Ernest Richardson’s Broadway pipeline once again delivered musical thrills to Omaha Saturday night, capped by a bona fide Phantom of the Opera beckoning his Christine to lose herself with him in “The Music of the Night.”
When an offstage Teri Dale Hansen replied with a brief reprise of the achingly lovely “All I Ask of You,” it spurred Richardson, the Omaha Symphony and Hansen’s vocal partner, Nat Chandler — veteran of a thousand performances as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom — to the powerful climax awaited by the capacity Holland Performing Arts Center audience.
Only two issues come to mind after the opener of the symphony’s Lloyd Webber tribute, “Behind the Mask,” which will be repeated at 2 p.m. today. One is the program’s failure to turn its guest performers loose on a full vocal performance of “All I Ask of You,” which at least received a luscious treatment from the symphony in a program-opening “Phantom” medley.
And the second? It would have been better to introduce Chandler and Hansen with any other song from the first act, which featured songs from Broadway musicals by Lloyd Webber’s contemporaries. Instead, the duo opened with a two-song medley from “Mamma Mia!” Let’s just say it takes different kinds of singers to pull off the ABBA sound.
But that was easily forgotten once Hansen turned on her torch-singer charm with “And All That Jazz” from Kander & Ebb’s “Chicago.” She worked the aisles and turned up the temperature, teasing several men and stealing the glasses off one man’s nose. Chandler later pulled a parallel stunt, kissing women’s hands while singing Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You.”
Richardson, the symphony’s resident conductor, chose a well-matched pair of performers in Chandler and Hansen for the weekend’s Symphony Pops entry. The chemistry between the two was obvious all night long. They had great fun with the first-act closer, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” from the Monty Python-inspired “Spamalot.”
In singing the title song from “Phantom,” Hansen portrayed Christine’s attraction to the Phantom with haunting depth, reaching ever higher in her vocal range as Chandler’s Raoul powerfully urged her on.
Hansen was at her dramatic and vocal best in presenting “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” from Lloyd Webber’s 1978 classic “Evita.” She brought a hypnotic air to Eva Perón’s tale of rising to the heights of power in post-World War II Argentina. Hansen was equally captivating in presenting “Memory” from “Cats.”
Lloyd Webber’s first big show, “Jesus Christ Superstar” (1970), was represented only in an opening second-act medley by the symphony. By limiting the first act’s featured musicals to shows after 1970, Richardson deftly illustrated the contrast between the operatic style of Lloyd Webber’s later shows and the pop-themed music of the period’s U.S.-written Broadway hits such as “A Chorus Line” (1975).
One can fairly speak of a musical-theater “British invasion” of Broadway during that time, led not only by Lloyd Webber’s string of smashes but also by the immortal “Les Misérables” (represented in this weekend’s symphony program by Chandler’s enticing rendition of “Bring Him Home”). If you attend today’s symphony finale, you’ll better appreciate just how Lloyd Webber made London’s West End as magical as New York’s Great White Way.