Our walk into Music Hall last night for the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra performance with Cirque de la Symphonie was filled with anticipation and a whisper of bemusement, as we could not quite reconcile how the supremely talented and fun Pops Orchestra would integrate with a Cirque atmosphere. With an audience that spanned all generations and musical predilections, striking the perfect balance between two seemingly disparate performance arts should have been a challenge. But with a musical repertoire that ranged from “Wicked” to “Jaws” to Whitney Houston and beyond, accomplished Broadway and operatic vocalists, and a cirque extravaganza of seemingly endless aerial and athletic feats, our musings could not come close to the unbelievable splendor of music and magic that will literally leave you awestruck.
With my children bouncing in their seats with excitement, we thoroughly enjoyed the energetic and dynamic guest conductor Stuart Chafetz and the opening number of “Spider-Man,” but we kept getting nudges and not-so-quiet questions of “When does the circus show up?” While we offered nuggets of parental wisdom like, “Just relax, enjoy the music, I’m not sure, and knock it off,” their gasps of delight and joy when the aerial trapeze artist joined the stage was worth the wait. Each act was different; you were never quite sure what you would experience, and that was a huge part of the fun. We loved all the cirque performers, but some of our favorites included magical costume changes to the tune of the Broadway hit “Chicago,” a lovable and laughable juggling clown, every single spectacular trapeze act using a variety of aerial tools, and the strong men who took the finale to new heights.
But while the cirque elements were fantastic and brought the music to life in a unique way, the vocalists were the surprise delight of the evening. Michael Preacely’s operatic baritone and Broadway presence brought the house to life with his rendition from “Hercules,” and then brought the house down with his magnificent performance of “The Music of the Night” from “Phantom of the Opera.” As an almost-local from Lexington, KY who played the Phantom himself on Broadway, it was quite a treat to experience a simultaneous trifecta of performance across the Symphony, Broadway and Cirque. Nicole Parker was simply extraordinary. As both a former Elphaba (“Wicked”) on Broadway and MadTV performer, her talents were endless and took us from stunned amazement at her vocal abilities to tickled delight at her impersonations and stories. She quite simply “defied gravity” with her performance. Underlying it all, of course, was the always amazing Cincinnati Pops Symphony Orchestra that reminded us of the power of two single notes (Jaws) and the joy that music can bring us all, including the performers.
From one tremendously performed and jaw-dropping act to another, Cincinnati Pops took us on a roller coaster of emotion as we perched on the edge of our seats with excitement and awe at the cirque performers, laughed at the delightfully well-placed humor, and settled back with a heart-felt sigh for the emotional punch of iconic musical numbers. The Cincinnati Pops always seems to find a way to deliver the unexpected and showcase the magic of music in ways that you could not imagine. Well played, Cincinnati Pops and Cirque de la Symphonie. Well played. Don’t miss the remaining two performances of this fantastic show (Saturday 3/10, 8 p.m. and Sunday 3/11, 2 p.m.) and take a moment to look at the newly released 18/19 Pops Season, as there is something for everyone and the Pops never fail to do the unexpected.
Christi Geary is the proud mom of two girls 10 and under, best friend and wife of her husband Brian, and an Associate Director at the Procter & Gamble Company focused on innovation insights and analytics. She enjoys and participates in art of all kinds, feeds an insatiable curiosity for learning, pursues different forms of exercise when she can find the time to balance out her foodie predilection, and delights in spending time with family and friends.