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Concert review: ‘Frozen’ prince charms crowd in Tabernacle Choir’s summer show

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Santino Fontana sings with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square during the "A Summer Celebration of Song" Pioneer Day concert, July 18, 2014 at the Conference Center.

By Catherine Reese Newton

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Jul 18 2014 10:44PM
Updated Jul 19, 2014 12:50PM

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir nabbed a cool guest star for its summer concerts: Santino Fontana, the voice of Prince Hans in "Frozen." Though it was the Disney blockbuster that put him on the pop-culture map last November, Fontana is an established Broadway star, and those skills served him well Friday.

After a pair of pioneer hymns from the choir and Orchestra at Temple Square, it was off to Broadway and the movies. Choral arrangements of "Tonight" and "Somewhere" from Leonard Bernstein’s "West Side Story" came off well; the Tabernacle Choir sopranos sounded particularly lovely in the delicate final bars of "Somewhere." Then Fontana bounded onstage with a spot-on rendition of "Something’s Coming."

Fontana is a first-rate singer, with impeccable phrasing and rock-solid technique. He also has abundant charm, effortlessly playing to the back row of the cavernous LDS Conference Center while simultaneously looking natural in close-up shots on the venue’s giant screens (and, presumably, in the pair of selfies he snapped on his phone). But most of all, he’s a fine actor who slipped smoothly into a succession of characters — Tony from "West Side Story," the Prince from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s "Cinderella" (a role that got him nominated for a Tony Award), King Arthur from Lerner and Loewe’s "Camelot," the hero of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s "Promises, Promises" and even Peter Pan — and made each one sound distinct.

There was hardly a glimpse of duplicitous Prince Hans, but that seemed to be just fine with the eminently likable Fontana. "I wanted to make sure all 21,000 of you know that that was acting and that I’m a good guy," he noted late in the show.

Because Hans’ one song in the film is a duet, and because Kristen Bell wasn’t around, there was no music from "Frozen" in Friday’s concert. Disney was well-represented nonetheless with songs from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" and "Pinocchio." It’s rather striking to listen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir merrily whistling on "Whistle While You Work" and attacking "Heigh Ho!" with great gusto and to realize that these are the same people who, not so long ago, were singing Handel’s "Messiah" and the Berlioz Requiem.

The concert’s momentum began to snowball with Richard Elliott’s organ solo, the "Hot Pipes" movement from Victor Davies’ Jazz Concerto for Organ and Orchestra. Elliott brought down the house, as he does every year, but this time he brought the Orchestra at Temple Square along for the ride. Solo turns from three unbilled orchestra members added to the fun.

Fontana closed the show with an exuberant medley of songs about happiness, capped by Pharrell Williams’ "Happy."

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