If the audience for Friday evening’s Broadway ’97 concert at the Hollywood Bowl was expecting Rebecca Luker and Davis Gaines to be soup and salad to main dish Patti LuPone, they were in for a surprise.
All three Broadway stars enlivened conductor John Mauceri’s weekend “trip up the Great White Way.” Although the anticipated world premiere of symphonic music from “Rent” wasn’t ready, Mauceri led the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra through hits from such classics as “Candide” and “Show Boat” and such crowd-pleasers as “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Beauty and the Beast.” There were suites from last season’s “Titanic” and “King David” and from this season’s “Ragtime.”
The star of the evening had to be Gaines. Whether singing out room assignments aboard the Titanic, performing William Brohn’s new arrangement of “Old Man River” or caressing Andrew Lloyd Webber’s very familiar “The Music of the Night,” Los Angeles’ longest-running Phantom essentially stole the show from Luker, possessor of one of the purest, sweetest voices around, and sassy diva LuPone.
The “Phantom” selections proved to be the long, packed evening’s unexpected high point. Luker and Gaines had performed the show on Broadway together some years ago, when Gaines, not yet cast as the Phantom, was playing suitor Raoul to Luker’s Christine. Earlier this year, they’d appeared together in New York’s Encores! presentation of “The Boys From Syracuse,” and the chemistry carried over here.
In a testimonial to the Bowl’s much-improved sound system and their own musical training, all three soloists were incredibly clear; you could hear every syllable. The 48-member Mitch Hanlon Singers fared less well and, at times, the orchestra drowned out even a belter like LuPone.
LuPone, who rivals Bette Midler for stage confidence, also seemed underutilized without the snappy patter of her solo shows. But making her third appearance with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra--"she’d like to be known as our band singer,” Mauceri quipped--she dramatically delivered her assorted anthems from both “Evita” and “Sunset Boulevard.”