Whoever christened this weekend's Buffalo Philharmonic concert "A Hollywood Spectacular" knew what he was talking about.
Is this concert ever spectacular!
You don't see setups like this anymore. In the front of the stage, there's a singer (Broadway veteran Judy McLane, in this case), in a slinky gown and long white gloves, bowing deeply and singing things like "Long Ago and Far Away" and "The Trolley Song." Behind her, you've got an entire orchestra blasting. And behind them, there's a chorus, joining in at key moments.
Who can beat this? As a true lover of old movie corn, I say, bring it on!
In some ways, the chorus was the best part. It was the proverbial gilding of the lily, embodying that spirit of excess for which Hollywood is famous. What a thrill it was, during that colossal music for "Gone With the Wind," to hear a real, live chorus start crooning "Dixie." And the chorus itself introduced the rousing "On the Atcheson, Topeka and the Santa Fe." When McLane came in with the Judy Garland part, the mood was straight out of the '40s.
Kudos to charming guest conductor Jack Everly. He is so passionate about getting that old Hollywood sound that he makes his own arrangements from faded piano scores. The horns and strings that accompanied McLane in "The Man That Got Away" and "Three Coins in the Fountain" sounded right off old records.
McLane's voice is a marvel, her enunciation and phrasing exquisite. (For whatever it's worth, it's the first time I've ever understood the lyrics to "My Heart Will Go On.") The program was a neat splicing of old and new: Film composer John Williams certainly got his due, with "Schindler's List," a suite from "The Phantom Menace" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark."
Luckily, most of the show, which repeats tonight, is devoted to the old. When do we get to hear this stuff these days? It's sheer, lovely nostalgia -- not only in sound, but in spirit.
A Hollywood Spectacular Buffalo Philharmonic, guest conductor Jack Everly, vocalist Judy McLane.
Program repeated at 8 p.m. Saturday.
Kleinhans Music Hall.