The Palm Beach Pops continued the celebration of its 20th season Tuesday night at the Kravis with a tribute to two great songwriters: Burt Bacharach and Cole Porter.
The evening presented an interesting premise: combining of the wit of Porter, so far ahead of his time that his songs ring as true today as ever, with the unforgettable melodies of Bacharach, who in the 1960s (with lyricist Hal David) cornered the market on the Great White Way, Hollywood and the AM radio pop charts.
This second of six programs in the series featured two diverse guest soloists, Christine Andreas and John Pagano, each bringing their own approach to the material at hand, and providing more hits than misses overall.
Having toured as lead vocalist with Bacharach for 15 years, Pagano was obviously comfortable with that catalogue, but his heartfelt reading of Pure Imagination, (the classic Anthony Newley/Leslie Bricusse tune from Willy Wonka and the title track of his latest CD) was an unexpected surprise — and a lone standout in an otherwise off night.
Andreas, however, was a true delight. The two-time Tony nominee, returning to the Pops after a yearlong stint on Broadway in La Cage Aux Folles with Kelsey Grammer, appeared completely in command and totally at ease with any song thrown at her, segueing from one end of the 20th century to the other without missing a beat.
An emotional take of Porter’s I Love Paris went above and beyond. The singer glided into the immortal signature tune of the great Edith Piaf, La Vie en Rose, wringing every last tearful nuance out of the melody — in perfect French, no less — and sealing the deal for the rest of the evening, which from that point on officially belonged to her. Accompanied by guest pianist David Hammer, the singer/actress also scored big on two Bacharach/David hits, Alfie and The Look of Love, bringing special attention to the well-crafted lyrics of David, whom she proudly claimed as a longtime friend.
The orchestra was also in fine form — never better, in fact.
Cellist Cornelia Brubeck soared on So In Love, which was part of a beautiful arrangement of the overture from Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate.
The nostalgic excitement of new romance filled the hall on Begin the Beguine (from 1935), with Richard Wagner taking the lead on clarinet.
Of special note was Porter’s Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye, which began tastefully with the Pops trio — Maestro Bob Lappin on piano, Ramses Colon on bass and Frank Derrick on drums — before settling in with the full orchestra and a rare lead vocal by Lappin that carried more than enough warmth to effectively deliver the emotion of the tune.
With consistently solid performances all around, the Palm Beach Pops continues to provide big helpings of what the world needs now: simply great music.