New Jersey Symphony Orchestra
Bond & Beyond with the NJSO
Debbie Gravitte, Guest Artist
State Theatre, New Brunswick, NJ, June 5, 2016
Reviewed by Joel Benjamin for Cabaret Scenes
The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra was in its pops mode at the State Theatre in New Brunswick where the repertoire was almost exclusively songs, background scores and related music from the twenty-four James Bond films (plus some bonus tidbits). Michael Krajewski conducted the large ensemble and supplied some lighthearted commentary along the way, joking that he had prepared for this event by sitting through a one-day marathon of all the Bond movies. Snippets of the films were shown behind the orchestra.
Debbie Gravitte (pictured) was the guest vocalist, the perfect choice to sing the James Bond theme songs. She has the big belt of Dame Shirley Bassey and the expressive sadness of Adele, yet managed to put her own stamp on all the songs, all the while gracing the stage in an array of fancy gowns.
After an opening gambit of the pounding “James Bond Theme” (Monty Norman), the lush “Theme from From Russia with Love” segued into Gravitte’s powerhouse rendition of “Diamond Are Forever” (John Barry/Don Black) and a smooth, sensual “Nobody Does It Better” (Marvin Hamlisch/Carole Bayer Sager).
She also out-sang Madonna on “Sooner or Later” (Stephen Sondheim) from Dick Tracy, and boogied on down in a tight mini and huge blonde wig for “Secret Agent Man” (P.F. Sloan & Steve Barri). Both are non-Bond numbers, which also included a tribute to The Pink Panther’s “Inspector Clouseau Theme” and that movie’s theme (Henry Mancini) and, as an encore, the famous, tightly wound theme from the TV show Mission: Impossible (Lalo Schifrin).
Hearing these pop themes played by a large ensemble of expert musicians under the guidance of a conductor who understood and had fun with the music, was a treat. Add in the warm interpretations of Debbie Gravitte and it’s clear why the orchestra got a standing ovation.