The first thing that needs to be
mentioned is that "Michel Legrand & Friends" will probably be much
better when it is broadcast on PBS than it was last night. The
performance at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas was billed as a concert,
but in actuality, it was a television taping. If you've ever sat
in a studio audience for the taping of a TV show, you know that it
is all about the production and not about the live audience
experience. Tonight's concert was no different. There were abrupt
cuts, retakes, numerous flubs from the show's two hosts, Jennifer
O'Neal and Jon Voight, and ongoing stage instruction from a
director who was out of sight, but whose voice frequently boomed
from above. Like God.
With a couple of exceptions, the vocalists selected to appear in the
show did not live up to their past glories. Patti Page, in fragile
voice at age 82, forgot the
words to "Summer Me, Winter Me" half way through her performance.
Dionne Warwick and Melissa Manchester joined with Legrand in a vocal
performance of "The Windmills of Your Mind" that was a disorganized
mess. It was the same during
Andy Williams and Legrand's vocal rendition of "I Will Wait for You."
On a positive note, there were two standout vocal performances during the
evening. One was delivered by French-Canadian singer Mario Pelchat,
whose rendition of "Un Parfum de fin du
monde" was silky and passionate. And surprisingly, Las Vegas stalwart
Steve Lawrence delivered the goods with his performance of a Legrand number from "Lady Sings
Jennifer O'Neal, Legrand,
Voight and Catherine Michel
Instrumentally, the evening scored high marks. The orchestra,
populated with local Las Vegas musicians was superb. They were showcased during all of the instrumental renditions of Legrand's film
scores. Their performance of the music from "Ice Station Zebra" was a
standout, as was their version of the theme from "Brian's Song."
The highlight of
the evening was the "Yentl" suite of music, performed by the orchestra
in a brand new Legrand arrangement that he calls "Pieces of the Sky."
music, host Jennifer O'Neal began. In 1983, the brilliant Barbra
Streisand not only directed, but co-wrote, co-produced and starred in
what has become a cinematic classic, "Yentl." Jon Voight
continued, Barbra's dear friend Michel was there to create a score
so memorable that he was honored with a Grammy and the Academy Award."
While clips from "Yentl"
played on screens in the background, the orchestra began with
"No Wonder," which featured a marvelous harp interlude performed by
Legrand's wife, Catherine Michel. The suite then continued with "A
Piece of Sky," again accented by Catherine's melodious instrument
before the entire orchestra joined in full crescendo. The medley ended,
fittingly, with the best known music from the score, "Papa, Can You
Hear Me?". Simply put, Legrand's new
"Pieces of the Sky" arrangement soared.
We expected a bit of a Barbra discussion when Alan & Marilyn Bergman
were brought out to talk with Legrand. After all, their collaborations
with Streisand have been monumental. That didn't happen, but these
three legendary composers had some of the most heartfelt things to say
to each other. When Legrand told the Bergmans, With the genius
that you write, it's so easy to put a few notes underneath,
Marilyn responded that it's because there are words on the tips of your notes.
It warmed the soul to witness such sweet admiration and respect.
As for Barbra Streisand herself, many wondered why she didn't
participate in the evening's program. The answers are simple. This was
the taping of a television program, not really a "tribute" in the true
sense of the word. The production level was no where
near as sophisticated as the last time Barbra guest starred on a musical
variety special ("Tony Bennett An American Classic" in 2006). And
given the quality of some of the sub-par vocal performances on stage,
Barbra's participation would have needlessly shown everyone else up.
She was wise to stay at home.
Legrand & Friends" will be broadcast later this year on PBS.
Here is the
evening's complete set list in order:
Frank Sinatra, Jr.
"Her Eyes" from The Thomas Crown Affair
Patti Page "Summer Me, Winter Me" from Picasso Summer
Instrumental (featuring Catherine Michel on harp) from The Young
Girls of Rochefort
Andy Williams and Michel Legrand "I Will Wait
for You" from The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
"Watch What Happens" from The Umbrellas of
Instrumental (featuring Catherine Michel on harp) "The Summer Knows" from The Summer of 42
Conversation with Alan & Marilyn Bergman
On piano, Legrand
serenaded the Bergmans with brief segments from their joint
catalogue: "One Day," "What Are Your Doing the Rest of
Your Life," "How Do You Keep the Music Playing," "Papa, Can You
Hear Me?," "One Day at a
Time" and "The Summer Knows."
"The Summer Knows" from
The Summer of 42
from Ice Station Zebra
Jerry Lewis (conducts Legrand and orchestra)
Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue"
|Instrumental from Brian's Song
|Instrumental tribute to Steve McQueen
Steve Lawrence "Happy" from Lady Sings the Blues
|Instrumental from Gable and Lombard
Mario Pelchat "Un parfum de fin du monde" from
Dionne Warwick and Michel Legrand
"How Do You
Keep the Music Playing" from Best Friends
from Never Say Never Again
Instrumental (featuring Catherine Michel on harp) -
"Pieces of the Sky" from Yentl
"Once Upon A Summertime"
Legrand's "Once Upon A Summertime" was first released in 1959. When Jennifer O'Neal introduced the number last night, she noted that it was "from a hit album by Barbra Streisand" (Je m'appelle Barbra, 1966).
Lament" from Dingo
Dionne Warwick, Melissa
Manchester & Legrand
"The Windmills of Your
Mind" from The Thomas Crown Affair