Ravinia is the perfect spot for a concert . The fabulous Pavilion with near perfect sound allows the audience within to hear every note being played and or sung. Tonight, in their special tribute to the late Marvin Hamlisch, “Play It Again, Marvin!, we were treated to an introduction by his widow, Terre , who then turned over the microphone to our host down memory lane, Kevin Cole. During the two hours of story telling and history, we also were able to see some videos and slides of the man who brought the world of entertainment some fine memories. We saw him as a child, as a genius composer/musician and his growth in an industry that is not that easy to break into.
We learned about his family and their closeness and devotion to each other. We also learned, again through the stories and his music how important his creations were to his life. Cole had the good fortune of working with Hamlisch for many years and one can see just how much love he had for this man who created some of the finest musical pieces in our day. With the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the direction of David Alan Miller, his music became even stronger to us as we enjoyed two hours plus.
The evening began with what they called the “Marvin Medley” where bits and pieces, almost like a tease took us on the start of a journey that began back in the 1940’s when his parents came to the United States to start anew. After that “A Chorus Line Concerto” made up of a combination of his Award- Winning music. Vocalist Sylvia McNair joined the festivities as she performed “Dreamers” from “Jean Seberg” ( a work that many are unfamiliar with), and then Mr. Cole hit us with “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows” (how many people even knew that this was one of his?). Maria Friedman joined in with “Smart Women” from “Imaginary Friends” and then we heard the theme from the film, “The Swimmer” written for Burt Lancaster.
Ms Friedman took us to her improve class with “Nothing” from “A Chorus Line” and then joined with Ms McNair for “A Mother’s Voice” a wonderful tribute to Marvin’s love of his mother , that brought a tear to my eye. Cole then showed us the honky tonk style that was the theme from “The Sting” to close out the first section of the evening. As the orchestra and performers took their break, I walked around the beautiful park located near Lake Michigan in Highland Park. It was a beautiful clear night, allowing the park to be filled with picnickers and they were wall to wall, truly enjoying the experience of the evening (without the video screens that are IN the venue). If you have never been to this landmark park for entertainment, I ask, “why not?”. You are missing one of the greatest entertainment venues in the Midwest!
Act two began with Hamlisch’s “Nobody Does It Better” ( who knew he did a James Bond theme-“The Spy Who Loved Me”), followed by a song one of my favorite musicals ,’They’re Playing My Song”, from the musical, “They’re Playing Our Song”) with a video of him performing at the piano. Brought back some fine memories. One of his later shows, the musical version of “Sweet Smell of Success”, which premiered here in Chicago, before Broadway has some wonderful music, but not as well known. Jeremy Hays joined our soloists during the second half. “Sweet Smell of Success” based on the hit film of the same name, opened in New York around the tragic events of September 11th, and you can imagine why it did not have results that are akin to “A Chorus Line”.
When we heard Ms McNair do “Through the Eyes of Love” from “Ice Castles” it was used to show us the love story between Marvin and his wife, Terre- their meeting, their courtship and their wedding pictures and memories shared with all of us. A very special segment that I know I will remember for many years. Thanks to Ravinia for bringing something this special to us. Other numbers in the second half were “If You Remember Me” from “The Champ”, the theme from “Sophie’s Choice” and for the final number, “The Way We Were” handled by our three soloists. There was a standing ovation, well deserved may I say and they did please us with an encore, “What I Did For Love” which we did as a sing along- Marvin Hamlisch wrote all that he wrote for his love. His love of music and the ability to share it with the world. Again, thanks Ravinia! Thanks Terre for allowing us to share your life and thank you for the music, Marvin Hamlisch!
To keep up with other concerts at Ravinia, visit www.ravinia.org