West Palm Beach, FL — Maestro Lee Musiker and the Palm Beach Pops ended their comeback season with a bang Sunday March 8th at The Kravis Center with a tribute to the music of the late, great composer/pianist Marvin Hamlisch.
With a number of first-rate orchestral arrangements, solid performances by the musicians and guest vocalists, and an experienced hand at the helm, the Pops have hit its stride, closing out the season with a polished and beautifully executed program equal to its subject.
Thank you to The Palm Beach Pops for this tribute to Marvin Hamlisch! — Terre Blair Hamlisch and The Family of Marvin Hamlisch.
Hamlisch’s diverse career produced plenty of stellar material – from Broadway to Hollywood to the Top 40 and everything in-between – and the Pops provided a healthy dollop of every genre in the tribute.
Kicking off the show with a great instrumental version of the obvious opener, One from A Chorus Line, the orchestra was spot-on tight from the first downbeat under Musiker’s steady baton.
SONG: “One” from A Chorus Line
Then came a rare treat: Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows, an early composition by Hamlisch that was a big hit for Lesley Gore in 1963. Wringing every last bit of teenage giddiness out of the upbeat tune were the three guest soloists. Donna McKechnie won a Tony as the original Cassie in A Chorus Line, Doug LaBrecque has appeared in Phantom and starred in the Broadway revival of Showboat, and Jodi Benson is known to generations as the original voice of Ariel in Disney’s The Little Mermaid. Also lending their considerable voices on a few numbers were the talented members of the Young Singers of the Palm Beaches and the Maltz Jupiter Theatre’s Youth Touring Company.
We Remember Lesley Gore. — Song “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows”
Hits kept coming:
Throughout the program the hits just kept on coming: A nice duet with Benson and LaBrecque on The Last Time I Felt Like This (from Same Time, Next Year, Film, 1978), McKechnie reprising her Cassie on the inspiring The Music and the Mirror from A Chours Line, (Broadway, 1975) and Benson nailing the ballad Through The Eyes of Love (from Ice Castles, Film, 1978). Of special note was the emotional At the Ballet – also from A Chorus Line – that featured a trio including Benson, McKechnie and 17-year-old Cara Young, a Dreyfoos performing arts student from Wellington, FL., who effortlessly held her own with the pros.
VIDEO: Through The Eyes of Love -
No Hamlisch retrospective would be complete without a little Scott Joplin ragtime, and Musiker took on the daunting task of playing The Entertainer, the familiar theme from 1973’s The Sting. After a rocky start – Joplin’s work is famously frustrating — the maestro quickly clicked into gear, even adapting the tune further into a tasty jazz version on the second pass.
Another highlight was a gorgeous arrangement of the main theme from Sophie’s Choice, (Film, 1982), one of more than 40 film scores to Hamlisch’s credit. Starting slowly with Cornelia Brubeck’s haunting solo cello, the piece moved seamlessly through the sections, from the violins over to the woodwinds, eventually building to the full orchestra.
LISTEN: “Love Theme” from the 1982 film Sophie’s Choice:
The momentum continued to build into the finale, starting with Benson hitting all the marks in a passionate reading of The Way We Were. Then the rest of the performers came onstage to close out the evening with a rousing Chorus Line “twin-spin” of What I Did For Love and the iconic show-stopper, One — a mini-production in itself, complete with choreography and the full second verse counterpoint.
By building upon its foundation of solid musicianship and an unwavering dedication to music education — and adding the notable talents and experience of its new music director — the Palm Beach Pops is back up to full speed. It’s now running on all cylinders, setting the stage for next year with a big win to close out the season.