Brilliant night on Broadway



Singapore Symphony Orchestra

Esplanade Concert Hall/Last Friday

Years ago, an idea was mooted that a professional pops orchestra be formed in Singapore to cater to popular tastes in music-making and concert-going. That vision has not come to fruition, but many local groups - professional and amateur - have taken to producing pops concerts of late. The Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) has joined the bandwagon, but with a difference: It has the best instrumental soloists playing in its ranks.

Thus, SSO associate conductor Joshua Tan took pains to name the key musicians during this pops concert that centred on Broadway musicals. The guest soloist was Singapore jazz singer Rani Singam in her SSO debut and she took some time to warm up to the backing of a 90-piece band.

Her opening number saw her reliving Eliza Doolittle (with Audrey Hepburn and Marni Nixon) in I Could Have Danced All Night from Lerner and Loewe's My Fair Lady. Sound amplification helped highlight her diction and enunciation, which were excellent, besides letting some of her simple elaborations be better heard.

On The Street Where You Live was a man's song and a tenor's voice would have been preferable here.

From Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound Of Music, My Favourite Things took on a Singapore touch as Singam managed to sneak in "roti prata" among whiskers on kittens and warm woollen mittens. By the time she reached Fantine's tear-jerker, I Dreamed A Dream from Schonberg and Boublil's Les Miserables, one of the evening's more poignant songs, she had more than warmed up.

In between vocal numbers, the orchestra played short overtures and medleys, the longest of which was Gershwin In Hollywood, arranged by Robert Russell Bennett, which included songs A Foggy Day, Love Walked In and Love Is Here To Stay.

In Bernstein's rumbling West Side Story Overture, the shout of "Mambo!" from the orchestra was tepid at best, and perhaps the audience should be enlisted next time to make it sound like everyone meant it.

In the second half, Singam came into her own in Gershwin's 'S Wonderful from Funny Face, including some ad-libbing in between, and the soaring Someone To Watch Over Me from Oh, Kay!.

Arguably even better were her versions of Somewhere and Tonight from West Side Story, which she hailed as her favourite musical.

The high register needed for Maria's song Somewhere was easily overcome for the spine-tingling moments in a moving performance. In Tony's ecstatic Tonight, gender became immaterial as only attitude mattered and Singam had heaps of it.

The encore, Over The Rainbow from Harold Arlen's The Wizard Of Oz, a perfect mix of emoting and control, was the icing of the cake.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 01, 2016, with the headline 'Brilliant night on Broadway'. Print Edition | Subscribe