The Hollywood Bowl season opened Friday night with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Assn.'s 4th annual Hall of Fame Gala, once again celebrating the induction of a group of artists into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame. Three of the acts -- singer Roger Daltrey (of the rock band the Who), the Smothers Brothers comedy-music duo and Broadway diva Patti Lupone -- were on hand to perform.
Another inductee, actor Nathan Lane, unable to be present, acknowledged the award via a characteristically whimsical, videotaped acceptance speech.
And the induction of the late Leopold Stokowski, founder of the Hollywood Bowl’s symphony orchestra in the 1940s, was celebrated by a performance of his orchestration of Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor” by conductor John Mauceri and the current Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.
The early moments of the evening offered a somewhat less than legendary note, however, via a brief set, featuring a surprisingly listless rendering of Don McLean’s “Vincent” by singer Josh Groban. Groban, a fast-rising young pop star, was present as the spokesperson for the concert’s beneficiary, the Philharmonic Assn.'s “Music Matters” education program.
Fortunately, the intensity level rapidly accelerated with the still vibrantly energetic Daltrey, swinging his microphone in trademark style, singing a pair of classic selections from Pete Townshend’s rock opera, “Tommy.” After the presentation of the Lane and Stokowski segments -- visible to the Bowl’s outer reaches via a huge video screen -- the Smothers Brothers strolled on stage. As with all great comics, the familiarity of their basic shtick -- a contentious, brotherly interplay (“Mom loved me better.”) -- in no way diminished the sheer hilarity of its impact.
Lupone’s appearance provided the climactic highlight. Sounding in rare form, she offered an extraordinary reading of “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina,” from “Evita,” brilliantly capping an evening that concluded with spectacular fireworks, which soared over the orchestra’s spirited performance of Stokowski’s arrangement of Mussorgsky’s “The Great Gate of Kiev.”