Sipping Pretty With Pink Martini
Sunday, Sept. 12 marked the final performance of Pink Martini’s weekend stint at the Hollywood Bowl. Accompanied by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and featuring special guests Ari Shapiro of NPR fame, Rufus Wainwright, 1950’s actress Jane Powell, and the cast of Sesame Street, the twelve-piece Portland, Oregon ensemble put on an eclectic and theatrical production.
The group’s arrangements sound like a sassy lesson in musical history, seamlessly merging classical elements with world rhythms, 1950s ballroom waltzes, vintage pop, and cheeky, multi-lingual lyrics—some original, some adapted from old standards. “And Then You’re Gone,” which vocalist China Forbes crooned as woman’s lament over a capricious lover, began with a Schubert piano duet, then branched into an Afro-Cuban salsa beat. The next song, “But now I’m back” served as her lover’s reply and started with the same Shubert piece, but soon rocketed into big-band swing territory. “Sympathique,” the ensemble’s most famous song, matched a reworking of French poet Guillaume Appollinaire’s verses with Edith Piaf chanson styling.
In addition to genre blending, Pink Martini also brought a high level of campiness to its performance. Forbes entered the stage in a ruffled fuchsia ball gown straight out of a 1950’s movie musical and proceeded to sing a tongue-in-cheek ditty about a cross-dressing District Attorney. Eighty-one-year-old guest performer Jane Powell relived her glory days by singing three delightfully outdated show tunes, and contemporary maestro Rufus Wainwright performed a duet with Forbes that was originally sung by divas extraordinaires Judy Garland and Barbara Streisand.
Perhaps the most unexpected twist of the evening was a guest appearance by seven Sesame Street cast members, who administered a heavy dose of nostalgia with their medley of childhood favorites, including “Rubber Ducky,” “Manamana,” and “Sing.”
The concert, which culminated in a lavish fireworks display, was truly a spectacle. Pink Martini’s phenomenally executed musical repertoire served as the basis of what was essentially a highbrow musical variety show. Their sweeping melodies, personal stories, and diverse ‘”special guests” provided the audience with a dynamic and theatrical experience, and while their deep musical knowledge and hodgepodge of influences might come across as pretentious in the hands of a different ensemble, the members of Pink Martini refused to take themselves too seriously. Cheers to that.
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