Marvin Hamlisch and pianist Kevin Cole jazzed up symphony season with two evening performances of Gershwin tunes at Copley Symphony Hall this weekend.
Aside from getting to hear the numbers listed in the program, Saturday night audiences were also treated to many musical and conversational bonuses. The show started with Maestro Hamlisch taking the piano and serenade someone in the audience with the 'Happy Birthday' tune in the styles of Bach, Mozart, Chopin, and Gershwin (concert goers were successfully cajoled into joining in during the last variation... Most of us couldn't sing in tune, but there was strength in number!). He and the versatile San Diego Symphony then proceeded to acoustically hypnotize the now quieted down spectators with lively takes on the 'Overture to Girl Crazy', 'Swanee', medleys of Gershwin film scores, show tunes, and selections from 'Porgy and Bess' (yes, you know a few tunes from this 'opera', too! At least the one shown in the clip below).
The SDSO's pianist/celeste-player Mary Barranger took an impromptu but sultry turn at the piano with 'the 2nd Piano Prelude' as the fun loving Hamlisch jived the orchestra into a full blown jazz fever highlighted by excellently demented instrumental solo passages.
Kevin Cole's lively playing of 'Rhapsody in Blue' (plus an encore) gave the hall the jitterbug and his rendition of 'Our Love Is Here To Stay' hushed the house (the dude could even sing really well!). A second grand piano was magically produced at the end and the two pianists gave a rousing jamming session of 'I Got Rhythm'.
After the final curtain both Hamlisch and Cole took a seat at the stage apron and fielded questions from the remaining audiences for nearly half an hour afterward. I think they all took off for a reception at a hotel nearby afterward, but I didn't go. Had to catch a bus home at 10:40PM.