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Stephanie J. Block

Review: Do You Hear the People Sing | Dallas Pops | American Airlines Center


How the People Do Sing

The Boublil-Schonberg event Do You Hear the People Sing brings Broadway spectacle to American Airlines Center.



published Saturday, March 24, 2012
9 comments


Claude-Michael Shönberg and Alain Boublil are the fathers of French rock opera. No, seriously—they are. The musical La Révolution Française, written and composed by Schönberg and Boublil in 1973, is credited with bringing the genre to the European continent. While little known today outside of France, the work began a collaboration between the two playwrights that would last over 30 years and counting.

Since the 1970s, the pair have collaborated on works that have become part of the modern Broadway canon, namely Les Misérables (1985) and Miss Saigon (1990), as well as lesser-known The Pirate Queen (2006) and Martin Guerre (1996). The songs contained within these shows have launched hundreds of careersfrom Broadway stars to internet sensationsand have helped guide the spectacle that is the modern Broadway megamusical.

In celebration of the work of Schönberg and Boublil, the Dallas Pops, in conjunction with the Turtle Creek Chorale and other organizations, presented "Do You Hear the People Sing," a show having its second U.S. performance on Friday, and its first in a sports arena: the American Airlines Center in Dallas (the tour contines in April and May in Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Canada. Joining the choir and orchestra was a children's choir of kids from Pink Elementary in Frisco and Woodrow Wilson High School in Dallas, as well as several established stars of the theater stage. According to an announcement at the show's opening, 7,000 tickets were sold; impressive for any one-night event with the words "musical theater" attached.

Drawing from five works penned by the pair, the material came from the well-known as well as songs that were "re-invented, re-arranged, or removed" by the creative team. The highlight of the night lay in the six performers brought in to headline the performance: Brian Stokes Mitchell (in his only performance on the tour, according to the website), Peter Lockyer, Terrence Mann, Marie Zamora, Stephanie J. Block and Lea Salonga.

Salonga was, far and away, the most engrossing of the performers onstage. There was a particular pleasure hearing her sing several numbers from Miss Saigon 23 years after originating the role of Kim in the original London production (she went on to perform the same role in the original Broadway cast as well as the closing performances of both venues); while Salonga was an immense talent as a 17 year old, hearing the same songs performed by a much more mature and experienced actress was an exiting benchmark on how far her talent and gravitas has grown on the stage. Her performance of "I'd Give My Life for You" was especially poignant in this regard.

Tenor Peter Lockyer was also able to hold his own with a strong sense of élan, though he did suffer from a weak start. He first joined Salonga onstage for "Last Night of the World," but seemed ill at ease, and as a result some of the harmonies suffered. His second appearance onstage, singing the title song from Martin Guerre was a completely different story; he was calm, composed, and gave a passionate and soulful reading of the number. His strongest moment came towards the end of the concert with his rendition of "Bring Him Home" from Les Misérables. The song sits in a high spot in just about any male's range, making the music very difficult to sing with any sense of sincerity. However, Lockyer brought the emotion in abundance, delivering a smooth, sweet sound that gave life to the character of the music and driving the prayer home.

Stephanie J. Block added to the performance a sweet-toned voice that had no lack of power when needed, but was also able to bring some laughs to the stage as well. Her first number was "Maybe" from Miss Saigon, which has an interesting tale in its own right, being recently added to the show for the upcoming tour (and should serve as an abject lesson on how to add new songs to old shows without them horribly sticking out). Block was elegant in her presentation, eschewing the opportunity to be overly dramatic or bombastic with the number. She must have been saving the drama up, because she released vocal fireworks with Salonga in the closing of the first act with a duet version of "I Dreamed a Dream." In the second act, she showed a bit of her bawdy side when performing "Master of the House" with Terrance Mann; though the song is fairly short, she was able to get the principal violist, conductor and concertmaster into her act to hilarious effect.

Terrence Mann is an actor's actor. Of the performers onstage, he was responsible for the most premieres as well as having the widest ranging of careers. He originated the role of Javert in the Broadway cast of Les Misérables, RumTum Tigger in Cats, the Beast in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, as well as starring in Richard Attenborough's adaptation of A Chorus Line. He moved from character to character effortlessly, moving from a sleazy club owner to the reformed convict Jean Valjean (albeit briefly) without batting an eyelash.

A welcome surprise to the evening was soprano Marie Zamora. The only female singer in the cast who was not a belter by nature, she used her softer, warmer tone to great effect in her performance, most notably in "Own My Own," which she sang in the original French. She also contributed the only song performed from La Révolution Française, "Au Petit Matin."

Last (but certainly not least) was Brian Stokes Mitchell. Little can be said about him that already hasn't been espoused a million times beforethe New York Times famously called him one of the last true "leading men" of this generation. He opened the concert (and probably melted a few hearts) with his performance of "Bui Doi" from Miss Saigon. He later returned for a dramatic rendition of "Stars" from Les Misérables (and was introduced for the number by Mann, who as mentioned before originated the role on Broadway). The only downside to his performance was that he was not utilized more than he was.

The orchestra was ably led by conductor Kevin Stites, who also served as an emcee of sorts for the evening, giving some background and trivia on the shows in between numbers. He also personally accompanied Zamora on the piano during the opening of "Au Petit Matin". Overall, his gestures were minimal, but well focused and he kept everything running smoothly on the musical side of the concert.

