Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Forest Hills Stadium Welcomes The New York Pops

by Michael Perlman, Perlman PR

Colin Donnell, Musical director Michael Rafter, Megan McGinnis, Sutton Foster, NY Pops director & conductor Steven Reineke
Sutton Foster with The New York Pops, Aug 6, Photo by Michael Perlman

It was history in the making at Forest Hills Stadium, as The New York Pops graced the stage with Sutton Foster on August 6, followed by their collaboration with Pink Martini on August 7. While the scene transformed from sunny skies to starlit evenings, multi-generational concertgoers were already anticipating The New York Pops’ return to Forest Hills in 2016.

Music director and conductor Steven Reineke said, “The New York Pops has performed in New York City parks quite a bit, but we’ve never had a permanent summer home. We are so excited to establish something lasting in Queens, in such a legendary music venue.”

The New York Pops, which was founded in 1983, is recognized as America’s largest independent pops orchestra and the sole professional symphonic orchestra in New York City which specializes in popular music. The New York Pops’ “Kids in the Balcony” program offered over 1,000 complimentary tickets to underprivileged children, and to further make live music accessible, family packages began at ten dollars. “Our PopsEd programs are designed to engage kids, and make them excited about working together and learning many life skills through singing, playing, and listening to music,” said Reineke.

Michael Perlman with Sutton Foster

Tony Award-winning artist Sutton Foster has performed in 11 Broadway shows including “Anything Goes” and “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” Special guests were television actor and Broadway artist Colin Donnell who appeared in “Violet” and “Jersey Boys” and Megan McGinnis who played Eponine in Les Misérables. In an interview, Donnell explained, “Making my debut with The New York Pops in such an awesome venue is a dream come true!”

Michael Perlman with Colin Donnell

Michael Perlman with Megan McGinnis 

Nearly 20 performance numbers consisted of “Begin the Beguine,” “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Neverland,” and “On the Streets of Dublin.” Both acts opened with Overtures from “Anything Goes” and “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” “The History of the TV Overture” was a medley of classic American television theme songs including “I Love Lucy” and “The Addams Family.”

Pink Martini delivered another evening of brilliance, with bandleader and pianist Thomas Lauderdale, co-lead vocalists China Forbes and Storm Large, and special guest Meow Meow. Considered the “little orchestra,” Pink Martini has a huge following with their international tours. Over 20 multi-lingual hits included “Amado Mio,” “Sympathique,” ¿Dónde estás, Yolanda?” “Ne me quitte pas,” “Quizás Quizás Quizás,” and “Let’s Never Stop Falling in Love.”

The audience was actively engaged in both concerts. Rego Park resident Edward Aronowitz said, “Sutton Foster is a show-stopper type of performer, who is warm to her audience and has great control of her vocal chords.”

 Lisa Gwasda, a music teacher, who takes pride in her past experience in singing as part of a chorus with The New York Pops said, “The best thing to do as a New Yorker is to enjoy a concert under the stars, and The New York Pops and Sutton Foster can’t be beat.”

Native Forest Hills residents Ricky Salem and his mother Mary Salem also made plans to enjoy the first night. Glancing at the diverse audience, he said, “This is a great addition to the ambiance of our neighborhood and city, and the turnout shows that the stadium is not just for rock concerts.”

The NY Pops & Pink Martini concert - Pianist & Bandleader Thomas Lauderdale, Vocalists Meow Meow, China Forbes, Storm Large

When the Pink Martini concert featured an open call to dance in front of the stage, Marlene and Jacques Winter of Cold Spring Harbor, NY, who have attended many New York Pops at Carnegie Hall concerts, began swinging.  “We feel like star swing dancers in Forest Hills, and next year we hope to dance on the stadium stage,” said Marlene.

Swing dancing couple Marlene & Jacques Winter at Pink Martini concert

Meow Meow with Tim Brown, left at Pink Martini concert

Tim Brown of Midtown Manhattan, who attended the Pink Martini concert, is a retired FDNY survivor of 9/11. “Music is a healing art, which helps me deal with the murder of so many of my friends on 9/11,” Brown said. He would often sing along, and “Brazil” was one of his favorite numbers. He said, “The entire ensemble was on stage and it got everyone up out of their seats.” That was when audience members formed a Conga line around the aisles.  

Brown also had a moment under the spotlight. He explained, “When Meow Meow pointed to me and said ‘You!,’ my face turned red. When she told me to get on my knees, well, what can you do? After all, how often does a hot cabaret star demand you wrap your arms around her, as she gyrated to the beat?”

The concerts also elicited fond memories. For Magda Katz, a theatrical entertainment correspondent, it marked her return to Forest Hills Stadium, after seeing Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland in the 1960s. In reference to Pink Martini’s “Amado Mio,” she said, “I love its Latin flavor, which reminds me of songs I grew up with.”

The New York Pops with Pink Martini

Michael Perlman with Meow Meow & Storm Large

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