For the annual "Great American Concert" at the Hollywood Bowl, conductor John Mauceri decided to focus on "Heroes and Superheroes". The concert began with Gershwin's "Strike Up The Band". This was followed by Mauceri's annual "State of the Union" address, during which he discussed (in a delightfully amusing way) the correct way to order coffee at Starbucks. After that, it was time for a tribute to the American Presidents. Having studied under Leonard Bernstein for 18-years, Mauceri decided to play some excerpts from Bernstein's ill-fated musical, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The music itself was very "Americana", and the song "Ten Square Miles on the Potomac River" was quite humorous (it discussed how the name "Washington, D.C." came to be chosen). The songs were performed by baritone Rodney Gilfrey of the Los Angeles Opera, Tony nominee Marin Mazzie, and the Mitch Hanlon Singers. This was followed by Copland's moving "Lincoln Portrait", with narration provided by acclaimed vocal artist William Warfield. Warfield had won a Grammy for his reading of the "Lincoln Portrait", so it was a real treat to hear him speak at the Bowl.
After a brief intermission, the "Hero" portion continued, with a tribute to the common man - appropriately enough with a performance of Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man". In honor of Gian Carlo Menotti's 90th birthday, his prelude from Amelia Goes to the Ball was performed as a tribute to the Immigrants of this country. Finally, a bit of film scoring made its way into the program. - Richard Rodger's "Guadalcanal March" from Victory at Sea was performed, with all the energy expected of such a piece. A bit of the Broadway then came on board, with a tribute to Broadway heroes. Mazzie sang "Back to Before" from Ragtime, a song that she premiered on Broadway and garnered her a Tony nomination. Gilfry performed "Soliloquy" from Carousel, and then the two performers joined in a duet for "People Will Say We're In Love" from Oklahoma!
Now it was time for the Superhero portion of the show. Emmy-winning composer Kristopher Carter assembled his score from Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker into an 8-minute suite, specially for the performance. The fusion of orchestra and hard rock made it a truly exciting performance. The only problem was that the drums and the guitar tended to drown out the exciting orchestral work - but that's why everyone should go get the original soundtrack album. Nonetheless, it was exciting to hear this suite performed live. The concert ended with a suite of music from John Williams. The "March from Superman" blended into the "Imperial March" from The Empire Strikes Back, which then merged into the "Raiders March" from Raiders of the Lost Ark. What made this suite so exciting was that there were fireworks timed to the music - and it was quite a display! (I apologize for forgetting my camera, and not having any photos to show you!) It was truly a spectacular finale to a wonderful evening at the bowl.
But as with every Bowl performance, just because the concert is over does not mean that you're done! After returning to the stage, Mauceri led the bowl in "Stars and Stripes Forever", a nice Patriotic way to cap the night. But wait, there's more! As a special sneak peek at "Television Night at the Bowl", the orchestral performed W.G. "Snuffy" Walden's wonderful main theme from the hit television show "The West Wing". It was great to hear it with a full orchestra, and I can't wait for "Television Night" to see what else they have in store! For the third (and final) encore, William Warfield came back on stage to sing "Old Man River" from Show Boat - the same song he had sung in the original film exactly 50-years ago. It was an incredible performance, and at 81 years old, Warfield still had the voice and energy for the part.
All in all, Mauceri did a wonderful job delivering a first-class performance at the Bowl. The musical selections were varied and interesting, and the live performers did a wonderful job. If you get a chance, do try to make it to the Bowl (if you're in California) for next year's "Great American Concert" - I'm sure it will be just as spectacular.
Special thanks to Rochelle Roe at the Hollywood Bowl Press Office.