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.
"I'm thrilled to be back in Philadelphia with the Philly Pops and especially to honor Marvin Hamlisch. I have always had a fondness for the audiences here and great times with so many theatrical experiences, opening new shows and touring companies at the Shubert and Forrest Theatres, including How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, A Chorus Line, Sweet Charity and State Fair."
In recalling A Chorus Line's early history as a workshop with director choreographer Michael Bennett , who invited them to talk about what it means to be a dancer in show business. She says," We shared our childhood stories along with our personal experiences, and these stories became the inspiration for the score written by Ed Kleban and Marvin Hamlisch. The first workshop was a bit chaotic, undefined, but in the second workshop, when I heard the music, I was so moved. I felt that the magic of Marvin's music was lifting us into a whole different hemisphere. At The Ballet was the first song we heard as a company and I believe it captures the true heart of the show."
When asked how it feels to continue to sing Hamlisch's music, she said," After all these years later to be able to sing his music in Concert is still an honor and true joy for me. We keep him alive by performing his music. It's satisfying for everyone who loved Marvin and who loves beautiful music."
An accomplished Broadway star, Doug LaBrecque returns to The Philly POPS in this tribute to Marvin Hamlisch. His Broadway roles include that of The Phantom and Raoul in the Harold Prince production of The Phantom of the Opera and Ravenal in the Hal Prince revival of Showboat, which he also performed in Canada and Chicago. He was featured in Oscar Hammerstein's 100th Birthday Celebration on Broadway at The Gershwin Theatre, and toured nationally with Les Miserables. One of the most prolific concert performers of his generation, LaBrecque has been a soloist with some of the world's finest symphony orchestras including two performances with Marvin Hamlisch both at the Ravinia Festival with The Chicago Symphony and with The Pittsburgh Symphony.
He said about Hamlisch, "I had the wonderful opportunity to share the stage with Marvin on many different occasions. He had the quickest mind of anyone I have ever met which made for many evenings of lively backstage and onstage banter. Despite his stupendous success, I think people forget how truly versatile Marvin was as an artist."
Jodi Benson is pleased to return to the stage with The Philly POPS. An American actress, voice actress, and soprano singer, she is best known for providing both the speaking and the singing voice of Disney's Princess Ariel in The Little Mermaid and its sequels. Named a Disney Legend in 2011, Benson voiced the character Barbie in the 1999 movie Toy Story 2, the 2010 Academy Award winning movie Toy Story 3 and the Toy Story toon Hawaiian Vacation. On Broadway, she originated the role of Doria Hudson in the show Smile, composed by Hamlisch with book and lyrics by Howard Ashman.
The Philly POPS season continues with The Magical Music of John Williams from April 4 through 6, and the season ends with the four original stars of Broadway's "Jersey Boys" now known as The Midtown Men in a hip program of the music of the 60's from May 16 through May 18.
Tickets are currently for sale for all the 2013/2014 Philly POPS season and range in price from $33 to $110. Performances take place in Verizon Hall at The Kimmel Center of the Performing Arts at 300 S Broad St Philadelphia, PA 19102. Tickets may be purchased through http://www.phillypops.org or by phone at 215-893-1999.