A Hall-of-Fame-Caliber Night at the Hollywood Bowl


What a great way to start a summer season! There may well be things to carp about in the coming months, but the Hollywood Bowl did everything right Friday for this year’s opening-night gala.

Continuing to add members to the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame, the program centered on five new inductees: opera diva Marilyn Horne, the comedy troupe Monty Python, blues-rocker Bonnie Raitt, Broadway musical performer John Raitt and singer-songwriter Stevie Wonder.

Further adding to the star glow, introductions were provided by Jeff Bridges, Constance Towers, John Williams, Robin Williams and Smokey Robinson. The program was additionally enhanced by the presence of an enormous screen placed above the stage, providing for close-up views of the various participants, including the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra under the baton of John Mauceri.


Horne, introduced by the Hall of Fame’s first member, film composer John Williams (inducted last year with country singer Garth Brooks), displayed her sumptuous sound primarily in a brief set of popular songs.


The father-and-daughter honorees--John and Bonnie Raitt--were introduced, respectively, by Bridges and Towers. Interestingly, they sang contrasting love songs (presumably without any intentional subtext)--Bonnie Raitt delivering a throaty, sensuous rendering of “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” John Raitt following with “If I Loved You.” They closed with a delightful back and forth exchange on “Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better).”

Robin Williams, introducing Eric Idle (who accepted the award for Monty Python), generated one laugh after another, winding up with a description of Monty Python as “a group of men who are to comedy what Barbra Streisand is to rap, what George W. Bush is to language.”

Idle presented a collection of Monty Python film clips before ripping off his jacket to reveal a plaid shirt and launching into a full-out version of the classic “The Lumberjack Song,” accompanied by a Canadian Mountie-clad chorus.

The climax arrived with Wonder, looking large but sounding as melodically memorable and rhythmically infectious as ever, reminding the audience of what hit songwriting is really all about with soulful renderings of “My Cherie Amour,” “Living for the City” and “Superstition.”

The final fireworks might have seemed superfluous, but the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra’s lively rendering of the “William Tell” Overture was brilliantly illuminated by a fireworks bow sending a fireworks arrow directly across the stage into a fireworks target. It was the perfect closing metaphor for a show that had, indeed, hit the bull’s-eye.