Friday, May 11, 2012

Review: Do You Hear the People Sing - A Concert Celebrating the Work of Boublil and Schonberg, Performing Arts Center, Ottawa, Canada - May 9-12, 2012

It was a nine hour drive across the border to Ottawa from Detroit, Michigan, but I wouldn't have missed for the world the opportunity to hear Eric Kunze's heavenly tenor once again.  The beautiful auditorium at the Performing Arts Center, with its excellent acoustics, was the perfect venue for the outstanding voices we heard on Thursday evening.  Having ordered tickets for two of the nights online months ago, I wasn't intending to attend Thursday's performance as well, but knowing Eric was singing, I just couldn't stay away.  We were sitting in the "nose bleed" section of the upper balcony, due to the fact the 2323 seat theater was nearly sold out.  Despite our altitude we could hear every note and every word. 

The audience was engaged from the first few notes of the orchestra's specially written overture, composed of snippets of the shows for which Boublil and Schonberg are famous, a foreshadowing of what was to come.  Each of the songs were introduced with personal anecdotes and banter between the artist and conductor Jack Everly.  The excellent Terrance Mann opened the Miss Saigon set with Bui Doi, accompanied by the thrilling men's chorus of the Ottawa Festival Chorus.  Jack Everly introduced Lea Salonga, who began her career at the age of 17 as Kim in the first Miss Saigon.  Eric (as Marius) and Lea (as Eponine) starred together on Broadway in Les Miserables and haven't sung together since.  After so many years, the magic was still there as they sang the romantic Last Night of the World. Her dramatic I'd Give my Life for You conveyed the heartbreak of a single mother giving up her only child, with a mature understanding and interpretation of the lyrics that only life experience can bring. 

I was excited to hear Eric sing from Martin Guerre and the title song didn't disappoint.  The lyric intensive song told a story, accompanied by forceful vocals and Eric was transformed into Martin himself.  I would love to see him play this role!  It was followed by his duet with Marie Zamora, Live With Someone You Love (also from the same musical), their voices blending perfectly.

The second half brought music from The Pirate Queen, which starred Kathy Voytko on Broadway. Her sparkling rendition of Woman made me wish I could see this musical again.  She and Eric performed If I Said I Loved You from that show. 

Saving the best for last, the Les Miserables set included, in part, On My Own, At the End of the Day, Master of the House (hilariously performed by Mann and Voytko) and Stars (Mann).  A Heart Full of Love gave us a chance to imagine what it would have been like to see Eric as Marius.  He not only sings but conveys the emotion which transforms him into the characters he is singing about.  When Eric started singing Bring Him Home, an etherial hush fell over the audience.  We almost held our breath, not wanting to break the spell he wove over us.  The notes wafted up into the rafters and brought tears to my eyes.  How is it humanly possible to sing like this?  As the song ended there was a pause, allowing the moment to linger, before the audience erupted into thunderous applause.

The finale, One Day More, brought the entire cast, orchestra and chorus together for a thrilling conclusion to this concert of excellence.  The audience was on its feet for a rousing ovation as the cast bowed, exited and returned to the stage once again.  The encore was, obviously, Do You Hear the People Sing, again to ovations and thunderous applause from the appreciative crowd.  Yes, we definitely heard the people sing.  It was an honor and a privilege to be a part of this wonderful evening.  (Written by Maggi Wunschl)


Susanne Moore said...

What a wonderful review of last night's concert! Since I was lucky enough to see the concert a few weeks ago, I can truly say you nailed it! I felt like I was back in Baltimore, hearing Eric's fantastic interpretation of my favorite songs. Wish I could hear "Bring Him Home" one more time!

Maggi said...

I wish he would record that one !

Barb Keathley said...


I feel like I heard it myself after your outstanding description of the night! I can only imagine what it was like!

Thank you for sharing!

Kelleigh said...

Saw the show last night and it was fantastic! I hadn't heard Eric Kunze before but thoroughly enjoyed his performance, what a wonderful voice. Glad to hear I'm not the only one who will go the distance to see a concert :) Hope you enjoyed your visit to Ottawa.