Singer Jodi Benson pumps up PSO's Holiday Pops

Concert review
December 17, 2011 12:00 am

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After a number of years gearing its holiday concert to community artists, the Pittsburgh Symphony Pops decided to go for the brass ring. It brought in Jodi Benson, known as the voice of Disney (and particularly "The Little Mermaid's" Ariel), and smartly built the concert around her, giving Thursday night's audience at Heinz Hall a lot of bang for their seasonal entertainment buck.

The evening turned out to be a delightful musical potpourri, with Ms. Benson providing a sparkling ribbon to tie it all together. It was her voice, tinged with a touch of Julie Andrews, that was heard first in "My Favorite Things" from "The Sound of Music," as she glided down the aisle to the stage.

Ms. Benson would prove to be a vocal chameleon, much in the vein of the versatile Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth, only with, let's say, a bigger Hollywood Bowl approach. The petite singer could tap the warmth of conductor Marvin Hamlisch's "Chanukah Lights" (yes, he was in Pittsburgh for the holidays, the first time in a while), reach for the stratosphere in a powerful if over-produced arrangement of "O Holy Night" or be a cutesy pops musical stylist with Gary Mauer in "Baby, It's Cold Outside."

Mr. Mauer had the vocal chops to headline a concert on his own and was a real bonus here, beginning with "Chestnuts Pops Medley." He went on to channel the Phantom of the Opera (yes, he has played the title role) with his soaring, high ending of "Do You Hear What I Hear?"

Holiday Pops with Marvin Hamlisch

Where: Heinz Hall, Downtown.

When: 2:30 and 8 p.m. today; and 2:30 and 7:30 p.m.

Tickets: Start at $20. 412-392-4900 or www.pittsburghsymphony.org.

There was plenty more. Ms. Benson stepped out of the holiday box to sing "Part of Your World" from "The Little Mermaid," which oddly had a final turn of phrase similar to "Somewhere That's Green" from "Little Shop of Horrors" (they share composer Alan Menken).

Former Post-Gazette critic Jane Vranish: jvranish1@comcast.net . She also blogs at pittsburghcrosscurrents.com.
First Published 2012-02-09 18:22:03
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