Concert review: Brian Stokes Mitchell gives PSO Pops a great start


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If you go to Heinz Hall this weekend, you'll find King Arthur hanging out with "Ragtime's" Coalhouse Walker Jr., who is stargazing with Javert of "Les Miz" and an adoring father teaching new words to his son.

Brian Stokes Mitchell embodies them all, and with a vocal dexterity and confidence that should make him the envy of any leading man of Broadway, but with enough charm to front the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and make the Heinz Hall audience experience the intimacy of a cabaret.

'Brian Stokes Mitchell: Broadway and Beyond'

Where: Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Pops at Heinz Hall.

When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets: $25.75-$119.75; 412-392-4900 or www.pittsburghsymphony.com.

"I love my job," he said Thursday night as he opened the PSO Pops season. He rattled off a couple of professions that seemed like work to him before asking, "And what do musicians do together? They play."

His playmates included conductor Ted Sperling, a newbie to Pittsburgh who has shared the joy with the headliner for hundreds of concerts and on Broadway for "Ragtime" and "Kiss of the Spiderwoman," and pianist Tedd Firth, his accompanist on the album "Simply Broadway."

Mr. Mitchell's incomparable baritone was on display for the opening of four Pops concerts titled "Broadway and Beyond," with a mix of songs representing his Great White Way songbook, including "Ragtime" and "South Pacific." He morphed with ease through a range of music and characters, such as "How to Handle a Woman" from "Camelot" and "It Ain't Necessarily So" from "Porgy and Bess." His version of "Stars" from "Les Miserables" rattled the rafters.

Mr. Mitchell offered heartfelt explanations of the less well-known selections, such as "I Was Here," a song from "The Glorious Ones" by "Pittsburgh boy" Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, and a lovely Maury Yeston song, "New Words," that he discovered when he became a father.

Mr. Sperling and the orchestra started the show off by sticking with the Broadway theme on selections from "Carousel" and "Sweeney Todd" and were joined by Pittsburgh's All-Star College Chorus, who later appeared with Mr. Mitchell

The show appeared to come to a close as the singer added "America, the Beautiful" to the great Flaherty-Ahrens song "Wheels of a Dream." His other great role and signature song, "The Impossible Dream," was not listed in the program, but ...

Impossible? No. Dreamy? You bet.

musicreviews

Sharon Eberson: seberson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1960. First Published October 17, 2013 8:00 PM


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