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Kimmel with Wry

December 23, 2010 By:
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Marvin Hamlisch

Chestnuts roasting on an open-fire?

Anything but: Nothing dated at this Dec. 26 concert, a save-the-date, circle-the-calendar event for classic standards from the "The Great American Songbook," fired-up by a pair of personable and protean performing pianists.

Singular sensation?

Double-up on the chorus line of hosannas as composer Marvin Hamlisch and crooner Michael Feinstein do a duo-piano engagement at Verizon Hall of the Kimmel Center.

Sort of a "Dueling Banjoes" for the bonhomie season, with strings replaced by keys?

The Jewish boys of sumptuous?

"I think of us as more Ferrante and Teicher," jibes Hamlisch, in retro-reference to the florid, lush sounds lightly-touched on by the late artists Arthur Ferrante and Louis Teicher.

Hamlisch's wry humor is sandwiched between looks that have earned him the nickname of Marvin Haimisch and fingers so adroit they seem to have music encoded in every touch.

There is no doubt the two -- Feinstein/ Hamlisch -- have been touched with greatness from the multiple awards they have earned to the nice-guys-can-finish-fierce energetic style each exudes.

The crooner and the composer ... both composed on stage, pedaling the "Songbook" of aural artistry singularly and then adjoined in concerted efforts for the final third of the act.

These Jewish juggernauts jointly take the musical journey from Tin Pan Alley to Shubert Alley on Broadway to the Hollywood hills, and have done it together a number of times.

The way they are -- incorporating their nice Jewish guy personas into performances that attempt to repair the world of its broken chords and upset symmetry.

And Hamlisch has literally done this with a symphonic suite he composed, "Anatomy of Peace," performed and recorded by the Dallas Symphony in the 1990s.

Nobody does it better -- testaments to Hamlisch's status, he and Broadway royalty Richard Rodgers are sole winners, independently, of the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards -- plus Pulitzer Prizes.

Hamlisch's bio is a metronome of momentous occasions, scored through and through with such accolades for his work on "A Chorus Line" on Broadway to filmdom's affiliations with the funny girl he has befriended over the years (Barbra Streisand, for whom he was rehearsal pianist in her Broadway break-out, "Funny Girl").

Color him successful: Hamlisch composed Streisand-starrers "The Way We Were" and "The Mirror Has Two Faces," as well as being Streisand's choice for musical arranger/ conductor on her legendary 1994 farewell tour (done to a fair-thee-well with repeats since).

Just desserts for this son of Viennese Jewish parents -- Dad played accordion -- and suite composer who concedes nothing is sweeter than ... dessert.

Yes, he concedes, "my life does revolve around desserts."

Alas, not so much anymore since "when you get older you have to watch yourself," sighs the 66-year-old sorcerer of 86 keys.

Hamlisch has played to the creme of society, but when he eventually snares that ultimate audience ... "When I die, hopefully, I'll get to meet God, and I want to ask Him, 'Why is it all the good stuff can kill you and the lousy stuff's good for you?' "

Everything is beautiful at the -- belly? Well, Hamlisch does have his mind on other things as well. Such as the ballet, a favorite turning point in some of his works, notably "Chorus Line."

While he recently composed a number about the barre -- "I'm Really Dancing" was given its premiere at "Career Transition for Dancers' 25th-Anniversary Silver Jubilee: A Star-Studded Retrospective," in New York -- his next step to Broadway may be in form-shifting shape: the adaptation of Jerry Lewis' alchemic "The Nutty Professor," produced by Lewis.

Hamlisch is doing the music and Rupert Holmes -- with whom he had good chemistry, collaborating on "I'm Really Dancing" -- laying in the lyrics for this Broadway version of a Bunsen-burner Buddy Love.

Not that Hamlisch has idle time on his award-winning hands -- he could spend the next few months alone visiting the halls of fame fine-tuned to his career, including the Theater Hall of Fame on Broadway and, maybe even as close to his whole-note heart, the Long Island Hall of Fame.

Longing for anything?

He has accomplished so much -- from scoring "Sophie's Choice" to being chosen to pen the extraordinary tracks for "Ordinary People" to the lollipop of a line credit he has on his bio as composer of Lesley Gore's "Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows" to his Pops Division titles as head of six orchestras.

But then, it's never been a case of take the money and run -- yes, he also wrote the music for that Woody Allen classic.

Just when does this much-honored one-time actor ("Valley of the Dolls," perhaps not his peak performance) -- whose possibly signal sensation may be as an in-joke in "The Big Bratty Book of Bart Simpson" -- look at a project and know, "I can do that"?

"I ask myself if it interests me, does it tickle my fancy," says the profligately talented star with the fancy-free patina -- and a kill-for craving for a slice of dessert kugel.

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