Talent shines in Pops' tribute

| Friday, April 13, 2012, 1:33 p.m.

alent was bountiful at the Pittsburgh Symphony Pops' tribute to the creators of "Les Miserables" and "Miss Saigon" at Thursday night's first performance of a program called "Do You Hear the People Sing."

The concert was created by composer Claude-Michel Schonberg and lyricist Alain Boublil, and offers a smart selection of songs from four of their works -- "Miss Saigon," "Martin Guerre," "The Pirate Queen" and "Les Miserables." They had many meetings during the creation of the program with Jack Everly, who is music director of the Symphonic Pops Consortium based at the Indianapolis Symphony. He's a frequent guest conductor at Heinz Hall and is leading these concerts.

Everly's idiomatic affection for the material was infectious from start to finish. The orchestra played well. Beyond those expected excellences, "Do You Hear the People Sing" featured an exceptionally strong roster of vocalists, all of whom projected their words with the utmost clarity.

Terrence Mann was the first to step forward in "Bui Doi" from "Miss Saigon." The oldest of the soloists, he also was, in many ways, the most vibrant. Of course, his numbers featured a lot of variety, from the sarcasm of "The American Dream" to the arch comedy of "Master of the House." His voice is as firm and nuanced as his acting.

Mann's first number also featured the CMU Concert Choir. Although less than 50 voices, the choir was prepared by Robert Page and sang throughout the evening with the unbeatable and infrequent combination of discipline and exuberance. It was amplified with perfect taste, as were concertmaster Mark Huggins' solos.

Jennifer Paz was one of three superb women singers. Her first number was "I'd Give My Life for You," and it showed she has the style down pat -- whispered and breathless with ample vibrato.

Paz sang "Last Night of the World" with tenor Peter Lockyear, a colleague she'd met in the first touring company of "Miss Saigon." He was a persuasive romantic leading man, yet also had the steel for the song "Martin Guerre."

Marie Zamora brought special qualities to her performances, including welcome delicacy and understatement that should in no way, suggest a lack of power. Zamora sang "Au Petit Matin" in her native French. Her English diction also was clear as a bell in "I Saw Him Once," a song written for "Les Miserables," but dropped from it for dramatic reasons. Zamora is married to Boublil.

Kathy Voytko has Broadway brass in her voice and the taste to never overdo it. When the Johnston native introduced "Woman" from "The Pirate Queen," she mentioned how she came to decide on a career. It happened at the Benedum Center during a performance of "Les Miserables" she saw with her mom, who encouraged her.

Paz and Voytko teamed to close the first half with a superb version of "I Dreamed a Dream."

This concert will be repeated at 8 p.m. Saturday, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Heinz Hall, Downtown. Admission is $20 to $95. Details: 412-392-4900 or www.pittsburghsymphony.org

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