Marvin Hamlisch was one of the youngest people admitted to The Juilliard School at six years old. He was one of two people known as a PEGOT, someone who has won Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards, in addition to a Pulitzer Prize.
Philly POPS’ three-day performance of, “Hamlisch: With Love,” paid homage to him and highlighted 19 of Marvin’s greatest musical works. Todd Ellison, Hamlisch’s mentee and friend, directed the performances with an orchestra of 65 musicians.
Four Boyer College of Music and Dance students, Isabel Robin, Alana Robinson, Jordan Hayes and Alexa Joseph, performed alongside Ashley Brown, a veteran Broadway actress, on Jan. 17 at The Kimmel Center off South Broad Street and Spruce.
The students had two rehearsal days, one with Ashley Brown but they enjoyed it, Joseph, a junior musical theater major said.
“Ashley was very professional and treated us as professionals,” she added. “We collaborated together, shared ideas, and it was a very mutual collaborative, great experience.”
The performance was Robin’s debut performance at the Kimmel Center after being recommended to Ellison by her professor.
“It was initially just to sing the ‘At the Ballet’, which would only be two girls but I guess we all did pretty well and they were excited by the new young faces and talent so they decided to put all four of us in it,” Robin, a junior musical theater major said. “Now we’re not just singing ’At the Ballet’, we’re doing more numbers and it’s exciting.”
Throughout the performance, the audience will recall many popular songs from Marvin’s career. While the program also includes a few of Marvin’s less successful films, the compositions speak to the versatility in his work.
“There are a lot of songs that a lot of people will definitely recognize but I think it’s kind of honoring the melodies and music that he gave us,” Joseph said.
Hayes, who has a dance background in ballet, tap and jazz, was thrilled at the opportunity that performing in Hamlisch offered.
“Even though we are doing the kinds of songs from the dance show ‘A Chorus Line’, we are honoring the music of it,” Hayes said. “I really like our first song together, which is a mix of California Nights and Sunshine Lollipops. It’s a very fun, upbeat number and you can’t help but smile while watching it, singing it.”
Some of the audience members are longtime followers of Hamlisch’s work. June Johnson, a nurse, was anxious to see the performance.
“I have always been impressed with the outreach and coordination from the Philly POPS with Philadelphia’s school systems,” Johnson said. “Earlier in the subscriber series, I learned that the musical director brought all four students in after finding it difficult to choose only two. It’s good to see that students are interested in music.”
Eight years after Hamlisch’s death, his legacy is celebrated through his love of music and that inspired Joseph.
“The idea that it’s a calling, something Marvin Hamlisch was obviously called to do and what he gave to other people, you can take that away for yourself and let it heal parts of you,” Joseph said.