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A salute to ‘Broadway Divas’ closes Pittsburgh Symphony Pops season |

A salute to ‘Broadway Divas’ closes Pittsburgh Symphony Pops season

Mark Kanny
Andre Ringuette
Jack Everly will conduct the Pittsburgh Symphony Pops in “Broadway Divas” June 22-24 at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Hall.

Four vocal soloists are required for the wide range music in the Pittsburgh Symphony’s salute to “Broadway Divas” in the final Pops concerts of the 2017-18 season.

“Broadway is a great American legacy of music,” says Pops guest conductor Jack Everly. “We’ve done leading men and many other Broadway programs and thought divas was a great angle to include many show-stopping moments. We include (songs associated with) all the great ladies of the musical stage.”

Everly will conduct the Pittsburgh Symphony Pops in “Broadway Divas” June 22-24 at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Hall.

Everly is principal pops conductor of the Indianapolis and Baltimore Symphonies, as well as several other orchestras. He’s also music director of the Symphonic Pops Consortium, which he founded in 1998 and based in Indianapolis, and which produces scrupulously prepared concert programs. In honor of his many years of superb concerts in Pittsburgh he was given two of Heinz Hall’s original aisle seats, which were replaced as part of the hall’s 1995 renovation. They are treasured items in his study at home.

The program features numbers from “Les Miserables,” “Funny Girl,” “Mame.” “Cabaret,” “Chicago,” “Wicked,” “West Side Story,” “Frozen,” “My Fair Lady” and “Dreamgirls.”

Kristen Plumley and Christina DeCicco will sing “A Boy Like That” and “I Have A Love” from “West Side Story,” which would merit inclusion at any time, but this year are part of worldwide celebrations of the centenary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth.

The conductor has worked with many of the legendary divas who will be evoked at the Pops concerts. He feels honored that he’ll be on stage with Chita Rivera again when she introduces violinist Joshua Bell playing music from “West Side Story” with the National Symphony at the traditional “A Capitol Fourth” of July concert in Washington D.C. It will be telecast by PBS.

That’s why he’s especially sensitive to the need for multiple soloists to properly serve the music which will be performed.

“The person who will sing ‘I Could Have Danced All Night’ from ‘My Fair Lady’ will not be singing “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going’ from ‘Dreamgirls’ because of the range and vocal colorization that needs to happen,” he says.

Yet two of the Pops soloists are particularly versatile.

Christina Bianco will evoke many great divas at the Pops concerts. “She is an amazing talent,” says Everly. “I don’t like to say mimicry because that sounds so simplistic or condescending, but she channels people.” The conductor frequently calls on her at his concerts because of her versatility.

Actress and singer N’Kenge will also perform highly contrasted styles, singing both “Summertime” by George Gershwin and “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going.” A New York City native, N’Kenge originally studied coloratura soprano and sang opera.

“She’s a rare voice,” says Everly. “No Pops concert is complete without purely instrumental numbers to showcase the orchestra and provide contrast. The overtures to “Funny Girl” and “Gypsy” will complete the “Broadway Divas” program.

Mark Kanny is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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