‘They’re Playing Our Song’
Robinson Center Music Hall
One of the pleasant surprises about the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra’s Acxiom SuperPops show “They’re Playing Our Song,” with conductor Marvin Hamlisch and guests Robert Klein and Lucie Arnaz, is that it wasn’t all about music, but when it was, that part turned surprising too.
Hamlisch, after hitting the highlights of his career both on piano and as conductor, turned the floor over to Klein halfway through the first set, and Klein proceeded to offer up some riotous comedy bits and hilarious songs he’d penned with his longtime pianist, who was in tow Friday – in particular, “The Colonoscopy Song,” which probed the realms of the procedure in ways we never imagined; and “The Traveling Song,” in which Klein said that while the rest of the country is grand, the Bronx looks very special “this time of year.”
Klein seemed like he could have gone on for an hour, and we wished he would have.
After intermission, maestro Hamlisch turned the stage over to Arnaz, who was stunning in a fiery red evening gown with slit up the side. Arnaz struck a chord with us on “The Best Is Yet to Come,” which was foretelling for the rest of the show, including a terrific Cliff Notes version of the Broadway musical “They’re Playing Our Song,” which originally starred Arnaz and Klein with music by Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager. The show’s book, by Neil Simon, was semi-biographical, via stories Hamlisch had told Simon about his relationship with Sager, about a composer and lyricist balancing their songwriting with their personal lives.
Arnaz also wowed the crowd with a couple of numbers dedicated to her father, Cuban bandleader and actor Desi Arnaz, even playing the bongos. We had only thought of her as an actress following in her mom’s footsteps years ago, but the woman has great pipes, and great legs.
Hamlisch opened the show with some of his more renowned work as he told the story of his music life, but maybe he’s grown bored with playing the same ol’ songs. His versions of “The Way We Were” and music from “The Sting” on piano featured bars of odd, fast tempos that disrupted especially from the beauty of the former and had the orchestra off kilter on the latter. But the ASO was glorious and Hamlisch was very animated as conductor in music from his “A Chorus Line.”