Orchestra week in Central Kentucky continued on some delightful notes Saturday night when composer and conductor Marvin Hamlisch joined the University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra.
His appearance, part of the Alltech Fortnight Festival, had a casual tone, with the wisecracking composer, conductor and pianist commanding the stage with ease.
Hamlisch took the stage at the Singletary Center for the Arts and quickly played two of his best-loved tunes: the title song to the 1973 Barbra Streisand film The Way We Were and Through the Eyes of Love, the theme from the 1978 drama Ice Castles.
It was a quick introduction to Hamlisch's piano-playing style, which took some getting used to, blazing through those timeless melodies in quick bundles. The UK Orchestra and conductor John Nardolillo deserve extra credit for keeping up with Hamlisch, particularly after only one rehearsal.
Hamlisch went on to present a medley of Academy Award runners-up, including Burt Bacharach and Hal David's The Look of Love from 1967's Casino Royale and his own Nobody Does it Better from 1977's The Spy Who Loved Me.
The whole evening was a reminder of a time when first-rate composition for stage and film by people like Hamlisch and Bacharach and the pop charts were much more in sync.
And while he wisely left iconic vocals of some songs such as The Way We Were to our memories, Hamlisch did bring along a tremendous singer in J. Mark McVey, who has sung 2,912 performances as Jean Valjean in Les Misérables in New York, London and other major cities.
His exquisite rendition of Bring Him Home brought the 1,082 people in the Singletary Center audience to their feet.
The music was great, including Hamlisch's selections of works by Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein and a medley from Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's My Fair Lady.
But what was really striking was his ease as an emcee, offering spontaneous patter about horses and bourbon.
In the long list of entertainment scheduled during the Games, Hamlisch's show might not have jumped out because we know him primarily as a composer. But the evening, as it turned out, was immensely entertaining.