July Fourth Fireworks Spectacular with Barry Manilow
The silky-smooth pop-song crooning of beloved vocalist Barry Manilow brought back fond memories of the 1970s and '80s, while an awe-inspiring fireworks display shared the spotlight, coupled with stirring patriotic classics performed by the LA Philharmonic, under the baton of ace conductor Sarah Hicks.
This stellar evening of entertainment was the Hollywood Bowl's annual July Fourth extravaganza, performed over a three-night run in the majestic outdoors venue. A capacity crowd quickly got into a celebratory mood, which became more euphoric as the jaunty evening-under-the-stars progressed on opening night.
The star attraction, of course, was the ever-vivacious Manilow, whose singing voice was as accomplished as ever, during recreations of some of the most memorable hits from his illustrious career. At age 69, Manilow's song styling was as fit as a fiddle, and his famous charisma was in full bloom throughout his segment.
Looking classy and youthful in a black tuxedo and delivering the goods in smashing renditions of about a dozen of his chart-topping tunes, Manilow seemed to take those of us of a certain age group on a time-capsule trip some 25 years or so back to his career heyday. Oozing charm during his brief moments of banter, and pulling off some impressive dance moves, the superstar scored his biggest laugh when referring to himself as "the 1970's Justin Bieber."
He started off his set with the hauntingly lovely, "Could it Be Magic," as the lyrics to this number proved to be an apt precursor of his full set of songs to follow. His ability to belt out showstoppers such as "Weekend in New England" and the always-welcome "Mandy" with style, clarity, and expert musical prowess was rapturously received by the audience.
Manilow is a song stylist who effortlessly segues from mellow to powerful, building numbers to thrilling crescendos. A segue from the beautiful "Somewhere in the Night" to the dynamic "Looks Like We Made It" exemplified Manilow's solid creative instincts, as contrasting moods and building intensity frequently paid off for him.
Other dramatic numbers that wowed the crowd included Andrew Lloyd Webber's evergreen "Memory" from "Cats," and an inevitable audience favorite, "I Write the Songs." The Frankie Valli classic "Can't Take My Eyes Off You," a Jersey Boys favorite, wowed the crowd, and an even more rapturous response was given to "Copacabana," arguably Manilow's best-known number, performed with unbridled gusto here. Red glow sticks created a stunning sight, as audience members stood up, sang along and swayed to the music.
Preceding the entertainer's set was a rousing orchestral segment, performed by the LA Phil Orchestra, including Williams' "Liberty Fanfare," Gould's "American Salute," Bernstein's "West Side Story Suite," Copland's "Hoedown" from "Rodeo," Prima and Healey's "Sing Sing Sing" and Art Lowden's galvanizing "Armed Forces Salute," which paid due tribute to U.S. war veterans, as the audience eagerly applauded to express honor and respect for them, as they stood up.
During the sensational fireworks display at the end of the evening, Sousa numbers included "The Washington Post," "Semper Fidelis" and "The Stars and Stripes Forever." Manilow's famous rendition of the classic "Let Freedom Ring" provided a perfect lead-in for the Sousa selections. Salutes for the dazzling fireworks display are due to Souza (pyrotechnics) and Eric S. Elias (pyrotechnic operator in charge).
The Hollywood Bowl typically offers a delicious array of summertime treats. This uplifting and musically sublime salute to a historic date we must always remember seems a cinch to be one of this year's most memorable offerings.
"July Fourth Fireworks Spectacular with Barry Manilow," is presented on July 2-4, by the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, 2301 North Highland Avenue Los Angeles, CA. For info or tickets on the remaining Hollywood Bowl season, call 323-850-2000 or 800-745-3000 or visit hollywood-bowl.com.