La Dolce Vita
"La Dolce Vita," Pasadena Pops' latest offering in its 2012 summer season of concerts at the terrific Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, in Arcadia, was a mix of poignancy and euphoria. The recent death of the organization's Principal Conductor, award-winning musician-songwriter Marvin Hamlisch, was a stunning blow to this musical company, and to the entertainment industry at large.
Though the shock of that recent news remained very much in the air throughout this bittersweet evening, the gifted singing trio, Poperazzi (tenors George DeMott and Cody Shawn Gay and soprano Janien Valentine), seamlessly blended operatic singing styles with pop favorites, offering a glittering array of solos and group selections. The singers were backed by the rousing accompaniment of the Pasadena Pops orchestra, conducted by Michael Krajewski.
The brilliance of Hamlisch's work in creating legendary Broadway scores ("A Chorus Line," "They're Playing Our Song") and classic film music ("The Way We Were," "The Sting") was saluted by Pops staff members, who also spoke highly of his professionalism and mensch-like personality. This was followed by a heartrending montage of projected photographs from his career, as the orchestra offered a short selection of Hamlisch classics, reaching an emotional peak in the lovely ballad, "What I Did For Love." The tasteful tribute paid richly due respect to the artist and the man and gave the audience a chance to share in the honors, leading to a standing ovation.
Then the theme of the evening got underway: a potpourri of Italian music or music associated with stellar Italian singers. The evening featured considerably less banter than prior concerts in this summer's series, putting the focus squarely on stellar orchestral numbers and showcases for the incomparable singing talents of this talented trio.
Poperazzi has gained wide popularity performing with symphony pops orchestras and on cruise lines, as well as other special events and in Las Vegas. Their vocal gifts were fully evident in the rich array of numbers included in this eclectic program.
Under the skillful leadership of Krajewski, the orchestra kicked off with an appealing medley of jaunty Italian folk tunes. Then the trio made a grand entrance, singing a lovely number from "La Traviata." Valentine followed this with a lilting delivery of Puccinni's "O mio babbino caro" from "Gianni Schicchi," showing her versatility and marvelous vocal range from the outset.
Gay followed this up with Cesare Andrea Bixio's heartfelt and melodic "Mama." DeMott enjoyed his first turn in the spotlight in a salute to legendary opera singer Luciano Pavarotti, offering a splendid medley of songs from "Rigoletto," a Rossini number, and others. The trio joined forces for "The Prayer," a gorgeous number written by Carole Bayer Sager and David Foster for the animated film "Quest for Camelot," originally sung by Celine Dion. The number built to a thrilling crescendo, performed by the three singers with great relish. A smashing singalong was another fine first-act feature.
Among second-act highlights were Valentine's vibrant and sexy delivery of the fabulous "Be Italian" from the musical "Nine" and Gay's swoon-worthy medley of great Frank Sinatra tunes ("I've Got You Under my Skin," "My Way" and "Fly Me to the Moon.") Bringing the evening to a smashing climax was a group medley of showstopping "Jersey Boys" tunes ("Big Girls Don't Cry," "Oh What a Night" and "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You.")
With a distaff performer among this group of Four Seasons "boys," those famous falsetto sounds of the legendary rock group will probably never quite sound the same. The encore number was a gangbusters rendition of Louis Prima's "Jump, Jive and Swing." A full course evening of delicious musical treats, the show was as satisfying as a gourmet pasta meal; spicy and scintillating.
"La Dolce Vita" was presented on August 18 by Pasadena Pops, Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, 301 N Baldwin Ave., Arcadia CA. For info or tickets on the remaining Pops summer season, call 626-793-7172 or visit www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org.