For a crowd of 17,568 at Hollywood Bowl, Friday night seemed to be some enchanted evening. Certainly it was a grand night for singing, as peripatetic pops maestro Erich Kunzel led the Los Angeles Philharmonic and assorted vocalists in the first of two sold-out evenings of Rodgers & Hammerstein.
After an opening orchestral medley and a chorus from "State Fair," Kunzel's program carried through the biggest hits from "The King and I," "Oklahoma!" "Carousel," "South Pacific" and "The Sound of Music." He kept things moving briskly musically, introduced each set, and indulged in some elephantine bits of comic interplay with the soloists.
For the soloists, the Bowl shell was lit in alternating bands of blue and purple, creating a sort of mammoth Cabaret Cahuenga. With the help of supportive amplification, the singers did go far in creating an illusion of friendly immediacy.
Soprano Katherine Terrell--in her Philharmonic debut--tenor Mark DuBois and baritone Lewis Dale von Schlanbusch all brought fresh, clear voices to their assignments and respect for the texts. They worked as effectively in duets as in solos, projecting affectionate relish for the sentimental numbers and energetic gusto in the comic turns.
The Los Angeles Master Chorale provided smooth, self-effacing accompaniment, and belted its own featured numbers with gleeful assurance.
The Philharmonic dispatched its duties with professional precision and much apparent joy. Kunzel elicited sharply pointed readings of the sparkling, uncredited arrangements, which failed Rodgers only in emphasizing the similarity between "You'll Never Walk Alone" and "Climb Ev'ry Mountain."
Though the conductor and his cohorts certainly did not shrink from silliness in their main selections--particularly in "There Is Nothin' Like a Dame" and "Honeybun"--they resorted to Sesame Street and Mac Davis for their first, sing-along encore. A reprise of "Oklahoma!" followed.