Courtesy of a friend, I finally got a look at this show--not quite for Easter, but pretty close--and got to see first hand what the funding flap was about. It's a good show--definitely a collision of styles, but well integrated. Well attended, too. There's a big audience.
From what everybody said, I'd expected the whole thing to be R&B, but they have the classical chorus there after all. The R&B choir and soloists perform against the backdrop of the classical rendition, and they end up with a nice contrast. Gladys Knight is terrific, as is Jeffery Osbourne, and I think they both loved doing it. Knight really carried the whole thing. She had minor problems converting the style, but nothing serious, and just glowed during her solos. As everybody said, Chaka Kahn is the weakest, but it's a matter of energy rather than style. She's perfectly competent at R&B.
So Roger Daltrey is a strange addition to this little group of artists. You'd suspect maybe Jeffery Osbourne recommended him. I seem to recall Osbourne worked with the British Rock Symphony one summer. Anyhow, Daltrey has a talent for suggesting different styles. He has a tendency to suggest the classical here (slight range problems these days, but still very gripping), and provided the important transition to the R&B. He did a short solo with the R&B artists at the finale, and doesn't quite have that "horrible vibrato" down yet, but he blended very well.
If an official version of this ever gets to be widely available, I'd certainly recommend it. I think I'd be somewhat bored at a performance of the original "Messiah." It's very powerful music, but the whole thing is so long and so dense that generally what you get is just a couple of excerpts instead of the whole deal. Adding the R&B segements broke it up and made it something completely new and entertaining.
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