FORT WORTH She didn’t fly, but her voice frequently soared.
The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra welcomed guest vocalist Ashley Brown for From Broadway to Symphony, a pops concert devoted to show tunes, on Friday night at Bass Hall.
The theme was a good fit because Brown originated the title role in Disney’s Mary Poppins (a part that requires an actress who can both sing and fly) when it came to Broadway in 2006, among other significant appearances on the Great White Way.
“I was the 15th Belle!” she gushed to the audience between numbers, referring to landing the female lead in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, well into that show’s long Broadway run.
So saying Brown knows her way around a show tune is a bit like saying a bird might know something about flying. It was no surprise that she blew away almost every song she delivered Friday. And the surprisingly free-spirited symphony players, under the baton of music director Miguel Harth-Bedoya, were absolutely the wind beneath her wings.
Brown sampled a wide range of Broadway favorites, including numbers from Victor/Victoria, Kiss Me Kate and Wicked, bringing an exceptionally strong and smooth instrument to bear on each. And she did one song that was not from a show — a gorgeous rendition of the classic Smile. She probably should have told the audience the song was composed by Charlie Chaplin. They might have been surprised to hear that.
The orchestra, which was in fine form and seemed to be having a great time, contributed a few medleys to allow Brown to catch her breath and change outfits (which she did a lot). All were good, but the West Side Story segment was a standout, probably because Leonard Bernstein may be the greatest composer ever to write a Broadway show.
But while the past and present of the American musical theater were well-represented, the spotlight of this concert shone most brightly on Disney. At the end of the first half, Brown performed Feed the Birds from Mary Poppins, followed by a long medley of Disney songs. Indeed, one of the few problems with this show was that this segment went on far too long.
Some other parts of this concert did not need to be there — most obviously, the men. Brown brought along three male singer-dancers for no apparent reason. They danced a few steps in the first half and then sang about one verse each in the second half. At one point, Harth-Bedoya invited the innocent bystanders to tell the audience about themselves. During this enlightening segment, created to cover another costume change, we learned that one of them had a vocabulary consisting entirely of the names of Broadway shows and the word amazing. It was a waste of everyone’s time when the orchestra could just have easily given us one of those nifty little medleys it was tossing out with such verve and ease.
Brown concluded the concert with an encore of My Funny Valentine, sung to her dog, Eddie. It was cute, but you have to wonder if subjecting the pup to the rigors of the road was really a good idea. And he didn’t even try to help his mistress out with any harmonies.
So it would had been a better show had Brown left the dog at home with the guys. But when she was singing, she didn’t even have to open her umbrella to create the illusion of flight.