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.