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Seattle by David-Edward Hughes

The Cocktail Hour: Music of the Mad Men Era Goes Down Smooth at Seattle Symphony Pops

Also see David's reviews of Big River and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

After the shattering loss of Marvin Hamlisch, Seattle Symphony's Pops conductor for the past several years, it is a pleasure to report that the jovial, effervescent spirit of the concerts during the Hamlisch era lives on in The Cocktail Hour: Music of the Mad Men Era, under the spirited baton Steven Reinecke, with scintillating star vocals by Broadway vet Hugh Panaro, on a brief hiatus from his run in the title role of The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway.

As a prologue, Reinecke and the Symphony perform a joyous medley of Hamlisch tunes from his Broadway masterwork A Chorus Line. Panaro is given a wide range of musical numbers to show off his impressive bari-tenor range, from "Besame Mucho" to "Old Devil Moon" to "Americano." He particularly dazzles on a medley of "I Get Along Without You Very Well/Don't Get Around Much Anymore," a passionate "I (Who Have Nothing)," "a Sinatra-style arrangement of "Luck Be a Lady," and a rousing finale of "Feeling Good." His tender "What'll I Do?" is another nod to Hamlisch, and a heartfelt one.

Golden-voiced Seattle songstress Katherine Strohmaier partners Panaro on the Frank and Nancy Sinatra kitsch classic "Something Stupid" and scintillates on her solo of the tricky Cy Coleman/ Carolyn Leigh classic "The Best is Yet to Come." And an amazingly gifted teen quartet Vocalpoint show skill and effortlessly blend their voices on "Angel Eyes" and "Walking My Baby Back Home." The Pops take instrumental honors with a specially arranged suite of themes from the "Mad Men" TV series, as well as a brassy Bacharach salute, and a touch of Mancini from the movie Charade.

If Maestro Reineke's efforts here are an indication, the Pops would be wise to snatch him up as a permanent heir to Hamlisch, as they are obviously cut from the same talented cloth.

The Cocktail Hour: Music of the Mad Men Era plays at Benaroya Hall, in downtown Seattle, and runs through September 30, 2012. For tickets go to www.seattlesymphony.org.



- David Edward Hughes



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