For Hollywood’s much-loved, much-visited Bowl, “opening night” has always been an elusive concept. For the classical-minded, opening night is the first Los Angeles Philharmonic concert, scheduled this year for July 11. That event, however, is usually preceded by a full slate: “family” concerts, fireworks concerts, serious programs by visiting orchestras, even a full-length opera (“Madama Butterfly” on July 9).
To that list, this year’s playbill added an opening night gala to inaugurate the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame and honor its first two inductees, filmdom’s man-of-all-music John Williams and country-music original Garth Brooks. Despite typical “June gloom” leaden skies, the stars were there nonetheless and a near-capacity crowd rejoiced audibly in their presence.
One of the evening’s multitude of speechmakers likened the new Hall of Fame to baseball’s establishment, which is an actual building in Cooperstown, N.Y. That may be a tad premature; fame in Hollywood is often insubstantial and so, so far, is the “hall.” The contributions of these first two inductees, however, are solid, proclaimed by a long star-studded list on hand.
Steven Spielberg, at least for the moment, claimed to owe everything in his films to John Williams’ music; a harrowing shot from his “Jaws” and a deliciously weepy bit from “E.T.,” projected on the Bowl’s big screen with the insidiously involving music delivered live by John Mauceri’s Hollywood Bowl Orchestra underneath, suggested proof.
Tribute to the nonpareil Brooks came eloquently from Whoopi Goldberg and Glen Campbell (who returns to the Bowl for next week’s “Fourth of July Spectacular”). Brooks himself, meanwhile, staked out possession of the Bowl and several surrounding counties with a spellbinding rendition of a clutch of his standards.
Also involved in the evening’s grab-bag: the “Sweet Strings” assemblage of moppets sawing through a kiddie tune on cut-down violins, beneficiaries of a South Central educational program; superstar operatic baritone Rodney Gilfry in a virtuoso exercise; eccentric magicians Penn & Teller in a number compromised when an overly enthusiastic stage stooge tore the sleeve off Penn’s straitjacket, but antic nonetheless; a raucous fanfare to something-or-other, delivered by the USC Marching Band in full uniform; and, at the end, the inevitable but cherishable burst of Bowl fireworks.
They may still be cheering.
Hollywood Bowl Gala