Review: Ashley Brown's Broadway at the ISO

Ashley Brown engaged audiences at the ISO with songs from Wicked, Le Jazz Hot and Mary Poppins.

4 stars

Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Hilbert Circle Theatre, Feb. 11-13.

Ashley Brown’s impressive

dramatic vocal range lit up the ISO stage just as she’s been

illuminating roles on Broadway and in regional theatres from the

dazzling Cunegonde in Candide to Charley Chaplin’s

fragile mother in Limelight, with sensible Mary and winsome

Belle in between.

The ISO, with Jack Everly conducting,

opened with an appropriately upbeat Broadway Diva’s Overture

that segued into Brown’s expressive admission of why she’s

here “with a song in my heart.” That established her

theme for the fast-paced 2-hour program of brief patter between vocal

sets. Costume changes into glittering gowns extended characterization

and the inner core of lyrics.

James Lane, James Lee Glatz and Ben

Crawford joined Brown for a sizzling interpretation of “Le

Jazz Hot,” a sweet nod to Dame Julie Andrews in

Victor/Victoria, followed by Brown’s favorite song from

Mary Poppins, a role she originated on Broadway in 2006. With

“Feed the Birds,” Brown showed her visceral connections

with Andrews and Walt Disney (remember the 1964 film), who also named

this their favorite.

The first act closed with a stunning

hold on the closing word of “When You Wish Upon a Star,”

with a similar effect for the final “I” of “So In

Love” as Brown’s bow to Cole Porter’s Kiss Me

Kate. The program closed with the richness of Brown’s

interpretative skills making Wicked’s “Defying

Gravity” another standout. Brown shared the spotlight with Ben

Crawford whose full-out “This is the Moment” garnered an

ovation.

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