Tanglewood: Boston Pops -- Alexander takes his B'way turn
LENOX -- Who knew Jason Alexander could sing like a Broadway pro?
Not his elderly mother, the singer-actor joked to an appreciative audience during his half of Sunday afternoon's Boston Pops concert at Tanglewood.
But musical-theater aficionados certainly know about the former "Seinfeld" co-star's prowess on the Great White Way, given his Tony-nominated performance in Stephen Sondheim's "Merrily We Roll Along" (1981) and a Tony award-winning star turn in "Jerome Robbins' Broadway" (1989-90).
Nevertheless, Alexander acknowledged, after he returned to New York from his extremely popular portrayal of George Costanza in NBC's "Seinfeld" from 1989-98, Broadway producers found him "inappropriate" for the leading roles he coveted. No matter; Alexander has carved out a successful mid-life career performing in concert, appearing in films, on TV, and directing plays.
With well-honed comedic timing and vocal flair, Alexander delivered the goods during a 40-minute set, along with his music director and pianist Todd Schroeder, backed by the Pops led by its conductor Keith Lockhart. With his powerful baritone and commanding stage presence, it's an ideal match.
A consummate showman with a thick slice of ham, Alexander offered shtick-filled patter between songs, an approach that served him well as he combined Broadway song-and-dance chops with bits that would have been at home in a nightclub or Vegas routine.
By turns wistful, rueful but above all hilarious in recounting a love for Broadway that began when he was 5, Alexander was at his best in his 7-minute "inappropriate" medley.
Obviously thumbing his nose at those theater producer skeptics, he donned hats, wigs and other paraphernalia supplied by a props table as he performed snippets from at least 15 hit shows from "Show Boat," "Hair," "Jesus Christ Superstar," "Evita," "Annie" and "Cats" to his obvious favorite, "The Impossible Dream" from "Man of La Mancha."
With an opening "Oy!" directed at a young lady in the audience, Alexander launched into his hilarious rendition of "Shiksa Goddess" from Jason Robert Brown's musical "The Last Five Years," and kept the momentum going with the original rap song, "(Ya Got) Trouble" from "The Music Man," the first show Alexander saw as a child.
Describing his original ambition to be a magician, he launched into "Magic To Do" and segued to a heartfelt "Corner of the Sky," both from "Pippin," another show that sparked his early love for Broadway.
After describing Sondheim as his musical god, Alexander offered a deeply-felt medley from "Merrily We Roll Along" that showcased not only his versatility but also his leading-man prowess and affinity for the composer's ahead-of-his-time technique.
As a tribute to his late father, Alexander closed with a poignant "Anytime (I Am There)," from William Finn's song cycle "Elegies."
Speaking of showmen, at 54 Lockhart retains his affinity for the many musical genres that now make up Boston Pops programming.
On this occasion, the dance-tribute theme demonstrated the chameleon-like characteristics of the mostly-BSO players -- as Lockhart put it, "they have the sound, the flair and ability to play more musical streams than any other orchestra on the planet." Point of pride, but well-taken.
At his best in the Broadway and pop-standard repertoire, he led spirited arrangements by the admirable Don Sebesky ("The 20s Roar!") and Sid Ramin ("Gotta Dance," honoring the aforementioned Jerome Robbins), as well as Argentine tango composer Astor Piazzolla's "Oblivion," showcasing the superb Pops saxophonist Michael Monaghan.
Always quick with a quip, Lockhart flicked a formidable-looking fly off his shoulder with a cheery "ah, wilderness!" As is customary, the Pops played near-flawlessly, and sparkled in a snazzy encore medley from "42nd Street."
Another pleasurable outing by the Pops, with Alexander proving to be an ideal guest performer.
To contact Clarence Fanto:
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On Twitter: @BE_cfanto
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