Award-winning composer Henry Mancini celebrated 30 years’ worth of musical memories Friday and Saturday at the Hollywood Bowl, accompanied by the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The pleasant-enough evening included clips from a pantheon of Pink Panther movies, tomfoolery from Mancini’s latest effort, “Tom and Jerry, ” and salutes to Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn.
For Mancini and his pink friend, the concert marked a simultaneous 30th anniversary, since the original “Pink Panther” (with Peter Sellers as the bumbling Inspector Clouseau) was released in 1963, which Mancini said was the first year he conducted at the Hollywood Bowl.
Swathed in pink light, the audience hummed along to familiar Mancini classics “Peter Gunn,””The Days of Wine and Roses,” the theme to “Charade” and, of course , Mancini’s all-time hit, “Moon River” from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” The latter climaxed the tribute to the late Audrey Hepburn.
There also was less familiar material, like the symphonically scaled “Whale Hunt” from “White Dawn,” which Mancini said was a personal favorite, and the theme from “The Great Mouse Detective.” And there were previews of coming attractions: selections from Mancini’s raucous new score for the animated feature “Tom and Jerry,” and a first airing of Bobby McFerrin’s clever vocal arrangement of the Pink Panther theme, which was accompanied by clips from Panther pix, ending with the soon-to-be-released “Son of the Pink Panther.” The clips were compiled by Maria Schlatter.
Mancini kept up an easygoing repartee with his audience and spoke eloquently about his work with Hepburn. But when it came to being pawed over by an oversize , costumed figure of the Pink Panther (who was rolled onstage in a giant birthday cake), Mancini let slip, “This is really stupid.”
While the evening’s jazzier elements were handled with gusto by Mancini’s hand-picked sidemen, the orchestra seemed content to set the controls on auto pilot and let the music pretty much play itself.
On several occasions Mancini stopped conducting altogether and the music went right on, raising the question: Why was the L.A. Philharmonic, which has always been an uncomfortable pops ensemble, playing this concert at all? Especially when we have a bouncy new entity, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, that thrives on this type of program.
Why ask why? Just hum along.