Marvin Hamlisch: Warm Here…Warms Hall
By Glen Creason
Marvin Hamlisch, the multi-award winning composer, conductor and maestro of the piano left the frigid, airport tarmac of New York City on Saturday to land in balmy Cerritos where the thermometer rested above 80 degrees for his Sunday matinee at the Performing Arts Center. This turned out to be a great move for both Hamlisch and music lovers on the left coast as his concert charmed with wit and uplifted with melodies and songs he has written or just loves to play. The show included the excellent Broadway vocalist Gary Mauer who added just the right touch to some truly great songs, eliciting a couple of standing ovations mid-concert. Hamlisch combined stories of his career that began with the 6 year old wunderkind getting accepted to the Juilliard School after playing “Good Night Irene" in his admission test in several keys. His sixteen years of study at the famed NYC school of music are evident in his skills at the huge Steinway where he could take the simplest melody, like “happy birthday” and turn it into a Beethoven symphony (this really happened.) Not only does Hamlisch have tremendous command of his instrument, he has marvelous taste in popular music, including many of his own wonderful compositions.
At Cerritos, he played the familiar and the obscure which all sounded terrific coming from that grand piano that figured into some comedy in the second half of the show. The lilting and beautiful theme from a forgotten film called “the Swimmer” was a case in point of a melody that lingers while the images in the movie do not. His medley of “songs that only four people know” was really fine, adding a thousand more fans of “If You Remember Me” from the remake of “the Champ.” Of course, Hamlisch has been involved in some of the biggest hits ever including “Nobody Does It Better,” “the Way We Were,” “One” and “What I Did for Love” from “A Chorus Line” and the music from the classic film “The Sting” which hit the spot for nostalgia. He also chose well from the treasure chest of Broadway playing stirring versions of "Someone to Watch Over Me,” “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered,” and “Send in the Clowns” that flowed from his piano like silk and satin. Gary Mauer sang gorgeous renditions of Richard Rodgers “This Can’t Be Love,” and “Some Enchanted Evening,” along with “Bring Him Home” from “Les Miserables” and “Music of the Night” from “Phantom of the Opera” that brought the delighted audience out of their seats.
Marvin Hamlisch has genuine class and he needed little more than that grand piano to make a fine show. Yet, he allowed the audience to participate in a giving suggestions which ended in the stage crew lead by Alma turning the instrument completely around to give the “other” side of the hall a look at his fingers on the keyboard. The show had a generosity and warmth that maybe came from Hamlisch’s gratitude for our gorgeous Fall afternoon but everyone was happy. His astounding treatment of the most memorable Chorus Line tunes and a sweet encore was a microcosm of the concert with music filling the big hall from back to front and from the balcony to the boxes.