Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Doyle hasn't yet had the chance to create a role on Broadway, but he was a replacement for the lead in The Book of Mormon and was featured in the ensemble of the original Broadway cast of Spring Awakening when he was just 19 years old. He also appeared in the recent Off-Broadway revival of Sweeney Todd, in the ensemble of the original Broadway cast of War Horse, and he originated the lead role of Bobby in the Old Globe Theatre run of The Heart of Rock & Roll, which features music by Huey Lewis and the News, last fall.
Under Stuart Chafetz's playful, bright and expert conducting, Doyle and the Phoenix Symphony sound sublime throughout the evening. The selections sung by Doyle and the instrumental pieces played by the Symphony are well-mixed throughout the concert. The overture for Cole Porter's Anything Goes gets the evening off to a bright and bouncy start, with melodic violin solos throughout the piece by Magdalena Martinic-Jercic. This is followed by Doyle delivering a beautiful version of Porter's "Night and Day" from Gay Divorce with a jazzy arrangement.
Doyle speaks about growing up and how his parents had a VHS tape of highlights from "The Ed Sullivan Show" that featured Broadway performers, including Anthony Newley singing "Who Can I Turn To?" from The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd, which he wrote with Leslie Bricusse. Doyle's performance of that song is rich and introspective. The orchestra follows this with a gorgeous arrangement of Porter's "Begin the Beguine." They also play selections from The Sound of Music in which Chafetz urges the audience to sing along to the lush arrangement that features highlights from just about every well-known tune from the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein score.
Throughout the evening Doyle talks about how important it was as a young teenager when he discovered a "home" performing in community theatre. He also stresses the importance of arts education and of fulfilling your dreams and also speaks about the other things he likes to do besides performing, including songwriting. He sings a song he wrote with Will Van Dyke entitled "Home" that has simple yet effective lyrics. Doyle speaks about how they only had a small band in the recent Off-Broadway revival of Sweeney Todd and how happy it is to sing his favorite song from the show accompanied by a full orchestra. His soaring delivery of "Johanna" is beautiful. The first act ends with another Sondheim song, "Being Alive" from Company, which Doyle sings with clear and impeccable diction and a passion-filled delivery.
The second act begins with selections from West Side Story, including the symphony playing three pieces, "Tonight," "Somewhere," and "Mambo," that are all expertly played and show how exceptionally rich and melodic the Leonard Bernstein and Sondheim score is. Doyle says a few years back he stopped auditioning after he got sucked into the negativity of the business, but then he was offered the chance to play Tony in Paper Mill Playhouse's West Side Story and he found the joy in performing again. He then sings both "Something's Coming" and "Maria" that are infused with anticipation, a sense of urgency, searing emotion and heart.
Doyle says that growing up, his parents would often play folk rock music by such composers as Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen. He then sings Cohen's "Hallelujah" with just piano accompaniment that shows how impactful that song is even with just a solo voice and piano. He talks about how when he was young and just started performing and listening to Broadway cast albums, his parents, who were more into rock music, introduced him to the rock musical Hair. He then sings "Where Do I Go?" from that show which is full of warmth and yearning. He talks about how important it is to follow your dreams and then sings what he says was probably the most famous Broadway song about dreaming, "The Impossible Dream (The Quest)" from Man of La Mancha, which is delivered with a bright dedication, a clear meaning, and a gorgeous sustained high note at the end.
The evening ends with Doyle commenting that Huey Lewis was his next-door neighbor growing up in California, though he never met him until he starred in the Old Globe run of The Heart of Rock & Roll. He says that he actually just spoke to Lewis and was told a workshop of the show is planned in the next few months with the hope of bringing the show to Broadway. His performance of the title song from the show has a beautiful arrangement with Doyle showing he is more than capable to rock out on this well-known pop hit. An encore of John Lennon's "Imagine" ends the concert which is beautifully sung with Doyle connecting to the simple words in the lyrics as a plea for us all to find a way to listen to each other to overcome the divide we now have and how fractured the political climate is in the United States.
Throughout the concert, Doyle shows he is capable of singing a range of songs with a voice that is pure, clean and bright. Chafetz's conducting and the expert performances by every member of the Phoenix Symphony are top notch. The only downside to the concert is that Doyle's in-between song patter could be a bit less rambling and more precise. While there are some good transitions that he uses to link one song to the next, there are also some things he leaves out, such as the fact that The Heart of Rock & Roll already had a well-received production.
Broadway and Beyond with Matt Doyle and the Phoenix Symphony, through February 10, 2019, at Symphony Hall, 5 N 2nd St, Phoenix AZ. For tickets and information, visit www.phoenixsymphony.org.