Pops and Chenoweth Bring Broadway to the Heights

Suit jackets and ties, dresses, and high heels. Hair slicked back with gel and styled in fabulous updos. Dressed to the nines, the crowd was ready for quite a show. Conte Forum was transformed Friday night for the 24th annual Pops on the Heights Gala, with the food stands selling beer, wine, and an assortment of cocktails.

The night carried itself like an evening at Symphony Hall. The lights from above streamed in a warm, welcoming red. The stage was set with seats for the Pops, with the screens on either side of the stage projecting scenic spots on campus. Round tables lined the floor of the arena, covered with white tablecloths and elegant glassware. Under each arena seat and dinner chair sat canvas bags with a glow stick for the fun ’80s medley part of the performance.  

The night funded over 300 scholarships for BC students. Raising, in the words of Chenoweth, “a crap ton of money,” the night was a huge success. Bringing in $9 million this year, up from last year’s record of $7.5 million, the 24 annual Pops on the Heights Concert was able to fund more scholarships than ever before.

The technological features of the night perfectly complemented the star-studded musical talent gracing the stage. Improving from last year, the images and videos seemed to fall in line with the performances and were on par with the magnificent talent on display onstage.

The videographers took video footage from in front of the conductor and displayed it up on the screen so the audience had a clear look at his facial expressions and gestures as he conducted the Pops. Members of the Boston College Chorale were broadcast on the screen, allowing the audience to see the faces of the large and talented group.

One of the most outstanding moments of the night was when Chris Vu, MCAS ’17, soloed with “Clair de lune.” The solo was beautifully done and perfectly paired by the backdrop of the Boston Pops. As Vu sat down at the piano, a camera above his hands captured his elegant moments as he moved them about the keys. This beautiful artistic choice put a splendor to the way in which he gracefully hit each note. There was something breathtaking about just seeing the pianist’s hands glide across the instrument.

Simultaneously, there was a video compilation of life on the Heights, ranging from fun times in the dorms to the food in the dining halls to beautiful scenic shots of Gasson. The videos enhanced the music onstage and made the presentation come to life.

After the Pops played a handful of iconic compositions, such as the Star Wars theme, a BC student was welcomed onstage to perform for the crowd of 5,300 people.

Christy Coco, MCAS ‘17, emerged in a pink and black ballgown and walked over to the waiting microphone. Coco, who studies theater and art history, currently stars in the off-Broadway revival of ‘Fiorello!’ Throughout her performance, the audience sat in awe of the senior’s impressive singing voice and stage presence.

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The University Chorale did much to augment the lively spirit inside Conte Forum, for the group sang a medley of iconic songs from the 1980’s while the Pops provided booming background instrumentals. The audience was treated to a blend of hits like Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long,” Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer,” and Van Halen’s “Jump.”

Multicolored glow sticks provided to each of the audience members made an appearance during this high-energy number. The soft glow of the small neon lights perfectly channeled the colorful aesthetic of the decade. The BC Golden Eagles Dance Team, decked out in bright pink tutus and neon green accessories, paraded across the front of the stage and performed  choreographed dance numbers. Moving in sync, the Golden Eagles’ dance routines added a captivating visual element to the spectacle.

As the familiar notes of “Walk Like An Egyptian,” the Ghostbusters theme, and “Walkin’ on Sunshine” pulsed throughout the arena, audience members swayed together and danced along enthusiastically to the throwback ‘80s tracks.

The final song in the medley was ‘80s pop chart-topper “We Are The World.” The song was a perfect selection for the gala, as its charitable message of benevolence paralleled the event’s spirit of generosity and this year’s record-breaking fundraising effort.   

After the Chorale performed a handful of songs, including the whimsical Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “It’s a Grand Night for Singing,” conductor Keith Lockhart introduced Kristin Chenoweth and welcomed her to the stage. The former Broadway star accompanied the Chorale in singing A special arrangement of the song “I Was Here,” which was created by prominent Broadway musician Mary Mitchell Campbell.

Chenoweth was magnificent. Clad in a beautiful black gown and a Boston College t-shirt, she swiftly stole the show the minute she strutted onto the stage.  With every bob of the head and wink she had the camera, she had the audience under a trance. Asking the maestro how she looked with her BC shirt, she kept the night entertaining with her quips between songs.

Choosing to sing a few of her favorite covers, the singer offered a taste of the tracklist on her newest album The Art of Elegance, in addition to a few others that do not appear on the LP. While A moving performance of her own rendition of “Smile” was followed by an impressive and animated cover of Judy Garland’s “The Man That Got Away.” The impassioned rendition of “Moon River” showcased Chenoweth’s impressive vocal range and versatility as a singer. Her powerful voice easily filled the arena, and the passion she projected enchanted the audience.

Her final song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” was another nod to Garland. Her evocative performance, coupled with a whimsical and carefree atmosphere created by rainbow lights shining over the audience made for an appropriate goodbye to such a charismatic star of stage and screen. As the Pops played the song’s last few notes, Chenoweth thanked the audience and shuffled offstage.

Perhaps the most entertaining bit of her performance was the political statement she made regarding Donald Trump. She said he had called her that morning and wanted to know how she had become so well liked. From there the star launched into Wicked’s “Popular.”  

Although Chenoweth was the star of the show, she made sure to acknowledge the talent that accompanied her onstage. She sang the praises of the Boston Pops and spoke from the heart about the Boston College Chorale. She revealed that she could feel the love from the group of young students singing behind her. The singer also made a point to articulate how she wanted to leave a positive impact on the world. She prompted an audience member to longingly remark to her mother, “I want to be her, I just want to be her.”

Featured Image by Amelie Trieu / Heights Editor

  • Robert Cobb

    Kristin Chenoweth did the same Trump schtick the following night in Portland, ME. It was not cute, nor was it funny. It detracted from an otherwise pleasant evening. She preached that the arts are a distraction from the troubles of every day life and serve to bring everyone together. And, then she used her station to offend half of her audience. I’ve always loved her rendition of “Popular.” She has forever ruined the memory of that song. Shut up and sing, Miss Chenoweth.