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Marvin Hamlisch Tribute: Barbra Streisand, Aretha Franklin, Liza Minnelli Pay Tribute to Late Composer

Conductor Marvin Hamlisch - P 2012
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Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Sarah Jessica Parker were among the A-listers in the audience at the star-studded memorial tribute.

NEW YORK -- A gallery of stars from the pop, Broadway and classical music worlds gathered Tuesday night to pay tribute to the late composer Marvin Hamlisch, who died Aug. 6 at age 68. Featuring such luminaries as Barbra Streisand, Aretha Franklin, Liza Minnelli, Itzhak Perlman and Lang Lang, the invitation-only event was held at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater at the Julliard School, which Hamlisch entered on a scholarship at age 7.

Hamlisch wrote music, not lyrics, so it seemed appropriate that the evening featured mainly music and few personal reminiscences. One exception was his widow, Terre, who introduced the proceedings by saying, “These are Marvin Hamlisch’s melodies … Marvin lives in them” and who urged the audience to contribute to a scholarship fund named in his honor.

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After finishing their numbers, each of the performers bowed to a large projected photo of the composer sitting at a piano next to a Tony Award and three Oscars -- he’s one of only 11 people to have won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony, and his other prizes include a Pulitzer and two Golden Globes.

Streisand prefaced her renditions of “The Way We Were” and “Through the Eyes of Love” by saying “Marvin … the name itself makes me smile.” She recalled how they met in 1963 when he was a rehearsal pianist for the Broadway production of Funny Girl whose duties also included getting her chocolate donuts.

“He would always get me two, not one,” she said. “And so our love affair began … we understood each other’s anxieties.”

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Minnelli, declaring that Hamlisch was “one of the few constants I had in my life,” sang “If You Really Knew Me” from the musical They’re Playing Our Song. Franklin did “Nobody Does It Better” from The Spy Who Loved Me, finishing the number by singing, “Marvin, you were the best!” She also performed the gospel number “Deep River,” which received a standing ovation.

Among the instrumental highlights were Perlman’s “I Cannot Hear the City” from the show Sweet Smell of Success; cellist Carter Brey’s “Theme From Sophie’s Choice” and Chris Botti’s “What I Did for Love” from A Chorus Line. Pianist Lang performed Schumann’s “Dedication,” a piece of which Hamlisch was particularly fond.

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One of the evening’s more poignant performances came from the ensemble of Hamlisch’s final musical The Nutty Professor. They sang one of the last songs he ever wrote, ironically titled “While I Still Have the Time.”

Among the celebrities in the audience were Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, Sarah Jessica Parker, Candice Bergen, Regis Philbin, Carol Bayer Sager, Tony Roberts and senior presidential advisor Valerie Jarrett.