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OC LIVE : POP MUSIC : To Marvin, Barbra’s Worth Every Penny

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Perhaps no living American composer is as associated with Broadway and Hollywood as Marvin Hamlisch, who performs Friday and Saturday at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts. At 51, the New York City native is a multiple Oscar-, Tony- and Emmy-winning writer with a catalogue of songs and scores under his belt, including “The Way We Were,” “The Sting,” “A Chorus Line,” “Ordinary People,” “Ice Castles” and “Sophie’s Choice.”

Still, he perhaps is even better known for his long friendship and musical association with Barbra Streisand. He arranged and conducted the music for her much-ballyhooed concert tour last year; stops included The Pond of Anaheim.

“She’s the best,” Hamlisch said on the phone a few days ago. “I hope when I die that heaven is as good as working with her.

“It’s always terrific, wonderful. She’s the best singer in the world, but the truth of the matter is that if she didn’t have that voice, she’d still be one of the greatest people I ever met in my life. She cares about her country, she cares about her friends and she cares about her audience. I think her perfectionism, which everyone talks about a lot, should be considered a great plus. She wants things to be perfect not just for her, but for the people.”

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But, Marvin, what about those prices she was charging? Streisand, who indeed does proclaim her devotion to fans, came under fire during her tour for asking as much as $350 a ticket. Even the cheapest seats were, at $50, beyond the range of many people. How does this jibe with her avowed allegiance to John and Jane Q. Listener?

“You have to realize that was a very expensive show to mount,” answered Hamlisch, who was giving his first local interview since the tour. “You had the very best musicians, you had incredible sound, there was lot going on. Had they not had those prices, maybe the sound wouldn’t have been as good--who’s to say?

“I’m comfortable with it, but let’s put it this way: It’s a shame that [regardless of the act], there’s always going to be a certain amount who are aced out because ticket prices are what they are. And with Barbra not having toured in 27 years, there was a lot riding on this thing, so there were heavy costs involved.

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“And people can certainly buy the CD, which is affordable, and the concert was on CBS television, which was free.”

But, Marvin! A CD and a TV show are not the same as a live concert experience, not by a long shot. Couldn’t costs have been cut somehow to make the show more affordable? “OK, let’s say tickets were $1,” Hamlisch proposed. “There’s always someone who’s still going to say, ‘I couldn’t see her. She was standing behind a pole’ or something. No matter what you do, someone’s not going to be happy. It’s the nature of the beast.”

Oh, well. Hamlisch’s own fans can take heart that tickets for his Cerritos dates top out at 30 bucks.

* POP LISTINGS, F17

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* Who: Marvin Hamlisch.

* When: Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.

* Where: The Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, 12700 Center Court Drive, Cerritos.

* Whereabouts: Take the Artesia (91) Freeway to the Shoemaker Avenue exit and follow the signs to the center.

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* Wherewithal: $30, $26, $22 and $20.

* Where to call: (310) 916-8510.


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