There were some technical glitches, especially in the sound amplification of the orchestra that were an issue early on in the performance but improved as the music progressed (someday there will be a better way to amplify string instruments in a way that doesn't destroy their tone, but for now...). There were also several cameras at use that added a bit of a surreal feel to the evening when their picture was projected on the massive HD screens in the center of the arena, it was similar to watching television and live performance at the same time.

Concerts such as these will feed into the concept of spectacle, especially when the subject covered falls within the megamusical. However, the ride is often funand great music performances can be heard as a result. Thanks For Reading




Comments:

Patrick McCann writes:
Saturday, March 24 at 9:16AM

One of the photos on this page shows what appear to be at least three large choruses of singers, besides the costumed ones. Yet, the review doesn't mention them or their performance at all with the exception of the throw-away comment "...in conjunction with the Turtle Creek Chorale and other organizations." Intentional or an oversight? Where were they from? Did they contribute positively to the show or not? Were they needed to augment the costumed chorus? I'm a little disappointed in the short shrift paid to local talent.

Beth Basile writes:
Saturday, March 24 at 9:56AM

It was a spectacular event! I am proud to say that the Woodrow Wilson Choir of Dallas was fortunate to be one of the "other" organizations singing in the chorus. What a privileged and honor it was for them to perform on the same stage as the magnificent singers!

Mark Lowry writes:
Saturday, March 24 at 11:11AM

Sorry, that's an image the PR folks supplied, but it's from a 25th anniversary concert staging of "Les Miserables," not from "Do You Hear the People Sing." It's been taken out.

Gary writes:
Saturday, March 24 at 12:19PM

Indeed, it was an entertaining show. Lea Salonga has the voice and stage presence to easily be worthy of being singled out as the lead female star. I am sure I have been spoiled by the music quality of the Meyerson Symphony Center. Unfortunately, all the vocal and instrumental music of this performance was amplified through the audio system and tossed back out to the 7000 in attendance. This left the audience with a low quality and tinny-sounding regurgitated version of the music -- probably standard fare for an arena, but like I said, I am spoiled by other venues and my headphones.

The most expensive seats in the AA Center are folding chairs at floor level, with soft enough seats. However, there is a serious comfort problem for some folks. The chairs lock side-to-side which leaves absolutely no elbow room beyond the width of the chair -- 18 inches. Since the obesity rate in the US is 30 percent, I was not surprised to see some who found the sardine can situation intolerable. Sadly, I noticed at least one rather small woman squeezed out, her seat empty shortly after the show began. I also noticed two rather large men (not obese, just good-sized gentlemen) sitting side-by-side, with one shoulder overlapping the other because there was no other way to make it work.

Back to the performance. On more than one occasion, I noticed the sound people missed their que as the soloists' first notes were too low or inaudible until the mic was turned up to the proper level. There was another miss on lighting as the choir in the back of the stage was illuminated too early and the lights were then quickly brought back down. Nevertheless, even with the goofs, the high caliber of Salonga, her theatrical cohorts, the Pops, Turtle Creek Chorale, children's choir, wonderful personality of the conductor, and of course, the music, made it a wonderful evening of entertainment in Dallas.

Marisa Wester writes:
Saturday, March 24 at 1:56PM

The children's choir was from Pink Elementary in Frisco and Woodrow Wilson High School in Dallas.

Ryan writes:
Saturday, March 24 at 5:27PM

So glad I went. Once in a lifetime type of concert right here. I won tickets from Theaterjones, thanks yall. Stephanie J Block is my new idol, I downloaded The Pirate Queen the second I got home. I also had never heard any Miss Saigon before (what is wrong with me?) but loved all of it and purchased the album. God I love Broadway.

Scott writes:
Saturday, March 24 at 5:32PM

It was well done on many levels, of course. However, the audio issues are inexcusable, especially for the level of talent we welcomed to Dallas. It was all I could do not to run to the sound boards and raise the level/gain of a few mics. Lockyer's level was a good 30 percent too low at his start, and I could tell his monitor level was really low by his reactions, and they did nothing until his second piece. It's not the technology that makes string tone sound bad. Many of the orchestra mic placements were really... interesting. (Yes, I'm an A/V guy that's run sound and video for many, many shows like this.) The rigging was good, but still pretty plain, and didn't account for the acoustics of the wide seats (and high) ones of the AA Center. It was like watching a movie but only getting center channel.

Two biggies, though: 1) No program??? 2) The audience stayed and clapped for the main players to come back on stage for another round of bows...but nothing.

THIS left a really, really bad taste in my mouth. For the $$$ that was paid for this event, 30 seconds of bows would not have done any harm.

It's obvious this was a commercial for the other musicals, and that is fine. It was extraordinarily well done, but the technical side was not. Dallas can do better. Thanks to all who brought it here, to the amazing musicians on the stage(s)

Chelsea writes:
Monday, March 26 at 9:11AM

I had the great privilege of singing in the choir for this show. The male members of the choir were, of course, the Turtle Creek Chorale. The female members were comprised of ladies from local choirs, signing groups, and musical theater actresses auditioned by the Turtle Creek Chorale specifically for this show. It was a fabulous experience!

Jeffrey writes:
Wednesday, March 28 at 2:05PM

I was also annoyed with the sound problems, not to mention the harsh echoes from the back of the arena. I also hate having to turn sideways in my seat to view the stage. Sports arenas are no place for an orchestra and theatrical singers. I would love to have seen this at the Verizon Theater.


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How the People Do Sing
The Boublil-Schonberg event Do You Hear the People Sing brings Broadway spectacle to American Airlines Center.
by John Norine Jr.

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