The hall was alive with the sound of music. Specifically, the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, where last night the National Symphony Orchestra saluted Broadway in an enchanted evening's worth of Rodgers and Hammerstein.
Selections from "The King and I," "Oklahoma," "Carousel," "South Pacific" and "The Sound of Music" brought out the orchestra's best pop side, as it variously joined forces with the Paul Hill Chorale and three persuasive soloists. Conductor Erich Kunzel didn't so much direct as thrust himself musically into each performance. His physicality seemed to inspire the players, so that what might have resulted in a freeze-dried greatest-hits package instead came off as a fresh-perked tribute to Rodgers and Hammerstein.
The National Symphony, when not supporting the vocal factions, lent a special sparkle to such numbers as the "March of the Siamese Children" and the "Carousel Waltzes," the latter of which, as Kunzel informed the audience, was sight-read because some orchestral parts did not arrive until after the morning rehearsal.
Yet the program belonged to the vocalists. In the words of one title on the bill, "it's a grand night for singing." Soprano Katherine Terrell, tenor James Schwisow and baritone Lewis Dale von Schlanbusch, besides their strong, clear voices, each brought an adroit theatricality. When they dropped in a spot of Dust Bowl twang for their collaboration with the Paul Hill Chorale in "Oklahoma!," the crowd's response was nothing if not bustin' out all over.
Not to be outdone, Kunzel managed to get into the spotlight during the "South Pacific" portion. He followed a tough act -- Schlanbusch, who was barefoot and clad in a makeshift grass skirt and bikini top over his tuxedo for "Honeybun." Stepping off the podium and up to the mike, Kunzel added a boffo profundo tag to "There Is Nothing Like a Dame.