When Marvin Hamlisch blows through town to conduct the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, he always brings some big-city charm along with him.
And Saturday night's BPO Pops concert was no different, with a number of special guests joining Hamlisch and the orchestra for a cheery presentation of Big Apple-tinged musical fare.
The evening's original program included an appearance by Broadway belter Faith Prince, who canceled earlier this season, leaving Hamlisch and the orchestra to patch together a new lineup. And though the program did not exactly seem slapdash, Prince's absence could be consistently felt throughout the performance.
Aptly called "New York, New York," the concert was a grab bag of loosely New York-related tunes, ranging from famous Broadway shows ("Les Miserables," "On the Town," "Porgy and Bess") to medleys from Duke Ellington and Jerome Kern.
The orchestra was joined by the St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute Swing Choir, which gave its all to the Rodgers and Hart tune "Manhattan" and later danced its heart out to a cute collection of songs from the Broadway hit "Mamma Mia!"
Tenor Darius de Haas, who has performed in his share of Broadway shows himself, filled in for Prince on songs like Billy Joel's "New York State of Mind" and George Gershwin's "There's a Boat Dat's Leavin' Soon for New York." Though de Hass was by no means in impeccable voice, his sweetly nuanced vocals provided welcome interludes to the orchestra's instrumental medleys.
The evening's highlights came when the orchestra was given a chance to breathe, with the gorgeous music of Ellington, Gershwin and Ferde Grofe, whose "Niagara Falls Suite" provided some gorgeous romantic overtones. The second selection from Grofe's suite took on an almost mechanical, hammering rhythm -- mimicking the constant power of the falls -- and resolved into a beautiful progression of round, warm chords.
Three songs from Bernstein's "On the Town" also were given plenty of space to stretch out, and a playful interpretation from Hamlisch, who was also in top form with his trademark audience banter. A collection of Ellington classics -- "Sophisticated Lady," "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" -- had plenty of heads bobbing.
The evening wound up nicely with selections from the popular "Les Miserables."
All said and done, the BPO delivered a night of big sound, worthy of any big city.
Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
"New York, New York" with Marvin Hamlisch on Saturday night in Kleinhans Music Hall.