Lawrence Toppman

Eva Noblezada defies gravity in a pops concert

Eva Noblezada made her professional Charlotte debut Friday with the Charlotte Symphony.
Eva Noblezada made her professional Charlotte debut Friday with the Charlotte Symphony. Charlotte Symphony Orchestra

Nobody covered Tryon Street in flowers or dropped confetti from office towers, but a champion flew back to Charlotte this week.

Eva Noblezada, who’s finishing her West End run as Kim in “Miss Saigon” and will step into the London “Les Miserables” after that, gave her first local professional performance Friday night with Albert-George Schram and the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra.

Folks who saw her as recently as three years ago in a musical at Charlotte’s Northwest School of the Arts can say, “I told you so.” The rest of us can just say, “Wow.”

She’ll turn 20 next month and already has the chops of an established Broadway star – not just a first-rate voice but stage presence. She sells a song without overselling it. She doesn’t show all of her top notes or vocal tricks at once. She sings evenly across her range and has unusually good diction, even at the top of it.

She can be touching without costumes or helpful stage lighting in “I’d Give My Life For You,” Kim’s song of sacrifice in “Miss Saigon,” then turn around for a gleeful “I Feel the Earth Move” by Carole King. And though the advertised “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” has been dropped from the program, she went to Oz in a different way: Her encore of “Defying Gravity” raised both the roof and the Knight Theater audience from its seats.

She sang just five numbers, each meaningful and each from a soundtrack or show. (King’s song will be heard when the national tour of the biographical musical “Beautiful” comes to the Belk in April.)

A video of “With You,” the ballad of loss from “Ghost the Musical,” won Noblezada an audition for “Saigon” producer Cameron Mackintosh, and you could see why when she did it here. “Let It Go,” co-written by Kristen Anderson Lopez – another former Charlottean – had pride, defiance and wit.

The rest of the program, titled “A Symphonic Valentine,” consisted of pieces related directly or tangentially to love. They were chosen more for musical value than lyrical pertinence: A Motown medley included “I Heard it Through the Grapevine,” about a man who’s about to lose his woman, and a Beatles medley featured songs about a guy with a broken heart (“Yesterday”), an overworked single mom (“Lady Madonna”) and a couple kept happy by the husband’s cross-dressing (“Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”).

The orchestra played these with good humor, even sauntering through overripe operatic bluegrass with the self-explanatory title “Carmen’s Hoedown.” Yet the musicians shone in more classical moments, from an excerpt from Wagner’s “Lohengrin” to a lush passel of Puccini melodies. Most of those came from operas about death by tuberculosis, suicide and homicide. But, hey – love takes many forms.

P.S. Noblezada repeats this show Saturday night but also sings at a Saturday morning Lollipops gig. Take your kids and show them what, with sufficient talent and dedication, they may become.

Toppman: 704-358-5232

Charlotte Symphony Orchestra

When: 11 a.m. Saturday (“It’s a Small World”) and 8 p.m. Saturday (“A Symphonic Valentine”) .

Where: Knight Theater, 430 N. Tryon St.

Tickets: $25.50-$84.50 (“Valentine”) and $19.50-$25.50 (“World”).

Details: 704-972-2000 or charlottesymphony.org.

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