Feinstein’s at the Regency is celebrating Oscar week with an appreciation of Henry Mancini, the prolific film composer and four-time Academy Award winner. Mancini’s daughter Monica hosts the tribute, prefacing her father’s songbook with this pointed observation: “The Oscar songs fall into three categories: Those that won, those that were nominated and boy, we was robbed!”
Monica Mancini’s approach to a song is smooth and straightforward. It’s an easy-listening hour, sans frills and flourish. Her phrasing is tastefully dictated by the melody, and she’s careful to keep the structure of her father’s song as the prominent voice.
The familiar repertoire summons cinematic memories of Audrey Hepburn in various romantic escapades with Cary Grant, Albert Finney and George Peppard. “Moon River,” the singer notes, was written in a half-hour and almost didn’t make it into “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
Her father’s personal favorite was “Two for the Road,” written for the marital travelogue pic with lyricist Leslie Bricusse. The infectious melodic line and Mancini’s purring invitation to “come wander through the world with me” made it the program’s warm highlight.
“The Shadow of Your Smile” turned out to be the single most important legacy from “The Sandpiper,” a “Liz and Dick beach party,” as Oscar emcee Bob Hope quipped. Lyric duty was done by Paul Francis Webster.
Evening also featured a new lyric written by Will Jennings for the theme from “The Molly McGuires.” The sober coal mine drama, which boasted a rich score, is reborn in “Music on My Mind,” but the none-too-distinguished lyric has nothing to do with the film.
The singer also pays tribute to lyricist Johnny Mercer, a frequent collaborator of her father’s and the subject of her new Concord CD. “Ac-Cent-Tchu-ate the Positive,” written with Harold Arlen, and “It Had Better Be Tonight” from “The Pink Panther” served as the jaunty tandem act openers.
A nostalgic touch arrived via a video appreciation by the late Jack Lemmon, who recalled the Mancini wit. When asked by a friend who missed the conclusion of a film to explain exactly how it ended, the composer replied, “With a French horn on a high C!”