A Tribute to Marvin Hamlisch
Peter Jay Sharp Theater
New York City
September 18, 2012
Three of America's leading stage performers—Barbra Streisand, Liza Minnelli and Aretha Franklin — paid tribute to Marvin Hamlisch on Tuesday, September 18, honoring the late composer for his contributions to Broadway and movies, as well as their personal lives.
The invitation-only tribute for the composer of numerous hit records, movies and musicals was held at the 900-seat Sharp Theater at New York's Juilliard School for the Arts where Hamlisch studied as a boy, the youngest person accepted at just age 7.
Hamlisch died after a brief illness in Los Angeles on August 6 at the age of 68, causing an outpouring of grief from well-known entertainers and fans and prompting Streisand, Hamlisch's friend for the past 45 years, to organize the tribute.
Terre Blair Hamlisch addressed the audience. “First of all, tonight happened out of a phone call right after Marvin died from his close and dear friend Barbra Streisand. Out of her love for Marvin she said ‘I want to sing for Marvin. I want to send Marvin off in a very big way.’
“Thank you, Barbra, for your kindness, your generosity, love and friendship you have given to Marvin. He, too, loved you dearly.”
Before a star-studded audience of Hamlisch's friends, family and admirers (which included Michael Douglas, director Mike Nichols, Sarah Jessica Parker, longtime Hamlisch collaborator Carole Bayer Sager with husband Bob Daly, and lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman), Barbra took the stage last. (A stage crew placed a microphone on a stand for her, a stool, a music stand, and a little round table.) Tamir Hendelman and Robbie Kondor (on piano and synthesizer, respectively) took their places. Finally, Streisand entered stage left, looking gorgeous and fit, wearing black. Barbra wore her glasses to refer to the index cards for her opening remarks.
“Mah-vin,” Barbra said in a New York accent. “The name itself just makes me smile. Because I come from Brooklyn where mothers were always hanging out of their windows calling, Mahvin, Mahvin ... so I felt I knew him instantly.
“We first met in 1963 when he was the rehearsal pianist for Funny Girl, and he got coffee for people as well as playing the piano brilliantly. Because I didn't drink coffee, he was assigned to get me a chocolate donut. But instead of just one, he always brought me two. And so our love affair began.
“We shared a passion for music and film and food. Before we even finished one meal we'd be talking about where to go for the next one. Maybe it's a Jewish thing?
“But without explaining why or how, we understood each other's anxieties. We were both kind of hypochondriacs, so we were always having allergy attacks or sinus — ‘Sinus, that's a Jewish thing,’ Marvin said. And I knew, of course, exactly what he meant. And that line became a kind of running joke between us. Let's say we were talking about music, you know? And Marvin would play an arrangement for me. He'd hit a major chord, perhaps, and I'd say wait, wait, wait, could that be a minor chord? And he'd explain to the musicians, ‘Eh, it's all right. It's a Jewish thing.’
“So tonight, musicians, let's do a Jewish thing ....”
[piano intro and humming, “The Way We Were”]
[during the song] Tell me would we? .... [she looked back at the giant projection of Marvin] Of course! Could we? ....
After the Hamlisch song, the respectful (and probably weeping) audience did not applaud, and Barbra continued speaking:
“If you believe in the spirit living on, which I hope is true, then maybe Marvin is here, is hearing all this. This is another beautiful song of his with a special lyric for him.”
[piano intro—“Through the Eyes of Love” from Ice Castles, Words & Music by Carole Bayer Sager & Marvin Hamlisch, 1973]
You will always be my friend
The mem'ries never end
You were always there for me
Anything I needed, I could count on you
A friend so true
Looking through the eyes of love
And I do believe that even in the darkness there is light
Knowing you're beside me, I'm all right
Close together through the years
And even through my tears I can see you smile now
I can hear your laughter
Somewhere from above
And there you are
Looking through the eyes of love
So it's the laughter we will remember
Whenever we remember
The way you were
The way you were ...
Two pages from the program that evening, listing all the performers:
Richard Jay-Alexander, who co-directed Barbra's last two tours, told Barbra News: “It was just one of those nights. You had to be there ... because whether it was the stars who were performing, or the fresh young faces from the upcoming musical The Nutty Professor ... you could just feel the love and admiration in the room.... and, of course, the loss. Mike Nichols put together a beautiful evening and everyone on both sides of the footlights were happy to be there and remember Marvin Hamlisch, a singular sensation.”
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Page Credits: Many thanks to Ricky Coombs, who contributed greatly to this page!
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