×

Bobby Mcferrin, L.A. Philharmonic

Jazz vocalist, composer and aspiring conductor Bobby McFerrin's one-night engagement with the Los Angeles Philharmonic turned out to be an amiable holiday concert filled with surprises.

Jazz vocalist, composer and aspiring conductor Bobby McFerrin’s one-night engagement with the Los Angeles Philharmonic turned out to be an amiable holiday concert filled with surprises.

Working in shirt sleeves, his baton often stowed behind his ear like William Tell’s arrow, McFerrin led a semi-serious performance of the suite from Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” (which cracked up the audience); offered a free-flowing set of his signature jazz vocals; then ended with a vibrant, totally serious performance of the Symphony No. 7 by Beethoven. Now that’s range!

The high-spirited capacity audience slipped easily into McFerrin’s casual format. They joined him in a variety of sing-alongs; appreciated his humorous, offhand comments about the music and the orchestra; and in the end were mightily impressed by his no-nonsense approach toward the Beethoven symphony.

During “The Nutcracker Suite,” McFerrin kept up a constant repartee with the audience and musicians. “Come on. You know this,” he chided the audience, until he had them “tum, tum, tumming” along in unison to the strains of the opening march.

Next, McFerrin threw the orchestra a real curve, leading them in an impromptu performance of the opening theme to “Also Sprach Zarathustra.””Now we’re gonna play somethin’ by Dicky Strauss!” he announced. Then, without the aid of the score, the orchestra blurted and pounded out the familiar opening to “2001: A Space Odyssey.” It was a very funny moment.

For his solo set, McFerrin relied on material from past performances.

He ended with his comic star-turn reduction of “The Wizard of Oz,” during which he plays every character in rapid succession. Orchestra members could be seen huddled in the downstairs doorways watching and clapping.

But when it came to the Beethoven performance, McFerrin was in earnest. And although he was clearly aided by an orchestra that has played this piece 100 times and with as many different conductors, McFerrin imposed his distinctive personality on the performance.

Working (for whatever reason) without a score, he relies heavily on memory and musical instinct to find appropriate musical pathways. The result was a rendition that possessed both poetry and fire.

The poetry was particularly apparent in the gentle second movement, Allegretto, during which McFerrin relied on emotive hand gestures to communicate his intentions and desires.

It was a performance to make any tried-and-true conductor proud.

After a spontaneous ovation, McFerrin led the orchestra and audience in a hymnlike rendition of the “Mouseketeer Theme Song”: “M-I-C” (“see you next week, ” the audience responds) “K-E-Y,” etc. When Bobby McFerrin’s around, every day is Anything-Can-Happen Day!

Bobby Mcferrin, L.A. Philharmonic

(Dorothy Chandler Pavilion; 3,200 seats; $ 50 top)

Production: The Los Angeles Philharmonic Assn., music director Esa-Pekka Salonen, presents the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by guest artist Bobby McFerrin. Opened, reviewed Dec. 18, 1993.

More Legit

  • the way she spoke review

    Off Broadway Review: 'The Way She Spoke' With Kate del Castillo

    Since the 1990s, scores of women in Juarez, Mexico have been mutilated, raped, and murdered at such a rate that some have called it an epidemic of femicide—killing women and girls solely because they are women. Isaac Gomez’s play “the way she spoke,” produced Off Broadway by Audible and starring Kate del Castillo, confronts the [...]

  • HBO's 'SUCCESSION

    Brian Cox Playing LBJ in Broadway Run of 'The Great Society'

    Brian Cox will play President Lyndon Johnson in the Broadway run of “The Great Society,” playwright Robert Schenkkan’s follow-up to “All the Way.” The role of Johnson, a crude, but visionary politician who used the office of the presidency to pass landmark civil rights legislation and social programs, was originally played by Bryan Cranston in [...]

  • Paul McCartney Has Penned Score for

    Paul McCartney Has Been Secretly Writing an 'It's a Wonderful Life' Musical

    The pop superstar who once released a movie and album called “Give My Regards to Broad Street” really does have designs on Broadway, after all. It was revealed Wednesday that Paul McCartney has already written a song score for a stage musical adaptation of the 1946 Frank Capra film classic “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The [...]

  • The Night of the Iguana review

    West End Review: 'The Night of the Iguana' With Clive Owen

    If Tennessee Williams is the poet laureate of lost souls, none of his characters as are off-grid as the restless travelers trying to make it through his little-seen 1961 play, “The Night of the Iguana.” Holed up in a remote Mexican homestay, its ragtag itinerants live hand-to-mouth, day by day, as they seek refuge from [...]

  • Moulin Rouge Broadway

    Listen: The Special Sauce in Broadway's 'Moulin Rouge!'

    There are songs in the new Broadway version of “Moulin Rouge!” that weren’t in Baz Luhrmann’s hit movie — but you probably know them anyway. They’re popular tunes by superstars like Beyoncé, Adele and Rihanna, released after the 2001 movie came out, and they’ll probably unleash a flood of memories and associations in every audience [...]

  • Greta Gerwig and Oscar Isaac

    Greta Gerwig and Oscar Isaac to Star in Anton Chekhov's 'Three Sisters' Adaptation

    Greta Gerwig and Oscar Isaac are taking on an adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s “Three Sisters” for New York Theatre Workshop in Manhattan. The company announced on Tuesday that they will feature two final performances to round out the 2019 to 2020 season, including the Chekhov play. “Three Sisters” will be directed by Tony award-winning Sam [...]

  • montreal just for laughs Comedy Festival

    Montreal's Just for Laughs Festival Is the 'Coachella of Comedy'

    Every summer, Montreal becomes the epicenter of the comedy world as the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival takes over the Canadian city. Now in its 37th year, the mindboggling scale of the festival is there in the numbers: more than 1,600 artists from across the globe (speaking English, French and other languages) performing 250 shows [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content