Evening of Audra Mc Dinald and Americana at the Hollywood Bowl
It was an evening of American classics at The Hollywood Bowl with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under the baton of Bramwell Tovey. The opener was Leonard Bernstein’s “Overture to West Side Story,” which was followed by the superb silver-voiced soprano, six time Tony winner, Audra Mc Donald. The evening closed with The American Ballet Theatre dancing Bernstein and Jerome Robbins’ “Fancy Free.” It does not get much more American than that.
The charming and witty Bramell Tovey was in fine form. He said we were in for an evening of American classics, and apologized for his British accent and “sorry for 1776.” With that, Tovey said we could have been ruled by the Queen for sixty years. The Overture was lively and Tovey conducted with grace and eloquence. He introduced the so very talented Audra Mc Donald, and this woman has a magnificent voice as Broadway will attest. She sings effortlessly, and the notes just glide through her. She also is an engaging and down to earth entertainer who knows how to reach her audience. Audra told us she had flown in from New York Tuesday for that evening’s show, rushed to LAX to fly back so she could be home in New York for her teenage daughter’s first day at high school. Then, she flew back to Los Angeles for Thursday evening’s show. This is a woman dedicated to her family and to her music. Thus, she said she was a little off. You could not tell by her singing. The only sign was when she had to ask Tovey what song was next.
Mc Donald opened with Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock’s “When Did I Fall in Love?” from Fiorello. Her singing was glorious and as she acted the song, every nuance showed in her face, and came through her voice. There was not one false emotional note. She followed with Rogers and Hammerstein’s “It Might As Well Be Spring” from “State Fair” and Lerner and Lane’s ‘Hurry, It’s Lovely Up Here” from “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.” With each song, she told a story, sang to a build and owned every subtle feeling. Those feelings were transparent. Mc Donald gave us a change of pace in an utterly delightful comedic song by Frank Loesser first sung by Betty Hutton in the movie, “Let’s Dance.” “I Can’t Stop Talking about Him” was a comedic gem. Even Mc Donald said it gave her diaphragm a workout. It’s a fast paced song and Mc Donald showed no sign of being out of breath. The orchestra joined in on the refrain and repeated “I can’t stop talking, can’t stop talking, can’t stop talking about him.” They punctuated the humor. Her “Moon River” was so smoothly done, and again she sang effortlessly. The song poured out of her. She had the audience join in on “I Could Have Danced All Night.” She had some competition from some sopranos in the front. She told us “big finish” and we did. That was so much fun!
For another change of pace, Mc Donald shared that she sings songs that touch the heart and the repeated daily news of violence bothered her. She said the next song by Julie Stein, Comden/Green was her mantra and something she strived for daily and would for the rest of her life, “Make Someone Happy.” “Love is the answer, once you’ve found them; build your world around them.” I teared up on that one. That led into “Climb every Mountain.” And, again, every note rang true, every emotion. It was sublime. The audience did not want Audra Mc Donald to leave the stage. They stood up, applauded, hooted and hollered. And she came back to do her encore to a song from 1939, sing by the incomparable Judy Garland. And, yes, that was Garland’s signature song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” As Mc Donald said that song is so “Judy, Judy, Judy” and every performer who sings that song is compared to the iconic Garland. But Mc Donald made it her own. Where Garland belted, Mc Donald sang softly and smoothly, and I got goosebumps. It was sung with love and reverence as Mc Donald was accompanied by Alan Steinberger. Audra Mc Donald got her second standing ovation. And, still the audience did not want Mc Donald to leave. The applause could not convince her to do another encore. The ABT was waiting in the wings.
After intermission, the stage was set for Bernstein and Jerome Robbins’ “Fancy Free” with the original bar set, and original choreography from 1944. Dancers from The American Ballet Theatre performed. The story centers around three sailors who come into the bar in Manhattan. They meet one girl, two girls and strut their stuff in a conquest to see who gets the girls. They are one girl short. Each tries to outdo the other. They drink, they strut, show off, fight and do boys get girls? It seemed an exercise rather than a complete work. It was pleasant but that was it. The costumes were period, from the 40’s and considering it was the original choreography, it was modern in feel. It just lacked oomph and zing. Pleasant, but lackluster. This music became “On the Town,” which is enjoying a Broadway run right now starring ABT’s Misty Copeland. “On The Town” features three sailors who have a night on the town with a 24 hour leave in Manhattan. It was inspired by “Fancy Free.” The sailors were played by Arron Scott, Sterling Baca, James Whiteside, the bartender by Duncan Lyle, and the girls by Luciana Paris, Isabella Boylston, and Leann Underwood.
The audience had hoped for maybe a finale by Mc Donald to bring us up, but that did not happen. She may have been on her way to LAX to fly back home to New York. She left us in awe of her talent and musical genius and wanting for more.
The season is coming to an end, but there still are programs for audiences to enjoy into September. E. T., the film accompanied by John Williams’ music with David Newman conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic is featured this weekend. There are classical evenings with Rachmaninoff and Dvorak, Gershwin and Berloiz, The Fireworks Finale with B-52 and the Psychedelic Furs, Jazz at Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis, ABBA, Empire of the Sun and Grace Jones.
To reserve seats before the season ends, call 323-850-2000 or go on line to www.hollywoodbowl.com Check out Park and Ride and shuttle service, or the convenient stacked parking at the Bowl.