From Vegas...


By • Dec 23rd, 2000 •

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The series is billed as ‘The Big City Season,’ and indeed, Marvin Hamlisch provided the right touch. When we last saw Maestro Hamlisch he was performing in the elegant concert hall of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC. A premiere performer of his caliber portends an exquisite season of artistic engagements that is befitting of the cosmopolitan city that Las Vegas is becoming, one that can attract big name entertainment to venues other than The Strip.

While the audience was comprised of people who generally would be qualified to join AARP, they thoroughly enjoyed the performance and proved they will support quality entertainment. Few seats remained vacant and several spontaneous standing ovations were rightfully awarded to Hamlisch and his extremely accomplished accompanying tenor Stephen Lehew.

Hamlisch not only entertained the crowd with his phenomenally adroit piano ensembles, but also with frequent bursts of extemporaneous humor. For instance, he quickly thanked the floral committee for their hard work – but there were no flowers on the stage – and engaged audience members who were shading their eyes from the intrusive spotlights.

Marvin Hamlisch is a consummate songwriter well known for dozens of award winning tunes for Broadway and Hollywood. To demonstrate his versatility, he challenged the audience to provide titles to yet unwritten songs, ones that he would instantly compose for them. The first suggestion was, “I Ate a Hotdog” which was followed by, “A Blossom in November.” Accepting these he spontaneously created songs that generated peels of laughter.

His attendance at The Julliard School was repeatedly pronounced, as were several other indications of his many accomplishments. He rapped the Academy Awards selections by playing a selection of losing songs that went on to become more famous than the those selected for Oscars from the same year group. In fairness, Hamlisch has won three Oscars, four Grammies, three Emmys, three Golden Globes, and a Tony award, so we should not feel too sorry for him when a few songs remained nominees – they don’t really call them losers.

Again interacting with the audience, Hamlisch accepted a series of questions. Though asked out of turn, he saved till last a question about what it was like to work with Barbra Streisand. Early in the evening he had noted that one of his first real jobs was as a rehearsal pianist for her in Funny Girl and admitted that the position was mostly a “gofer.” Suspecting the person asking the question had heard of Streisand’s public reputation, Hamlisch most cordially indicated that she was an unparalleled virtuoso and those supporting her must be prepared to give 110% of their effort. He went on to lavishly praise her and state that Streisand’s forthcoming album taken from her recent performance at the MGM Grand will be one of the best ever recorded.

The audience was extremely appreciative of the nearly two-hour performance by Hamlisch. The power and range of Stephen Lehew repeatedly brought them to their feet. Graciously included were members of the Choir Members from UNLV and the First Presbyterian Church. They will all remember the night they had the honor of performing with Marvin Hamlisch. And UNLV knows that their Big City Season is off to an impressive start.

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