Hangin’ Tough with Linda Eder and Marvin Hamlisch – Jennifer Pizzuto

I have a fascinating juxtaposition for you.  This weekend I was lucky enough to experience the vocal mastery of Linda Eder, one of the most powerful, emotional voices I’ve ever heard, accompanied by the genius of the Marvin Hamlisch-lead orchestra.  Two legends in one night, on one stage—truly a night to remember.  And the night before, I attended the New Kids on the Block concert in Cleveland.

Let’s begin with Eder.

My first exposure to her was an appearance that she made on Regis and Kelly.  Actually, Kathie Lee may still have been co-hosting, it was that long ago.  That truly speaks to the profound impression that Linda Eder’s voice left upon me.  She is one of the most gifted vocalists of our time, rivaling even Barbra Streisand in sheer belt-those-notes-out-and-make-your-spine-tingle-because-it’s-incredible-that-a-human-voice-can-do-that value. Eder sang the Judy Garland songbook, making sure to include the classics.  Despite the depth and dazzle of Eder’s talent, however, I thought that her voice was overpowered by the symphony at times, most notably during the bouncier selections like “The Trolley Song.”

I have to admit to you, though, that I have never before been moved to tears during “Over the Rainbow” until Eder’s performance.  It brought back a plethora of memories for me, recent and distant, of a sometimes-aching, sometimes-jubilant, soul that is seeking a place in life.  The transition from “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows” was perfect; any fellow rainbow-chaser could surely relate.

Garland herself was always chasing rainbows, both professionally and personally.  She could never quite settle herself, nor could she feel rooted in any particular role.  She was a mother, an actress, a singer, and a wife (several times over).  She was constantly striving to be the best she could be at each, yet she was incessantly told that she fell short.  Chasing rainbows became more than a metaphorical career for Judy—it was a way of life.

Here’s my issue with Saturday’s performance, however: it felt extremely rushed; indeed, the entire evening had a very “let’s get this over with” feeling.  Hamlisch himself called attention to this repeatedly with his countdown to the Pittsburgh 250 fireworks.  (I’ll confess…I was excited about the fireworks, too!)  Overall, the atmosphere was much more relaxed than the two classical performances that I’d attended.  Hamlisch and Eder were both extremely talkative with each other and the audience (Hamlisch has such a snarky little sense of humor—who knew?).  Some of the other audience members around me grumbled about the overabundance of talking…but you know that they were just anxious for the fireworks!  I enjoyed the chattiness very much, and was fascinated by Hamlisch’s personal anecdotes about Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli.

Despite the omnipresent backdrop of the looming 250 celebration, or maybe because of it, the orchestra sounded fabulous.  I don’t believe that the rushed atmosphere would have made Garland very happy, but incredible talent prevailed on Saturday night.  It may even have been better than Friday night’s New Kids on the Block concert.  And yes, I do believe that Garland just flipped three times in her grave.

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