Monday, July 08, 2013

West Side Story in Concert

San Francisco Symphony photo IMG_20130702_220336_zps27820adf.jpgLast week I was lucky to attend the last of 5 San Francisco Symphony performances of Bernstein's West Side Story, in a concert version cast with youthful, mostly Broadway, voices. The singers were on a platform behind the orchestra & were miked. The audience applauded the entrance of Cheyenne Jackson as Tony, who has a big smile & a beaming stage presence. He sounded clean but somewhat constricted. Alexandra Silber as Maria had a strong, warbling voice. Jessica Vosk had a robust sound and sang emphatically as Anita. Julia Bullock, singing the solo for Somewhere, was a show-stopper. Her rich voice & dignified, heartfelt singing transported me. Her controlled decrescendo on the last note was stunning. Around 15 men & 15 women from the SF Symphony Chorus clearly had fun playing Sharks & Jets. The numbers were presented in the order of the stage show rather than the movie.

The orchestra was dominated by an enlarged percussion section, which was placed on a level higher than the singers. The brasses were prominent & bright. Many of the string players wore earplugs. Everyone on stage looked like they were having a great time, & MTT led a nicely loose, but not lax, performance. The dance numbers sounded especially fresh. The Blues drum kit solo in The Dance at the Gym was jazzy & mellow. The clarinet solo introducing One Hand, One Heart was beautifully suspended & even.

San Francisco Symphony photo IMG_20130702_193522_zpsb28c7db5.jpgI have never seen Davies Hall so full & have never sat with a Symphony audience that was so absorbed & so quiet. My concert companion thought the orchestra made more extraneous noises than the audience. The audience laughed approvingly when the orchestra snapped its fingers during the Prologue, & the Tonight quintet received prolonged applause & cheers. Just before MTT's entrance for the 2nd half, someone sneezed loudly, causing the audience to laugh & then clap. MTT pretended to scan the hall for the culprit as he walked on. The audience rose to its feet at the end of concert, elated.

§ West Side Story in Concert
San Francisco Symphony
Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor

Bernstein: West Side Story

Cheyenne Jackson: Tony
Alexandra Silber: Maria
Jessica Vosk: Anita
Kevin Vortmann: Riff
Juliana Hansen: Rosalia
Cassie Simone: Francisca
Louise Cornillez: Consuelo
Justin Keyes: Action
Zachary Ford: Diesel
Chris Meissner: Baby John
Louis Pardo: A-rab
David Michael Laffey: Big Deal
Kelly Markgraf: Bernardo
Julia Bullock: A Girl

San Francisco Symphony Chorus: Jets, Sharks, Girls
Ragnor Bohlin, director

Tue, Jul 2, 2013 at 8:00pm
Davies Symphony Hall

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