The Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra's "My Funny Valentine" on Saturday was billed as a program of romantic music, but it wasn't all boy-meets-girl.
Featuring Michael Andrew and Swingerhead, the concert was just as much a love letter to musical theater with a moving tribute to composer Marvin Hamlisch and a look at Andrew's stage musical, "The Nutty Professor."
So, a mixed bag of programming — but nicely held together by the affable charisma of Andrew and combined musicality of his swing band and the orchestra.
To be fair, the "Nutty Professor" sequence did include the comic love song "Stella" and the years-long project is obviously near and dear to Andrew's heart. The musical, based on the 1960s Jerry Lewis comedy, won critical applause in its Nashville premiere last year, and hopes are high it can get to Broadway.
An early version of the show debuted at the 2004 Orlando Fringe Festival, but for most Central Floridians, Saturday afternoon was the first time they encountered the nuttiness.
Andrew has the science-geek shtick down pat, and the show's featured songs were clever and tuneful, especially "A Definite Maybe" in which Andrew's character ponders how to make himself more cool.
Another song from the show, "While I Still Have the Time," can easily become one of those musical-theater anthems beloved of tenors and baritones. It served as the closing number to the Hamlisch medley, a highlight of the show.
Hamlisch composed the music to "Nutty Professor," and the tribute medley, including "One" and "What I Did for Love" from "A Chorus Line," was augmented by personal photos of the musical giant who died in August. Andrew shared memories of working with Hamlisch, which injected a note of humanity into his polished stage repartee, honed no doubt during his years as bandleader at New York's celebrated Rainbow Room.
Andrew also arranged many of his songs, including standards such as "Sway" and "Night and Day." He favors arrangements that feature big bursts of brass from the orchestra, which rose crisply to the occasion.
As an arranger, Andrew also throws in clever effects. Some are obvious: The orchestra strings create a train-like sound for the opening of "I Thought About You." Others are more subtle but just as effective: A single violin, played by concertmaster Rimma Bergeron-Langlois, adds poignancy when heard behind Andrew's warm voice in "As Time Goes By."
Percussion, strings and piano gave an extra jolt of life to Billy Joel's "New York State of Mind" and a bouncy "Everybody Loves Somebody," most often associated with Dean Martin.
The Philharmonic, under the direction of Albert-George Schram, opened with Gershwin's Cuban Overture, which despite Schram's energetic style, felt a little too safe.
But the musicians soon loosened up. How could they not with Andrew crooning such tunes such as "Almost Like Being in Love," "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" and a toe-tapping "That Old Black Magic?"
The program is repeated at 8 tonight at the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre, 401 W. Livingston St., Orlando. There are still some tickets left, $29-$39. Go to OrlandoPhil.org
Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times