The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra's archival energies were on full display Saturday night at the Bowl. Conductor John Mauceri constructed a program--"Broadway Goes to Hollywood"--overflowing with original orchestrations and newly restored assemblages of film music by George Gershwin, Arthur Schwartz, Frederick Loewe, Richard Rodgers and Irving Berlin.
Much of it was fascinating, less for its musical value than for the perspective it provided on the interpretive changes that have taken place over the years. Robert Russell Bennett's Gershwin overture, for example, composed in the '40s, sounded hopelessly dated. His sweeping accents in the mid-phrases of "Our Love Is Here to Stay," to mention only one odd instance, were emphasized by Mauceri to the point of nearly losing the thrust of the song.
A rendition of the rain dance sequence from the Gene Kelly classic "Singin' in the Rain" was evocative but, like much of the other music, couldn't quite deal with the absence of both pictures and words. Loewe's title and incidental music from "Gigi" had the resiliency of aural fluff, and Sid Ramin's "State Fair" suite didn't quite communicate the score's soaring lyricism.
Featured singer Patti LuPone sang two Berlin sets. Looking a bit too bouncy and buoyant for the role, she worked her way through three numbers from "Call Me Madam." Her performance of such songs as "I Got Lost in His Arms" was comparable to Ethel Merman's reading in its lack of expressive range; unlike Merman's, it failed to compensate with upfront panache. A final medley of brightly rhythmic tunes--especially "Steppin' Out With My Baby"--seemed more appropriate for LuPone's style.
The real question raised by the concert, however, was whether the obviously extensive labors involved in digging up and restoring old film music are worth the effort--other than in a curiosity sense. On the basis of this particular program, the jury is still out.