Chautauqua Institution's 117th season is right on top of us. Technically, it begins on Sunday at 10:45 a.m. when President Daniel L. Bratton delivers the traditional three taps of the gavel to open the season's first religious service in the Amphitheater. That might be called the opening of the "institutional" or "program" season.
But for all practical purposes, Chautauqua really has two seasons. The other is the "entertainment" season, whose gala kickoff is set for 8:15 p.m. Saturday when "An Evening With Marvin Hamlisch" takes over the Amphitheater. A composer, pianist and conductor, Hamlisch is a towering, all-purpose Hollywood/Broadway talent with dozens of film scores and several Oscars to his credit, plus the all-time record-setter, "A Chorus Line," which won both the Pulitzer Prize and the Tony Award in 1975 and only recently closed its initial run.
The entertainment lineup for the first full week of the season offers a huge variety of attractions, all at 8:15 p.m. in the Amphitheater: Monday, Restless Heart, an up-and-coming country band; Tuesday, An Evening of Reggae With Jimmy Cliff, one of the pioneers of the Jamaican style, and Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, the Nigerian Afrobeat king; Wednesday, American song, from ragtime to Broadway to the latest pop classics, with soprano Joan Morris and pianist/composer William Bolcom; Thursday, An Evening With Wayne Newton, the ultimate Las Vegas entertainer, and next Friday, An Evening With Pianist Chick Corea and Bobby McFerrin, whose incredibly imaginative wordless vocalizations seem like the ultimate limit of scat singing. -- Herman Trotter