An uproarious speech from Eric Idle and Bernadette Peters’ zesty run through three Richard Rodgers numbers highlighted the opening of the Hollywood Bowl’s 80th season as Peters, Randy Newman, Kathleen Battle and the late George Harrison were inducted into the Bowl’s Hall of Fame.
Evening was a relatively low-key affair, bookended by two brisk perfs from the Los Angeles Philharmonic that were given a boost of personality from a big screen suspended at the center of the Bowl’s shell; from the boxes to the cheap seats, Esa-Pekka Salonen’s hearty conducting enhanced the Philharmonic’s buoyant playing.
Each honoree delivered three performances — Kathleen Battle went opera, Gershwin and spiritual; Randy Newman conducted and then sang his Oscar winner “You Got a Friend in Me” and “I Love L.A.”; Peters delivered a powerful “There is Nothin’ Like a Dame” in between “Some Enchanted Evening” and “Something Wonderful.” Billy Preston, who played keyboards on several Beatles albums, rendered Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” gospel-style.
Evening’s proceeds benefit Music Matters, a program that supports music education in Los Angeles schools. As a nice touch, “Will and Grace’s” Eric McCormack introduced four music teachers on hand and their students who had submitted winning entries in an essay contest on music education.