By Robert D. Thomas
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News
Pasadena Pops Orchestra; Marvin Hamlisch, conductor
Saturday, August 27, 2011 • The Lawn Adjacent to the Rose Bowl
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.
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.
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.
• Before the concert, CEO Paul Jan Zdunek reported that ticket sales for next season have already exceeded 500% of the recently completed season. Since he didn’t provide hard numbers, it’s a little hard to judge that increase effectively but it does appear that the move to the Arcadia facility seems to be popular with many people.
• Helicopter are a nuisance at all outdoor concerts but the low-flying and circling aerial intruder last night wins the year’s award as the summer’s most obnoxious distraction, so far.
• The video camera work continues to be very spotty, batting about .333 in landing on the correct soloist at any orchestral point in the program. In an area that makes a gazillion movies, TV shows, TV commercials, et. al, one would think that the direction and camera work could be better.
(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.