When the Toronto Symphony Orchestra announced its new season, they announced the appointment of Steven Reineke as the first every Principal Pops Conductor in a move designed to enhance and expand on the popular Pops series concerts that the TSO currently offers. These unique and fun concerts meld the orchestral beauty of the Toronto Symphony with popular music, Broadway standards and other more ‘mainstream’ styles to create unique and memorable programs that appeal to a younger demographic.
The latest offering in the Pops series is next week’s A Century of Broadway which is being conducted by Jeff Tyzik and features guest vocalists Christiane Noll and Doug LaBreque. The show promises to include hits from the last one hundred years on Broadway and take the audience on a journey that explores the evolution of the music we hear on the Great White Way.
It’s Christiane’s first time on a Toronto stage since the late 1990s when she toured through here with a couple of shows, and she took a few minutes to talk to BWW about the concert, Smash, her daughter and the music of Broadway:
First of all, welcome back to Toronto! Is this your first time performing with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra?
Is it also your first time performing with Jeff?
Nope! We’ve actually done this program quite a few times over the years. In fact, before hitting Toronto we are going to Winnipeg together to do a slightly different program out there.
How about your co-star Doug LaBreque? What might Toronto audiences know him from?
The Phantom! He played both the Phantom and Raoul in Toronto back in the day, and I believe he also did a fair bit of work with Garth Drabinksy. So he’s called Toronto home on a number of occasions throughout his career.
Could you tell us a bit about the concert? What can people expect?
Well, it marks an entire century of Broadway. We wanted to do all different kinds of styles and my background is one of operetta, so we thought we could go back to the beginning and start with some Romberg and Herbert. Then we move into Showboat which was sort of the catalyst that bridged from old operettas into more traditional musical theatre. Then we do some stuff from the classic golden age of musical theatre like Guys and Dolls, Fiddler on the Roof and South Pacific. For the second half we get into the more modern stuff, including Sweet Charity, Sondheim and the Phantom of the Opera. In the end it all comes back around and we tie it up nicely. It’s a bit of a journey.
Of all the genres and decades, what’s your personal favourite?
Well there’s something special about all of them but since I grew up with operetta and that style was such a big part of my life I think it’s the one I’m most fond of. Getting to sing it with a full symphony orchestra is thrilling for me. I’m also getting to channel my Mom and my Dad since they used to sing it when I was growing up.
Speaking of growing up, the last time I spoke with you was before your Carnegie Hall performance in honour of Stephen Sondheim’s birthday, and you metntioned that you would be singing 'Send in the Clowns', a song you sang as a lullaby for your daughter. Do you still sing it for her and will you be singing it at this concert?
I will be singing it at this concert but I don’t really sing it for my daughter anymore. She’s moved on to Disney now. She loves The Lion King. In fact, in our Winnipeg show which is called Broadway Rocks we do 'The Circle of Life', and the first time she saw us perform it she squealed at her grandmother ‘It’s The Lion King!’ She hasn’t had the chance to see that on Broadway yet since she’s still a bit young to sit through a full production, but hopefully soon.
The orchestra is doing a medley from Jesus Christ Superstar – any chance you’ve seen the latest revival on Broadway?
No not yet! Why, is it good?
Well it’s Canadian! It’s the Stratford Shakespeare Festival production!
Well then I’m sure it’s wonderful. My parents used to go to Stratford every summer – my father had a thing for maple nut moose and I remember going to stay in a hotel, get his treat and go see a show at Stratford. Plus when I worked on Jekyll and Hyde my director was Robin Phillips who had a pretty good run up in Stratford. I remember being really excited to work with him because of his reputation there.