Philly POPS honors the United States, Disney and modern love

Philly POPS honors the United States, Disney and modern love
Photo: Bachrach.Photo

A Disney star and surprise onstage proposal wowed a large crowd in front of Independence Hall during a beloved Independence Day Eve tradition.

Philly POPS honors the United States, Disney and modern love

On July 3, concert goers picnicked on the lawn and waved miniature American flags during the free annual POPS on Independence concert. The Philly POPS orchestra performed on a stage with Independence Hall as the backdrop. The iconic Philadelphia landmark gains new meaning around July 4, and acts as a central location for Independence Day celebrations. Though audiences can consistently expect a dazzling performance of American favorites by the orchestra, the performance last Wednesday included a few special guests.

Singer and actress Susan Egan joined the orchestra for a glamorous performance of “Yankee Doodle”, the third song in a series of patriotic classics to help set the mood. Conductor Todd Ellison turned to Egan to welcome her to the steps of Independence Hall.

“You never thought you’d share a stage with George Washington, right?” he said during the show, gesturing toward the statue of the first American president.

Performing in this concert with the POPS has a significant meaning for Egan. She is actually a self-described “huge geek” for all things related to the American Revolution, so she was extremely moved by having the opportunity to sing directly in front of Independence Hall.

“Philly is where it all started,” said Egan after her performance. “It was surreal to walk behind the orchestra to step onstage and read the plaque that said, ‘The building where the United States was born’. You walk down the streets and imagine what it was like when this brain child of a country began.”

Egan’s is a renowned singer and actress, and her career includes playing not just one, but two Disney princesses. She was the original Belle when “Beauty and the Beast” debuted on Broadway and voiced the sarcastic Megara in the Disney adaptation of “Hercules”. Egan and POPS performed a compilation of iconic princess solos from throughout Disney’s history, including the songs sung by new princesses changing what it means to wear a Disney crown.

“I love they are outcasts, they are neurotic, and I love how their music has become a score for so many generations,” she said. “When new princesses come out and I sing their songs, it’s a testament to Alan Menken, whose legacy inspires writers to write for family films and Broadway.”

In addition to the tribute to all things Disney, the concert had another fairytale moment. Briana Maiden, 27, and Matthew Modzelewski, 29 joined the POPS onstage during the middle of the show. Their appearance was initially disguised as them winning a contest, but Modzelewski bent down on one knee and asked Maiden to marry him. When he slipped the ring onto her finger, both the audience and orchestra cheered.

Modzelewski and the POPS started planning the proposal more than six months before the concert. Maiden said her new fiancé joked about proposing at the annual concert earlier this year, but she didn’t take it seriously. 

“It was hiding in plain sight, so that way she would never expect it,” said Modzelewski. “Our first official date was at the Philly POPS three years ago, so that’s why I wanted to come back.”