Critic At Large... Ruta Lee
"Salute to Two of Hollywood's Greatest Song Writers"
By Ruta Lee
Aug 19, 2007 - 12:11:01 PM

Beverly Hills, a famous and vibrant place, has much to offer its residents. One of the bonuses is the summer concert series “Plaza Sweets” in the beautiful Civic Center Plaza during July and August.

A great variety of artists and groups appear”¦ from Arias to Zanies, in this open air venue (free to the public).

We had the pleasure of attending Corky Hale’s totally delightful “Salute to two of Hollywood’s greatest song writers, Gus Kahn and Harry Warren. These song smiths are legendary, as are their many hundreds of familiar songs.

The show was very loose and lots of fun”¦. Much like sitting around the living room with wonderful artists performing and adlibbing through mishaps, like the ongoing “search for a key”. It was a great joy to see and hear “pretty perky Peggy King” who opened the show with "Chattanooga Choo Choo" and later treated us to “Makin Whoopee,” including some updated lyrics by Arthur Hamilton (Cry Me a River, He Needs Me, etc) who took a bow from the audience.

The still perky and pretty Ms. King tickled us with her story of once, rather nervously, singing “Friendly Star” (a Judy Garland signature) to Judy Garland in the front row of Mocombo. Like Judy, our entire audience (600) fell under her spell when she performed it last Saturday.

We would have enjoyed more personal stories about and from all the performers, songs, and writers, as no programs or information were available to guests.

Handsome personable, light, baritone Byron Motley (did a super job!  We loved “My Buddy”) was a great addition to all the ladies performing. Those ladies included Sally Kellerman (who knew what a great chanteuse she is?) and the sassy, multi-talented Jennifer Leigh Warren (“Man I Love Belongs to Someone Else,” and what a range she displayed on “The More I See You”). Jerry Sherrell who hosts The Great American Songbook on Sunday evenings 1260 on your AM dial was there to sing but also to talk about S.O.S. (Society of Singers) a wonderful organization honoring Gladys Knight with the 16th ELLA Award on September 10, 2007 at Beverly Hilton (for more info go to singers.org).   Donald Kahn ”“ also a grandson of songwriter Gus Kahn - was in the audience enjoying the salute.

A great time was had by all thanks to Corky Hale and her selection of wonderful performers and musicians.  We all enjoyed the adlibbing and special lyrics, although more care should be taken with uninvited political statements that would have the writers of these songs turning over in their graves.

We know the Civic Center was not originally intended for theatrical use ”“ but it works beautifully as a miniature amphitheater.  I would urge the city to provide some better theatrical lighting.  Also, better sound would help rather than hinder great singers.  Whoever is in charge of sound should know better than to stack large speakers in front of the stage ”“ the entire stage right section could not see the performance because of speaker stacks.  10 demerits for the sound crew.  Bravos, however, to the Center’s staff for being hospitable and helpful.  You made us all feel welcome.

Mark your calendars for Saturday nights in July and August 2008.  You’ll be glad you took part in this Summer Valentine for Beverly Hills.



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