Ah yes, Marvin Hamlisch does have a way with melodies. And when it comes to writing popular songs, that's what counts. He takes notes, and strings them together into memorable phrases that hook themselves onto the ear and then bore their way into the psyche.
His show last night in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall (a benefit for the National Jewish Hospital and Research Center/National Asthma Center) was filled with melodies and more. Accompanied by the National Symphony Orchestra, Hamlisch presented a selection of his well-known songs and scores, from "If You Remember Me" and "Nobody Does it Better" (actually, Carly Simon did it better) to the "Overture" from "A Chorus Line."
Hamlisch was also something of a showman. He joked constantly, interjecting witty stories about his career. At one point, he solicited titles from the crowd and then proceeded to improvise songs. He also conducted the music from the film "Ice Castles" and squeaked out several vocals (he admitted that he wasn't much of a singer). When he was presented with a plaque proclaiming "Marvin Hamlisch Day" in Washington, he wryly noted that he had never had a day of his own.
Yet after the Jokes had faded away, it was the songs themselves that mattered. When he ended the show with an instrumental version of "The Way We Were," the haunting melody drifted out and pulled the audience up by its ears in a standing ovation.