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Movie Night at the Bowl
by david    Sept 24, 2001

I had never been to the Hollywood Bowl before last Friday. A good friend of mine (who had brain surgery a little more than five weeks ago -- brain surgery!) is a season subscriber, and he and his wife treated Shannon and me to an evening at the bowl. Traffic was bad, so we arrived only 20 minutes before the concert began -- barely enough time to wolf down the KFC whose tantalizing aroma had taunted us from the back seat of my Jeep the entire trip to the parking lot, and the whole bus ride up the hill to the aphitheater.

The Bowl itself is a marvelous space. As I wolfed down my KFC Original Recipe chicken breast and cole slaw (the most scrumptious cole slaw on this earth), I looked around at the vast seating, and the beautiful stage. As I'd never been there, I'd seen the Bowl only in watching (several times) the video of "Monty Python Live from the Hollywood Bowl." The place is somewhat more posh than what is depicted in the 80's era Monty Python video, especially the boxes that sit in the first 20 or so rows back from the orchestra.

As I goggled at the surroundings, the lights began to dim.. . I hastily stashed the remains of our 12-piece bucket in my great big picnic basket (thanks BJ and Julie). Thankfully, Rich (my friend) had brought a clever, makeshift table, so we were able to continue to enjoy (and enjoy and enjoy) our wine throughout the concert.

I wanna say that any symphony concert that begins with the themes from Star Trek and the Day the Earth Stood Still is gonna be a good damn concert. It turns out, though I did not know it, Friday's event was the Bowl's annual "Night at the Movies." It seem that John Mauceri, who joined the LA Symphony as conductor 11 years ago, spends one evening every year giving a nod to film composers. A screen is hung above the Bowl stage, and snippets (10-20 minutes) of movies are shown on the screen, while the symphony plays the score, live, in time with the movie. Much to my delight, Friday's Night at the Movies was a special tribute to Science Fiction films.

Mauceri took the stage, along with the concert master, and the symphony began to play the theme from Star Trek. Shortly, it transitioned to the music from the Day the Earth Stood Still (composed by the same man, btw), and then returned to the Star Trek theme. It was then that John Mauceri announced the night's theme. The crowd went wild, or, at least, the crowd around me, mostly including me and the Yoda action figure I carry in my pocket at all times, went wild.

The next piece was from the original Planet of the Apes, followed by a montage from the new Burton version. Then, the symphony played a scene from Alien, and ended the first half with two scenes from Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind. All the while, Mauceri chatted up the audience, charming us with his casual, friendly banter, genuine passion for the films he was showing, his enthusiasm for the music and the composers, and his excitement at getting to use some unique instruments generally used only in sci-fi and other "weird" music.

After a brief intermission, during which time we enjoyed some delicious chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies and yet more wine, the concert master returned to the stage. Moments later, Mauceri arrived on stage. Much to my delight, and the delight of everyone there, he was wearing a near-perfect replica of a Starfleet Officer's uniform such as was worn by the Enterprise crew in films II (Wrath of Kahn) through VI (the Undiscovered Country). As such an outfit might suggest, he began the second half with a long sequence from Star Trek: the Motion Picture. Next up was a group of scenes from 2001: A Space Oddessy.

Finally, Mauceri led the symphony in the Throne Room and Ceremony music from the end of Star Wars: a New Hope (the original Star Wars, for you who are not true geeks). (A personal note: this music is especially dear to my heart, as it was the music played as the recessional at my wedding.) He left the stage to resounding applause, returned a few moments later and, as an encore (who knew symphony concerts had encores?) played a montage of music from Mel Brooks' Spaceballs, which was met with even more applause.

All in all, I had a great night at the Symphony. Though the Bowl's season is over for the year, I highly recommend that anyone in the Los Angeles area seriously consider seeing at least one concert next season. Sure, John Mauceri won't dress up like Captain Kirk every night, and chances are that Charleton Heston's bare bum will seldom grace the Bowl stage again, but I expect you will see a damn good concert. John Mauceri is an exceptionally personable man, and his enthusiasm and charisma bleed into every corner of the concert. The Symphony, of course, is wonderful as well. Everything is wonderful. Go see these dudes. You won't regret it.

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