Bruce Broughton’s symphonic suite “An American Hero” set the regal, reverent opening tone for a Hollywood Bowl evening dedicated to great American achievers. The seven-time Emmy winner and Oscar nominee contributed an expertly orchestrated, exciting piece celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers’ first flight and aptly established a sense of airborne wonder.
Mauceri and his musicians were in top form, and the Bowl’s sound was fine-tuned with such clarity that all the subtle inner voices of Aaron Copland’s “A Lincoln Portrait” stood out like individual gems. Copland’s characteristically open, uncluttered harmonies were particularly appropriate in depicting our 16th president, enhanced by Katharine Hepburn’s intense, deeply felt 1987 narration.
A lively rundown of Jerry Herman’s “Hello Dolly” score changed the imperial mood, cushioning a peculiarly idiosyncratic leap from patrician Hepburn to zany Broadway icon Carol Channing. Channing, all in white, with best-friend diamonds sparkling against her throat, offered her expected “Hello, Dolly!” and supplied a highly amusing series of theatrical anecdotes about Ethel Merman and Sophie Tucker. Channing’s vignettes outshone her occasionally shaky vocals, but she filled the huge stadium with star quality.
Star quality was also evident in 27-year-old Canadian singer Michael Buble. He kicked off a well-balanced set with “For Once in My Life,” certifying his status as a budding Sinatra while retaining a distinctive identity of his own. “The Way You Look Tonight” furnished mellow contrast as Buble — in a softer, higher range than his opener — made the most of Dorothy Fields’ lyrics while sax fills wrapped around him in clinging counterpart. His smooth rendition of “Fever” could have used less hipsterism and more intimate sexuality, but Van Morrison’s “Moondance” had a bracing vigor, and he held the crowd spellbound with “That’s All,” particularly in the first verse with only guitar for accompaniment.
Flavorful orchestrations by Michael Gibson were featured in a suite from “Chicago,” structured and tailored for Bowl presentation by composer John Kander, and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” offered a brief solo organ interlude, honoring the 100th anniversary of the World Series.
Mauceri’s dynamic “Saints! (With Fireworks)” dwarfed these selections. Fireworks were typically spectacular, frequently crackling in rhythmic time with the orchestra and functioning as additional percussion instruments.