Megan Hilty and Cheyenne Jackson in NSO Pops: Broadway and Beyond at the Kennedy Center

The pair's star quality provides delightful entertainment this Valentine’s weekend

If your ideal Valentine’s date is cheerful, charming, and looks fantastic in formal wear, then get thee to the Kennedy Center to spend an evening with Megan Hilty and Cheyenne Jackson.

Megan Hilty and Cheyenne Jackson in ‘NSO Pops: Broadway and Beyond.’

The Broadway, television and music stars, together with the National Symphony Orchestra, are providing a delightful night of entertainment this Valentine’s weekend in NSO Pops: Broadway and Beyond.

Charismatic entertainers with gorgeous voices plus the National Symphony Orchestra is a formula that darn well has no reason not to work. Both stars effuse an old Hollywood vibe, Hilty fully embracing Cupid’s holiday with a stunning strapless red gown in Act 1 followed by sequins on sequins on sequins for Act 2.

The pair of friends (plus 100 other friends comprising the National Symphony Orchestra) have constructed a fun, feel good, classy concert well-suited to the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Hilty and Jackson weave standards like “Old Devil Moon” and ballads like “I, Who Have Nothing” with witty banter and funny personal stories.

The evening begins with the orchestral arrangement of “The Carousel Waltz,” led by guest conductor Damon Gupton. This lets the NSO flex their muscles and show what they can really do before plucking along to less instrumentally challenging numbers like “Popular.” They open Act 2 with the sweeping “Love Theme” from Superman by John Williams.

The first song with vocals by Hilty and Jackson is “Here’s to Love.” On Thursday, it took the sound team the length of the song to get the audio levels right in the house. It was difficult to hear Hilty over the orchestra. It’s safe to assume they have this ironed out moving forward.

The pacing of the evening is excellent: one instrumental, a couple of duets, some Hilty, some Jackson, a duet, joke, repeat, bow.

Highlights of the evening include Hilty’s medley of Annie Get Your Gun songs (she starred in the 2015 New York City Center production) and Jackson’s full-voiced rendition of “Feelin Good,” an homage to his new role as parent of twins. It’s also a real treat to hear the two of them sing “Suddenly Seymour” (a hat tip to Hilty’s starring turn in Little Shop of Horrors in the Broadway Centerstage series last year at the Kennedy Center.)

One of the most touching points of the concert was Jackson’s tribute to his late father, an original tune called “OK.” Jackson used the opportunity to share a bit of his story from growing up without running water in a town of 1200 in Idaho to leading Broadway man. (What a life!)

Smash (the musical television show Hilty starred in on NBC for two seasons) fans looking for songs by composers Shaiman and Wittman will not be disappointed. Hilty sings a few of her favorites from the show and Jackson does impressive work filling in for Katherine McPhee in the penultimate duet, “Let Me Be Your Star.”

While the evening includes a few achy moments (the good kind), for the most part Broadway and Beyond feels light, a welcome bit of escapism. The star-quality radiating from the stage of the Kennedy Center Concert Hall this weekend is palpable. So grab your Valentine, put on a red dress of your own (or tux if you’re more of a Cheyenne than a Megan) and enjoy a delightful evening tapping your toes at the Kennedy Center.

Running Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes including one intermission.

NSO Pops: Broadway and Beyond with Megan Hilty and Cheyenne Jackson plays through February 15, 2020 at the Kennedy Center – 2700 F Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 467-4600 or go online.

[Related: Megan Hilty discusses her upcoming Kennedy Center concert, Smash, and love (interview)]

Set List:
Act 1:
Orchestra Selection (Carousel Waltz)
Here’s To Love
Something Stupid
Annie Get Your Gun Medley
Heart of the Matter
Feelin Good
Besame Mucho
Old Devil Moon
Suddenly Seymour

Act 2:
Orchestra Selection (Love Theme from Superman)
Get Happy
They Just Keep Moving The Line
Second Hand White Baby Grand
History Is Made At Night
I, Who Have Nothing
Let Me Be Your Star
That’s Life


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