What made Ben Crawford, starring on Broadway in the title role of “The Phantom of the Opera,” take the time to perform in a Baltimore Symphony Orchestra SuperPops concert devoted to Rodgers & Hammerstein?
“First off, I love Maestro Jack Everly,” said the actor, referring to the conductor of the concert. “He and I have been working together for nine years, and I’m very grateful for our friendship.”
The baritone said he also “loves” the BSO and Rodgers & Hammerstein, creators of such classic Broadway musicals as “Oklahoma!,” “Carousel,” and “South Pacific.’ The concert, on Jan. 24, will feature songs from those shows as well as “The Sound of Music” and “The King and I.”
“I believe Rodgers & Hammerstein are the Shakespeare of musical theatre,” Crawford said. “Their shows are timeless, as evidenced by the fact they’re always performed everywhere.
“Their musicals deal with subjects and struggles that people and the world will always deal with,” he added. “Whether it’s racism in ‘South Pacific,’ relationships in ‘Carousel,’ or love and discovery in ‘Oklahoma!, it is always relatable. They deal with things people don’t like to talk about and confront until it’s necessary, and they’re crafted into a plot that revolves around something else entirely.”
He cited Carousel’s “Soliloquy,” in which flawed hero Billy Bigelow contemplates fatherhood, and “You’ve Got to Be Taught,” from “South Pacific,” in which young Lt. Cable, who has fallen in love with a Tonkinese girl, confronts the obstacle to their relationship – prejudice.
Rodgers & Hammerstein are “particularly appealing to audiences, when the orchestra offers Broadway-based repertory,” Everly said. “They’re classics that are always done. They engage us, and tell stories we want to hear. That’s what musicals are really all about – how do you tell wonderful stories through music and lyrics?”
Rodgers and Hammerstein ‘redefined” what a musical could be, he added.
Except for “Show boat,” the 1927 musical for which Jerome Kern wrote the music and Hammerstein, wrote the book and lyrics. Early Broadway shows provided a “fluffy evening, with wonderful songs, but not a whole lot of connection. The stories didn’t matter much. Rodgers & Hammerstein brought about a revolution that changed the road map entirely, dealing with serious topics and the most-glorious scores.”
Everly is the Pops Concert conductor of the Baltimore Symphony and other orchestras and as the Music Director of the National Memorial Day Concert and A Capitol Fourth on PBS.
Ben Crawford began his Broadway career covering the roles of Javert and Jean Valjean in the original revival of “Les Misérables.” Other Broadway credits include” Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Shrek The Musical,” and “On the Twentieth Century.” His other stage credits include Billy Bigelow in “Carousel” and Jud in “Oklahoma!”
He also performs in many concerts and appears in the documentary “The Standbys.”
What makes this SuperPops Concert a little different is that Everly is using orchestrations from the films based on Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musicals, rather than the original scores. This produces “lush and spectacular sounds,” he said.
Other concert vocalists are Ted Keegan and Ashley Brown. The Baltimore Choral Arts Society, under the direction of Anthony Blake Clark, will also perform.
“We want to offer programming for the entire family and for a variety of tastes,” she said
A classically trained singer, McBride said of the Jan. 24 concert: “Whether you sing professionally, in community theater, or just in the shower, you’ll love the Rodgers & Hammerstein concert.”
The concert starts at 8 p.m., at The Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda. www.stathmore.org.