Puttin’ on the dance: ASO Pops concert brings ‘Ritz’ to stage
“Dancing and Romancing,” a celebration of many timeless classics from the Golden Age of Hollywood and Broadway, will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 27, Miller Symphony Hall, Allentown.
The Allentown Symphony Pops Orchestra, conducted by ASO Associate Conductor Ronald Demkee, will perform a romantic and entertaining evening of song and dance with two veterans of the Broadway stage, Joan Hess and Kirby Ward, performing routines inspired by Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Ginger Rogers and Eleanor Powell, including “Puttin’ On The Ritz,” “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes,” and “Cheek to Cheek.”
“It’s a tribute to all the great American song and dance legends of the stage combined with some of the best romantic songs from the ‘American Songbook,’” says Kirby Ward in a phone interview.
Ward has directed and choreographed productions in New York and London and performed in more than 60 shows. As an actor, his Broadway credits include the 1994 revival of “Showboat.” In London’s West End, Ward received an Olivier Award nomination for “Crazy For You.”
Ward worked with James Caan and Bette Midler on choreography for the 1991 film, “For The Boys.” He’s appeared in concert at the Hollywood Bowl and with symphonies in Hollywood, Hong Kong, Buffalo, Virginia, New Mexico, Atlanta, Maryland, Winnipeg, Houston and Naples.
“My singing and dancing has taken me all over the world from London and Germany to Australia, Moscow and Hong Kong. I’ve met and entertained the Queen of England, two first ladies and untold thousands of wonderful people on six continents. It makes me realize we’re really not very different the world over and music and dance unite,” Ward says.
Joan Hess made her Broadway debut in 1992 in the Tony Award-winning “Crazy For You.” Her Broadway credits include “Mamma Mia!,” “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” and “Kiss Me, Kate.” On television, Hess was in “Flight of the Concords” on HBO and “My Favorite Broadway: The Love Songs” on PBS.
“It’s a remarkable thing getting to sing, dance and perform with a large symphony orchestra. Broadway is an actor’s biggest venue, but performing with an orchestra is an entirely different experience. When you have such brilliant, iconic, glorious ‘American Songbook’ songs and you have that many musicians, you can’t help wanting to sing and dance. It makes my job easy,” Hess says.
“We are constantly expressing gratitude in being able to do this. It’s such a treat for any performer and performing for audiences who appreciate these types of symphonies is really special and super fun,” says Hess.
Hess and Ward have appeared together in other productions.
“We really trust each other,” Hess says. “He has so much experience and is such a terrific dancer. It’s a pleasure to perform with him. We have known each other for such a long time and have been in shows together before. He even directed me, and it really is a great match in terms of our experience and taste.”
“It’s truly been wonderful to share the stage with Joan,” Ward says. “Before each performance we both stand offstage and marvel at how lucky we are to get to do what we do. We try and bring that feeling onstage with us making each performance a celebration.”
“It’s a glamorous night of gowns and tuxes and it’s a wide range show in that we both sing and dance from ballroom to tap to swing. It’s jazzy, upbeat, humorous, fun and it brings the audience along a very unique and diverse program,” says Hess.
Tickets: Miller Symphony Hall box office, 23 N. Sixth St., Allentown; allentownsymphony.org; 610-432-6715. Tickets are free for students 21 and under, funded by a grant from The Century Fund.