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Luft shakes the rafters at Alex

Performances leading up to star are solid and enjoyable, from soloists to musicians.

September 17, 2010|By Lance A. Wawer
(Cheryl A. Guerrero/News-Press )

Show tunes were the order of the evening Thursday as the Glendale Renaissance Orchestra continued its inaugural Pops season with "From Broadway to Hollywood — In Concert." The show was performed at the Alex Theatre and presented by New West Symphony and Glendale Arts.

Things started slowly with a rendition of "We Are Family" (from "The Birdcage") that lacked energy despite the efforts of the New West Pops Singers' lead vocalist Carmen Carter. Her voice was powerful and the orchestra played well, but the number failed to get toes tapping.

Any concern that this would set the tone for the entire performance was immediately dispelled when Broadway veterans Tobi Foster and Blake Ginther took the stage for an inspired duet of "Somewhere" from "West Side Story." Foster's beautiful soprano voice melded perfectly with Ginther's strong tenor tones. Ginther followed up with a marvelous version of "Maria" that showcased the strength and quality of his voice and did justice to the classic song.

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Harmonica virtuoso Bernie Fields joined the orchestra for an amazing tribute to Henry Mancini. The orchestra absolutely nailed the "Peter Gunn Theme" before Fields joined them to perform one of the loveliest renditions of "Moon River" this reviewer has ever heard. This was no sloppy honky-tonk harmonica. The precision of the notes and smoothness of the tone generated by Fields elevated his instrument to another level.

Artistic Director/Conductor Steven Goldstein's orchestra was outstanding. The unconventional addition of rock band instruments (electric bass, drums, electric guitar, keyboards) to the traditional orchestra sections (strings, percussion, brass, woodwind, piano) provided a unique musical experience. As an ensemble they were flawless, and each section of the orchestra was given the chance to shine on its own at some point in the program.

The second half of the show was all about Lorna Luft. The author/singer/producer/actor and daughter of Judy Garland had a set that was a tribute to her mother, Broadway and Hollywood. The performance, however, was pure Vegas. If one word could describe her performance it would be "big." Another would be "fantastic."

Luft's first number was a lapel-grabbing rendition of "It's Today." She didn't let go of the lapels for the rest of her time on stage. From "Blue Skies," a medley of tunes from "Babes in Arms," a moving version of "The Man That Got Away" to a show-stopping "Rockabye," she held the audience in the palm of her hand.

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