Morgan Memories of the Way We Were – Marvin Hamlish – Get Him to the Greek
Sometime after it opened its doors for Broadway-like productions on October 8, 1968 with Carol Bruce in ‘Gypsy’ – after having previously been a bowling alley – the amazingly talented Marvin Hamlish appeared at Club Bené in little ole Morgan, NJ. A child musical prodigy, one of the early jobs of this musical legend was as the rehearsal pianist for Barbra Streisand. Since then Mr. Hamlish accomplished what only one other person, Richard Rodgers, had achieved, namely being awarded an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, a Tony and, finally, a Pulitzer Prize.
As was the unique and very personal custom at Club Bené, Mrs. Beninato, wife of Club Bené and Joe’s Kozy Bar founder Joseph Beninato, made dinner for and had a photo taken with the featured guests. According to the above photo, one show or series of shows included Marvin Hamlish, Regis Philbin (see “Regis Philbin at Club Bene!”) and Cyndy Garvey (co-host with Regis on A.M. Los Angeles from 1978-81 then The Morning Show from 1983-1984 on New York’s WABC). I have not yet been able to pinpoint the exact date(s) of this Club Bené event or, with such a unique combination of talent, the content of the show. If any of you know, please post a comment below.
My wife and I had a phenomenal experience the evening of October 22, 2011 at LA’s famous and fabulous Greek Theater. We got to see Marvin Hamlish! Good thing since I missed him when he was in Morgan long ago! For the first part of the show, Mr. Hamlish conducted the Pasadena Symphony in a musical medley of songs from his Tony award winning Broadway musical, A Chorus Line. He next played variations of a theme of Happy Birthday using the iconic styles of Bach, Mozart then Beethoven on piano. He made playing the piano seem truly effortless and fun. Finally, in tribute to the featured performer who was to appear after the intermission, Mr. Hamlish conducted the Pasadena Symphony in another medley, this time from My Fair Lady.
After the intermission, the phenomenal Idina Menzel took the stage with Marvin moving fully into the conductor role. Ms. Menzel is best known – so far – for her role as Maureen Johnson in the ground breaking off-Broadway play Rent, and especially for her unforgettable role as Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, in Wicked. The rest of the evening was a magical combination of her singing and humor with Marvin’s conducting of tunes arranged by the very talented Rob Mounsey (Idina’s Musical Director who also accompanied on the piano). The pallet of arrangements included some tunes from Rent and Wicked as well as the encore finale of Marvin’s The Way We Were. It was an unbelievable combination of stars under the stars on a crystal clear and very temperate evening in one of LA’s truly great outdoor theaters.
Sadly the world suddenly lost Marvin Hamlish ten months later on August 6, 2012.
Originally Posted on October 30, 2011.