For those in the audience still suffering from turkey overload, last night's Broadway pops concert at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall offered the perfect remedy. Certainly, the only overindulgence National Symphony Orchestra guest conductor John McGlinn could be accused of was sticking to the music of Cole Porter, Kurt Weill and Richard Rodgers. But who could blame him?
It's been written that McGlinn has done for Gershwin, Kern and Porter what other scholars have done for Mozart, Verdi and Bach. Certainly he is a natural at this sort of concert: He knows his music intimately and he knows how to lace his selections with instantly memorable anecdotes. Where else could one have discovered that Robert Russell Davis's arrangement of "Night and Day" was introduced in the Broadway show "The Gay Divorcee" because Fred Astaire complained he couldn't hear his own taps over the original orchestration?
While anecdotes added interest to the concert, it was the music and the fine voices of Kim Criswell and Davis Gaines that made the evening so memorable. Adding the pliant strength of Gaines's vocal treatment to that of Criswell's made it hard for McGlinn to put a foot wrong. Splashing the mix with a liberal dose of Cole Porter made it impossible.
Charm and urbanity are Porter's hallmarks and the McGlinn-Criswell-Gaines trio ensured that every song bore the stamp. You could hear the bubbles as well as the ennui in Criswell's "I Get a Kick Out of You"; it was impossible not to catch the magic of Gaines's "Night and Day," and the Porter duets, "Do I Love You?" and "You're the Top," were alone worth the price of admission. Hearing every verse, every verse of the latter, had this reviewer and probably scores of other attendees inventing their own on the way home. One recollects hearing the "Tower of Pisa" and "Napoleon brandy" metaphors before, but "Jimmy Durante's nose"?
Pacing after the intermission was almost as tight as before, although McGlinn might consider cutting his somewhat elaborate explanation of scenes from the Kurt Weill-Alan Jay Lerner collaboration "Love Life."
But on more familiar ground, the audience seemed happiest. Five closing songs by Rodgers and Hart, most notably "My Funny Valentine," "This Can't Be Love" and "Johnny One-Note," were quite as superb as the Porter selections. Criswell and Gaines sang them for all they were worth, and McGlinn's excellent musical direction suffused a 1990 performance with the headiness and glamour of a Broadway opening in 1936.
The performance will be repeated tonight.