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Concert Reviews:
Jason Alexander celebrates his love of theater at Orchestra Hall

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Monday, November 4, 2019

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DETROIT -- Though some "Seinfeld" fans may have hoped otherwise, George Costanza did not show up on Sunday, Nov. 3, at Orchestra Hall.

But Jason Alexander, the guy who plays him, showed that real life could be just as good, and maybe even better, than the fiction.

Though Alexander likened musical theater to illusion during the second of his two-show stand as part of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra's Pops series, his nearly 80-minute performance was impressively intimate and insightful and more true to the man than the characters he's portrayed on screen (large and small) and stage. Alexander opened himself as warm, funny and occasionally brusque, but in a genial way.

There were certainly touches of the snarky demeanor from his most famous TV alter ego, but Alexander in the flesh was appealing -- and enormously entertaining as a self-proclaimed, and self-deprecating, "internationally beloved comic and sex icon."

After the DSO Pops and droll conductor Robert Bernhardt set the tone with a short set -- including a "William Tell Overture" partly sung by the musicians -- Alexander spent his time on stage celebrating live theater and the direction it gave him in his life (as well as a Tony Award 30 years ago for "Jerome Robbins' Broadway"). Opening with a cheeky original tune that declared "I am here and that's so exciting for you" -- "The world most obnoxious opening number," he acknowledged -- Alexander credited his passion for theater to sister, 14 years his senior, and her collection of original cast albums, as well to his parents, who took him to see "The Music Man" when on Broadway when he was just five years old. Alexander also acknowledged the teen girl who randomly asked him "Do you sing?" during an encounter at a shopping mall, which led to his first role and a love affair that landed him his first Broadway role, in the short-lived "Merrily We Roll Along," when he was just 20.

Alexander -- accompanied by pianist Todd Schroeder, with occasional backing vocals and duets from his wife Carrier Schroeder -- performed songs from those productions as well as from "Pippin," another show that made an enormous impact on him as a young man. He also spoke about his onetime ambition to be a rock singer, donning a leather jacket for a medley of Billy Joel's "Only the Good Die Young," "And So It Goes" and "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant."

He saved the real highlights for the end, however. For another original composition, "Ring the Bells," he drafted seven audience members (of varying enthusiasm) to act out the parts in the song, complete with props, bells and a kick-line finale. And after a touching tribute to his late father, "I Am There," Alexander offered "The Inappropriate Medley," snippets of songs from shows he was told he would not be appropriate for -- ranging from "Oklahoma" and "Show Boat" to "Hamilton" and "Wicked" -- also with a batch of props.

There was certainly plenty of comedy -- and even more -- to be beloved in Alexander's DSO debut. Here's hoping this first visit wont' be his last.

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