PBS’ ‘Gift’ Offers Pleasant Surprises
There’s a bit of melody for almost every taste in PBS’ effervescent pledge drive special, “A Grand Night for Singing: Public Television’s Gift to You.”
Hosted by a surprisingly bubbly and outgoing Tyne Daly, the nearly two-hour program, which is presented in four segments, focuses primarily on material from Broadway musicals and the operatic stage. The songs are handled by Daly and opera starts Sylvia McNair, Frederica von Stade, John Garrison and Kurt Ollmann, performing with the singers and musicians of the Indiana University School of Music.
Daly’s opening number, “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” from “Gypsy,” provides immediate certification of her musical theater skills for those unaware of her stints on Broadway.
The operatic segments are devoted to familiar, generally light-weight works, most of them done effectively.
The opera singers – with one exception – fare less well with standards and Broadway tunes. McNair’s low-keyed, beautifully understated
reading of “What’ll I Do” is one of the highlights of the entire program. But Ollmann’s “Atcheson,
Still, the production’s melodies are so timeless, their messages so disarming and upbeat, that by the time the final chorus of “It’s a Grand Night for Singing” rolls around, minor technical carps are swept aside by the easygoing pleasures of the music.
– DON HECKMAN