LENOX -- Film Night, established by John Williams with the Boston Pops some 15 years ago, remains one of Tanglewood's most anticipated events.
Under moon lit skies on Saturday night,15,000 listeners, give or take, filled the Shed and carpeted the lawn.
The concert was out of the ordinary on several levels. Audra McDonald, musical royalty personified, returned to Tanglewood for a sterling set of screen gems. She combined understated glamor and elegance with her typically superb artistry.
Williams conducted about half of the evening's program with his customary vigor and enthusiasm.
He and McDonald, exchanging mutual expressions of esteem, collaborated on Arlen-Gershwin's "Lose That Long Face" and "The Man That Got Away" from "A Star is Born," "It Might as Well Be Spring" (Rodgers and Hammerstein's "State Fair,") "Too Late Now" from "A Royal Wedding" (with a montage of leading screen couples) and the comic sendup of sleeplessness, "10,432 Sheep" from "The West Point Story."
By turns smoky, sultry, bluesy and joyous, McDonald's vocal prowess remains as formidable as ever.
For the first time here, Williams shared the podium with Hollywood screen conductor-composer David Newman, who made his Tanglewood debut with the BSO on July 13 with a widely-lauded "orchestra to film" performance of the complete "West Side Story."
Recalling how film composer Alfred Newman (David's father) had taken him under his wing in Hollywood back in the 1950s, Williams called him "one of the most admired composers, a hero to me."
Appropriately, Newman led his father's "Fox Fanfare" (originally composed for and rejected by film mogul Samuel Goldwyn), selections from "Captain from Castile," "How the West Was Won," and "Cathy's Theme" from "Wuthering Heights" with a shimmering solo turn by Elita Kang, a BSO assistant concertmaster, needlessly amplified.
Newman's conducting was adept and energetic, but he was ill at ease addressing the audience, perhaps a case of mic fright.
Befitting his technique of syncing a live orchestra to big-screen films, Newman showcased composer Henry Mancini, notably the famous "Pink Panther" theme woven around a side-splitting montage of Peter Sellers as the bumbling, stumbling Inspector Clouseau.
Mancini's sentiment-filled score for "Breakfast at Tiffany's," based on his timeless "Moon River," was given the full symphonic treatment as the tearful final scene was projected -- the delicately beautiful Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly retrieves her lost feline named Cat and finally acknowledges the power of romantic love with her erstwhile suitor.
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Likewise, Max Steiner's much-loved score for "Casablanca" was matched to the 1942 film through the main title and the rousing closing scene when Humphrey Bogart as saloon-owner Rick persuades his paramour Ilsa (a radiant Ingrid Bergman) to fly away to safety with her Nazi-fighting husband Victor Laszlo played by the debonair Paul Henreid. Again, the technique of replacing the soundtrack's studio orchestra with the Boston Pops while leaving dialogue intact enhanced the symphonic sweep of Steiner's "La Marseillaise"-inflected music.
Later, as an encore, McDonald happily agreed to perform "As Time Goes By," the 1931 Broadway song by Herman Hupfeld made famous by Dooley Wilson in the film, as long as Williams accompanied her at the keyboard. Complete with the extended opening, the duo delivered sweet sounds indeed.
Williams, accorded the customary hero's welcome and farewell, won extended cheers for the crowd-pleasing tribute to his four-decade collaborators Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, a quick-cut sequence of key moments from "Jaws," "Star Wars," "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "E.T." and, as an encore, the Imperial March from "The Empire Strikes Back."
Given Williams's oft-expressed deep affection for Tanglewood, where he is Artist in Residence, and for the Boston Pops, where he presided in the post-Arthur Fiedler era from 1980-1993 and retains the title of Laureate Conductor, one can only offer a heartfelt "May the Force Be With You" for years to come.