Concert Review: Marvin at the Movies

Pasadena, CA — Marvin Hamlisch and the Pasadena Pops Orchestra concluded their 2012 season last night, Hamlisch’s first with the orchestra and the ensemble’s second and last at The Lawn Adjacent to the Rose Bowl (they move to the Los Angeles County Arboretum in Arcadia next season). What appeared to be the largest crowd of the season came out on a balmy evening to hear music from the movies.

Hamlisch spent somewhat more time regaling the audience with funny stories than he did in his last concert and the musical selections were longer than has occurred this summer; the evening included, among other things, multi-work pastiches from composers George and Ira Gershwin and Max Steiner. One of the evening’s highlights was a tribute to dancer-director-actor Gene Kelly, which featured a “tap-dancing” display by percussionist Jason Goodman who had the shoes (and argyle socks) on his hands so that the audience could see, as well as hear.

Vocalist Susan Egan was a sparkling soloist in pieces by Judy Garland (ending, of course, with Over the Rainbow) and from the musical Cabaret (Egan played the role of Sally Bowles in Cabaret on Broadway in the 1988 revival). As has become standard for Hamlisch concerts with the Pasadena Pops, he offered a “special unannounced guest,” in this case, Melissa Manchester, who sang Through the Eyes of Love (the theme song written by Hamlisch for the movie Ice Castles) and the title song from The Way We Were, for which  Hamlisch won an Academy Award in 1973.

See Schedule — Buy Tickets. Season 2012–2013

The second half opened with the music written by John Williams for Star Wars, which was supposed to be accompanied by space images from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory but they never appeared. The evening’s “official” program closed with George Gershwin’s An American in Paris, the most extensive piece Hamlisch has conducted so far with the Pops. Hamlisch alternated between catching the jazz influences of this important piece and dutifully beating time. However, the orchestra, which played splendidly throughout the evening, shone in Gershwin’s famous 1928 piece, which was subsequently used in the 1951 MGM musical that starred Gene Kelley and Leslie Caron.

Watch: Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron

Along the way were spiffy solo offerings by orchestra’s principals: Trumpeter Melissa Benedict, Flutist Louise DiTullio, Clarinetist Donald Foster, Oboist Leanne Becknell and Concertmaster Amy Hirshberger.

Source: Robert D. Thomas


One comment

  1. During his first wave of national fame in the mid ‘70s, American composer/arranger Marvin Hamlisch was a much sought-after talkshow guest, due not only to his quick wit but to the fact that he looked the part of the nice Jewish boy who’d been Julliard’s youngest-ever student. The son of a prominent Viennese musician, Hamlisch was working on Broadway even while attending college, as Barbra Streisand’s rehearsal pianist for Funny Girl. After some minor theatrical composing, Hamlisch met producer Sam Spiegel, which led to Hamlisch’s first film scoring assignment, the teeny-bopper musicale Ski Party. Working quickly and inexpensively, Hamlisch created a demand for himself in the world of medium-budget “personal” film productions like Frank and Eleanor Perry’s The Swimmer (1968) and Woody Allen’s Bananas. In 1972, he was the accompanist/arranger of Groucho Marx’ S.R.O. Carnegie Hall appearance, which led to even more valuable showbiz contacts. When Hamlisch finally hit it big in 1974, he hit it BIG — winning three Academy Awards in a single evening, one for The Sting (1973) and two for The Way We Were (1973). America literally fell in love with this grinning, bespectacled, slightly dishevelled young man who seemed so comfortable with, yet so shy about, his limitless talent. From the night of that Oscar ceremony onward, producers fell over themselves entreating Hamlisch to add prestige to their projects; frequently, as in the case of the 1975 TV bomb Beacon Hill, Hamlisch’s music was the only recommendation. Marvin Hamlisch has remained active in all branches of show business for the last two decades; the quality of the projects may have varied wildly at times, but Hamlisch can always take comfort in the fact that his Tony-winning music and lyrics for A Chorus Line were composed for the longest-running musical in Broadway history. ~ Hal Erickson at