I readily admit to a weakness for cheap, sentimental love songs. I have been known to mist up at "Memory" from Andrew Lloyd Webber's tribute to feline anthropomorphism, "Cats." Actually, only Betty Buckley's original Broadway version activates my lachrymal glands.
I'm even more of a sucker for Rogers and Hart love songs from obscure film musicals like "Love Me Tonight," which not only produced "Isn't It Romantic" but "Lover," a classic that even Maurice Chevalier couldn't destroy with his Gallic insouciance.
I admit all of this merely to hint at the trepidation with which I approached the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra's TGIF concert held Friday night in Kleinhans Music Hall titled "Isn't It Romantic."
Guest conductor Michael Krajewski, along with soprano Cristen Gregory and baritone Daniel Ihasz, put together a program of love-lite songs guaranteed to charm an audience, myself included, primed to bask in cheap sentiment.
So as not to appear to be too much in the employ of Maestro Krajewski and his love-nest of musical affection, I did have two complaints: not enough singing and, not enough singing.
Granted, I can listen to instrumental versions of Puccini arias until my tear ducts run dry, especially when you include a version of "Un Bel Di" and "O Mio Babino Caro." Many nights spent at Grandpa Santella's knee listening to his Caruso 78s taught me the proper respect for Italian opera.
Leonard Bernstein's medley from "West Side Story" ended the first half's music with nary a vocal to be heard. But after a Fred and Ginger medley that contained "Top Hat," "Cheek To Cheek," "The Continental" and "The Carioca," the second half perked up considerably.
"Tonight" was reprised from "West Side Story" and brought to life by Gregory's exuberant soprano and Ihasz's controlled tenor. "Hello, Young Lovers" from Rodgers and Hammerstein's "The King And I" followed, and even a bunch of flubbed notes by orchestra and singer on "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" couldn't stop the romance.
Maestro Krajewski's humor and piano version of Dave Grusin's "It Might Be You," from "Tootsie," pleased the pops audience that seem to thoroughly enjoy themselves.
"All I Ask Of You" from Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Phantom of the Opera" brought out the best in the two vocalists. A mid-song smooch cemented the "Isn't It Romantic" feeling that hung heavy in the air right through Elton John's "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" from "The Lion King."
So, maybe all the singing wasn't top-notch and the orchestra has played more challenging charts better. But, who's to argue when love and spring are in the air?
"Isn't It Romantic"
The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Michael Krajewski, with soprano Cristen Gregory and baritone Daniel Ihasz.
Friday evening in Kleinhans Music Hall.