Saturday’s performance of the three-day “New York, New York” program marked the 250th time that John Mauceri has performed with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. (Indeed, Saturday was declared John Mauceri Day by Gov. Davis.) And in some ways, the concert was a self-portrait of Mauceri, the confirmed New Yorker who also grew to revere the legacy of Hollywood. Perhaps never before has timing dictated the content of the Hollywood Bowl’s annual Great American Concert as emphatically as it did over the past weekend.
Under the circumstances, one could expect a degree of earnest remembrances in the deal — and much of that came from Daniel Rodriguez, the New York City police officer who suddenly found himself thrust to fame after singing patriotic songs in the wake of 9/11. Outdoors, he displayed a conventional, clearly enunciating, Broadway belting style in things like “Shenandoah” and Earl Robinson’s wartime tolerance song, “The House I Live In.” Mauceri also reprised Jerry Goldsmith’s eloquently somber “September 11, 2001,” written in a day or so and unveiled here Sept. 14.
But no, this concert was not for flag-wavers only, for Mauceri was unsentimental enough to program music that practically screamed New York in all of its vitality, cynicism, irreverence and urbane nostalgia.
To be sure, Hollywood got its say, too, as Mauceri, choosing well, led key excerpts from “Laura,” “On the Waterfront” and “North by Northwest,” and there was a cabaret segment with piano accompaniment. But the concert’s heart was in the music by Mauceri’s mentor Leonard Bernstein — three numbers from “Wonderful Town,” “West Side Story’s” mambo, and “On the Town’s” “New York, New York.” Likewise, the excerpts from Stephen Sondheim’s “Company” were even more wired into the electrified ethos of the Big Apple, especially “Another Hundred People,” whose hurried, tense lyrics and pacing make it the quintessential New York song. Though Mauceri’s tempos tended to be consistently slow, Broadway babies Davis Gaines, Judy Kaye and Rebecca Luker delivered the tunes in the right brassy, edgy theater style.
And rightly showing that you can’t keep a good New Yorker down, Mauceri chose to go ahead with his annual sardonic “State of the Union” monologue — L.A. as seen through a slightly jaundiced Gotham eye.