ron Spigelman conducts the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra as vocalist Christiane Noll performs during the "And the Tony Goes To..." program for Concerts in the Garden at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden on Sunday. rrodriguez@star-telegram.com

The sunny sounds of Broadway kept the rain away at the Fort Worth Symphony’s Concerts in the Garden presentation on Sunday night.

Under the title “And the Tony Goes To ...,” the orchestra joined forces with two Broadway veterans, Christiane Noll and Hugh Panaro, for an evening of award-winning show tunes delivered with a little symphonic oomph.

An hour or so before the performance, heavy rain drenched the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. And lighting could be seen flashing in the distance as the concert came to a close. But, in between, the skies stayed clear. The only weather inconveniences were muggy air and, reminiscent of the series’ opening night, soggy grounds (the lawn area was sparsely populated at this concert attended by about 1,000).

The performance opened with the Jule Styne’s overture for his 1964 musical, Funny Girl.

Under the baton of guest conductor Ron Spigelman, the orchestra players displayed a bright, crisp sound as they zipped through the overture. And it turned out to be a preview of how they would perform throughout the evening.

The program covered a lot of Broadway ground, ranging from a piece of Gershwin’s American in Paris to some Abba tunes from Mama Mia! Both singers were as impressive as their resumes, and their voices blended well on their duets, such as a fabulous number culled from The Phantom of the Opera — a show that Panaro has been doing from more than 20 years — which closed the concert.

The only problem with Panaro’s work, however, was that it was almost too good. He has the whole American Musical Theater thing down so well that some of his songs sounded generic. But there was certainly nothing pat about this gorgeous take on Bring Him Home from Les Miserables. It was as note-perfect as all of his other numbers. But it had a great deal more soul and passion than anything else he did.

Noll, on the other hand, was stunning every time she opened her mouth to sing. In addition to artfully constructing the spiraling trills of Glitter and Be Gay from Leonard Bernstein’s Candide with incredible elan, she also comically acted out the song. She was flirty and sexy with All That Jazz from Chicago. And on Defying Gravity from Wicked, she made her smooth, beautiful voice so big that the sound probably bounced off downtown buildings.

One odd thing about the concert was the timing of it. It was performed opposite the broadcast of the 2016 Tony Awards — more accurately known as “The Hamilton Coronation Ceremonies” — which attracted an audience of almost 9 million viewers, the highest in 15 years.

Why the FWSO chose to do that on purpose is a mystery. Sure, folks could have DVRed the Tonys. But most fans of musicals (i.e. the people who would have enjoyed this concert), would like to see the awards live to prevent Facebook and Twitter from ruining any surprises.

But maybe the orchestra just assumed (correctly) that there would be few surprises at this year’s Tony Awards.

Concerts in the Garden

  • Through July 4
  • Fort Worth Botanic Garden
  • 8:15 p.m. (Gates open at 6:30 p.m.)
  • $22-$60 (Children under 10 admitted free to lawn area)
  • 817-665-6000; www.fwsymphony.org
  • Next Concert: Friday, “Star Wars & Beyond: A Laser Light Spectacular”
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