Steppin' Out with the MSO

Pops concert features an evening of song and dance with classics from Broadway and Hollywood

Pops concert features an evening of song and dance with classics from Broadway and Hollywood

September 18, 2008|By KATE COLEMAN

Get out your top hat, your white tie and your tails.

There'll be smooth sailin' Saturday night when the Maryland Symphony Orchestra presents "Steppin' Out," the pops concert of the MSO's 27th season.

The evening of song and dance - yes, dance! - will feature timeless classics of Broadway and Hollywood by masters of musical theater: Harold Arlen, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Jerome Kern and Cole Porter.

"Great music is great music, and it doesn't matter what genre it's in," said MSO Music Director Elizabeth Schulze. The orchestra takes the pops program as seriously as the classical repertoire. "It has to be played well, because it's great music," she added.


"Steppin' Out" features Tony Award-winner Debbie Gravitte and Broadway veterans Joan Hess and Kirby Ward.

"I always wanted to be on Broadway," said Gravitte in a phone interview from her home in Connecticut.

She grew up in Los Angeles, started working at a young age and went right to New York. Her first Broadway show was "They're Playing Our Song," and she received her Tony Award for best featured actress in a musical for playing several roles in "Jerome Robbins' Broadway."

Last summer, Schulze made her debut with the Detroit Symphony and worked with Gravitte. Schulze called Gravitte magnificent. "She was really fun and a compelling performer, really compelling."

Gravitte said she is looking forward to performing with the MSO.

"This is a really great show," she said. It's an opportunity to "listen to the live sound of a beautiful orchestra and see incredible dance by these two. Kirby and Joan are just beyond spectacular dancers."

Joan Hess' recent Broadway credits include Tanya in "Mamma Mia" and Sophia in "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels." She's been a guest soloist with many American symphonies. Ward has worked in the arts on five continents and in film, television and stage for nearly 30 years, according to his bio.

Hess called "Steppin' Out" a really neat evening and said she really loves doing it.

"It's so great to have full orchestration, because even on Broadway, our orchestras have become smaller and smaller," Hess said. "To perform with the big symphonies and the full sound is just such a treat for us."

Hess and Ward will pay tribute to legendary dance partners Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in their performances of Kern's "I Won't Dance," Gershwin's "Shall We Dance" and Berlin's "Monte Carlo Ballet" and "Cheek to Cheek." The choreography for all the Fred and Ginger numbers is influenced by the cinema stars, she said. The footwork for "Cheek to Cheek" - with adjustments for different musical arrangements - is Astaire and Rogers'.

Hess and Ward have known each other a long time. "We've been in Broadway shows together, he's directed me in shows, we've partnered dancing many times," Hess said.

"It's a very specific thing to have a partner that you work really well together with," she said. She called Ward terrific, and said in "Steppin' Out," they get to do some great old-fashioned stuff, some romantic stuff and some funny stuff.

"We have a really good time doing it," Hess said. "I just hope everyone can come and enjoy themselves as much as we'll be enjoying ourselves."

Gravitte's invitation is similar: "I think, especially now, we all need to step out of the craziness of the world. It's nice to come and just - for whatever reason - to come and listen and watch some great music and dancing. It transports you."


WHAT: The MSO's Pops Concert: "Steppin' Out"

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 20

WHERE: The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., downtown Hagerstown

COST: Tickets cost $22 to $83 for adults; $12 to $42 for children 12 and younger and for full-time students. Tickets are available online through Friday, Sept. 19, at, by calling 301-797-4000 and at the MSO box office, 30 W. Washington St. in Hagerstown. Student rush tickets (no reservations accepted) will be available 90 minutes before the performance for $5.

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