They’re Playing Our Song
No this isn’t a revival of the popular 1979 musical, "They’re Playing Our Song," but in this entertaining orchestral and vocal concert, a generous portion of that Broadway score is sung by the show’s original stars, guest artists Lucie Arnaz and Robert Klein.
These actor-singers and the illustrious Pops orchestra perform under the baton of renowned Tony-Grammy-Emmy-Oscar-winning songwriter Marvin Hamlisch ("A Chorus Line," "The Way We Were," "The Sting"), Pasadena Pops’ principal conductor.
Moving from the Rose Bowl adjacent lawn to the Los Angeles County Arboretum in Arcadia for the 25th anniversary of its annual outdoor summer concert series, the Pasadena Pops kicked off its seasonal roster with a splendid evening under a cool summer breeze on June 16. The star power onstage was equal to the glow coming from the gorgeous skies.
The particularly ebullient Arnaz, daughter of the legendary showbiz couple Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, of "I Love Lucy" fame, was in tip-top form in a dazzling song-and-dance segment, which kicked off the second act in high style. Costar of her mother’s long-running series "Here’s Lucy" during the 1960s, Arnaz subsequently blossomed as a singing star in Broadway and regional productions, as well as movies and television.
During this show, she proved that she still has the stuff, and then some. With sass, pizzazz, and a still-terrific singing voice, her rendition of Cy Coleman’s "The Best is Yet to Come" proved prophetic. An Irving Berlin medley ("I Love A Piano," "Slap That Bass," "Drum Crazy" and "Alexander’s Ragtime Band") was likewise stellar.
Paying tribute to her Cuban father, she was equally spectacular in the numbers "Quiereme Mucho" and "Cumbanchero." Performing the show stopping "Hey, Look Me Over" from her mother’s Broadway musical "Wildcat" provided an opportunity for Arnaz to honor her redheaded superstar mother as well. This portion of the evening was a class act all the way.
Less tasteful was Klein’s extended series of songs and gags about old age and bodily functions, kicked off by "Colonoscopy." Many patrons appeared to be uncomfortable, put off, or both, by this segment, though a huge portion of the audience roared with laughter. One shouldn’t be prudish in the modern age, yet this prolonged segment would perhaps be better suited for a nightclub act or a stand-up comedy club.
The gifted comic-singer Klein fared far better when he and Arnaz took stage for a spiffy medley of upbeat songs and love ballads from They’re Playing Our Song: the familiar title tune, "Falling," "If He Really Knew Me," "Right" and "Still Believe In Love."
Hamlisch, who won a Tony nomination for this score, along with his one-time flame, lyricist Carol Bayer Sager, provided brief narration between some songs, bringing us sort of a Readers’ Digest version of the musical, as mature performers seamlessly slid into rom-com roles from their younger years, This musical is reportedly inspired by Hamlisch and Sager’s real-life love affair.
The orchestral segments were marvelous, highlighted by a lengthy "My Fair Lady" medley, and a group of classic TV themes ("Dragnet," "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," "The Honeymooners," "The Lone Ranger," and concluded by-what else? -- "I Love Lucy").
The acoustics in this venue are wonderful, and huge video monitors aided greatly in visibility throughout the sprawling seating area.
The remaining concerts in the summer 2012 Pasadena Pops season include Michael Feinstein in Concert, conducted by Hamlisch, July 21; "La Dolce Vita," with guest artists, the Popperazzi group and guest conductor Michael Krajewski, August 18; and Gershwin on the Green, conducted by Hamlisch, with guest artist Kevin Cole, September 8.
"They’re Playing Our Song" was presented on June 16 by Pasadena Pops, Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, 301 N Baldwin Ave., Arcadia CA. For info or tickets on the remaining Pops summer season, call 626-793-7172 or visit www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org.