Philly POPS to Present Musical Tribute to Marvin Hamlisch, 3/14-16
From One Singular Sensation to The Way We Were, composer Marvin Hamlisch left a legacy of hits that have brightened Broadway and the musical catalogue of America forever. And, now, The Philly POPS is proud to present "Marvin Hamlisch - A Musical Tribute" conducted by Larry Blank, Hamlisch's conductor, and three of his favorite singers ... Donna McKechnie, Jodi Benson and Doug LaBrecque. Taking place on Friday, March 14 (8 p.m.), Saturday, March 15 and Sunday, March 16 (3 p.m.) in Verizon Hall at The Kimmel Center, Blank and the guest artists will not only present wonderful musical memories with the audience, they'll share personal recollections of Marvin Hamlisch as well.
Marvin Hamlisch won virtually every major award that exists for his work as a composer: three Oscars, four Grammys, four Emmys, a Tony and three Golden Globe awards. For Broadway, he wrote the music for his Pulitzer Prize-winning, groundbreaking show, A Chorus Line as well as They're Playing Our Song, The Goodbye Girl and Sweet Smell of Success. He was the composer of more than forty motion picture scores including his Oscar-winning score and song for The Way We Were and his adaptation of Scott Joplin's music for The Sting, for which he received a third Oscar. He received two Emmy Awards as Musical Director and arranger of the 1994 television special Barbra Streisand: The Concert. And, in addition he held multiple positions as principal pops conductor for orchestras throughout America and at the time of his passing, was preparing to take over the music director position of The Philly POPS.
Most appropriately, one of Hamlisch's favorite conductors, Larry Blank, is guest conducting his tribute. He is one of the most prolific and sought after composers, conductors, and orchestrators in the entertainment business today. His work has been presented all over the world, including some of Broadway's most successful musicals, Carnegie Hall, and top television and film projects. Blank was Hamlisch's conductor from 1979 into the 80's and then, after he moved to California, he conducted with Hamlisch occasionally through the years, including his last concert date.
Blank knew Marvin Hamlisch and his music very well. He was the original conductor of They're Playing Our Song, and was the conductor of A Chorus Line on its first road tour. Blank remembers an early meeting with Hamlisch. He said, "It was 1979. I walked into Marvin's apartment and we hit it off immediately. It was then that he asked me to conduct They're Playing Our Song." But, that was only the beginning. He continues, "During that run, Marvin hired me for all of his concerts. I was conducting Playing and Marvin called and said, 'Get on a plane and come to LA.' I went to the Dorothy Chandler Music Center, and there's a huge orchestra - the LA Philharmonic. Marvin puts a stick in my hand and said, 'Get up there and conduct.' He hired me from then on to be his POPS conductor. Within two years, I had guest conducted every POPs orchestra in the United States."
No stranger to Philadelphia, Blank said, "I cut my teeth at Valley Forget Music Fair. Then in 1974, I conducted A Little Night Music at the Forrest, did Sugar Babies at the Shubert and I conducted the world premiere of Baby Case at the Arden Theater in October 2001."
Conducting throughout the world, one concert will always be a poignant memory, Hamlisch's last. It was for the Pasadena Pops Orchestra with Michael Feinstein as the guest artist. Hamlisch invited Blank to conduct the first number, a Cole Porter Medley. It was July 21, 2012. He died August 6, 2012.
All the guest artists have experiences with Hamlisch but the actress perhaps best known for originating the role of Cassie in A Chorus Line, and receiving the Tony Award for her performance, is Donna McKechnie. She is regarded internationally as one of Broadway's foremost singing and dancing leading ladies, having starred in numerous productions in London's West End, Tokyo and Paris.