Hamlisch: With Love | The Philly Pops

Hamlisch: With Love

Todd Ellison, Conductor

Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center for Performing Arts

300 South Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102
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Jan 17-19, 2020
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Ashley Brown, vocalist

Todd Ellison gets personal with this heartwarming program dedicated to his mentor and longtime friend. Marvin Hamlisch is one of history’s two PEGOTs (Pulitzer, Emmy, GRAMMY, Oscar and Tony winner). With an astounding three Oscars, 2 Golden Globes, 4 ASCAP Awards, 2 Tonys and a GRAMMY, Marvin Hamlisch’s lifetime achievement is showstopping. On Broadway, it was A Chorus Line, They’re Playing our Song, The Goodbye Girl and Sweet Smell of Success. In Hollywood, he was the composer of more than forty movie scores, including The Way We Were and The Sting. Dynamic vocalist Ashley Brown returns from her colossal Sinatra & Friends performance from last season. 

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Guest Artists

Todd Ellison, Conductor


Hailed by The New York Times as one of “Broadway’s Electric Conductors,” Ellison is one of the most accomplished and sought-after music director/composers working today.

Currently the Music Supervisor/Conductor/arranger of the new Broadway-bound musical Roman Holiday, he is also the composer of the award-winning new musical The Black and White Ball with Stephen Cole, as well as The Canterville Hotel with Brendan Cull. He also composed the songs “The Long Way” for Emily Skinner, and “Gettin’ Nowhere Fast” for Guy Haines.

He is currently the Music Supervisor of An American in Paris at the Dominion Theater in London’s West End, as well as 42nd Street at the Drury Lane Theater.

His Broadway credits include Michel Legrand’s Amour, Monty Python’s Spamalot (Best Musical Tony Award), La Cage aux Folles (Best Musical Revival Tony Award), 42nd Street (Best Revival Tony Award ), Elton John’s Lestat, Annie, The Wild Party, On the Town, Once Upon a Mattress (starring Sarah Jessica Parker), How To Succeed (starring Matthew Broderick), She Loves Me, Taller than a Dwarf and A Class Act.

He was the music director of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular at the famed Radio City Music Hall for several seasons.

As Marvin Hamlisch’s music director, Ellison worked with him on his productions of Ballroom and The Nutty Professor directed by Jerry Lewis.

For City Center’s Encores!, he conducted their acclaimed version of On The Town and The Bandwagon.

Internationally, he has conducted at the Vienna Konzerthaus with Dawn Upshaw and Jerry Hadley, The Dublin Film Orchestra, Radio City Christmas Spectacular (Mexico City), World Science Festival at Lincoln Center, Cole Porter’s Jubilee at Carnegie Hall, the Pittsburgh Symphony, San Diego Symphony, The Philly POPS, Nashville Symphony, Long Beach Symphony, New Haven, New Jersey, and York Symphonies.

He has conducted more than 20 albums including the Grammy Award-winning cast albums of his shows. He has accompanied such stars as Beyoncé, Meryl Streep, Mike Nichols, Nicole Kidman, Barry Manilow, Jane Lynch, Bea Arthur, David Hyde Pierce, Tracey Ullman, and Kelsey Grammar.

Born in Essex, Connecticut, Ellison began his piano lessons at age 6 and is a graduate of Boston University School of Music with a degree in piano performance.

Ashley Brown, vocalist


Ashley Brown originated the title role in Mary Poppins on Broadway for which she received Outer Critics, Drama League and Drama Desk nominations for Best Actress. Ashley also starred as Mary Poppins in the national tour which earned her a 2010 Garland award for “Best Performance in a Musical.” Her other Broadway credits include Belle in The Beauty and The Beast, and she has starred in the national tour of Disney's On The Record.

Ashley recently returned to the Lyric Opera of Chicago to star in the role of Laurey in Oklahoma.  She previously played Magnolia opposite Nathan Gunn in Francesca Zembello’s Showboat at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Ashley has performed with virtually all of the top orchestras in North America. She has also performed with the BBC orchestra opposite Josh Groban.

Ashley made her solo concert debut at the Kennedy Center as part of Barbara Cook’s Spotlight Series, and has appeared in New York City at prestigious venues including Feinstein’s at the Regency and Birdland. Other projects include a star turn at the La Jolla Playhouse in a production of Limelight, Sound of Music at the St. Louis MUNY which garnered her a Kevin Kline award, and her own PBS special called Ashley Brown: Call Me Irresponsible which received a PBS Telly Award.

Memories of Marvin
An Interview with Todd Ellison

Todd Ellison served as Marvin Hamlisch’s Music Director and considers the legendary composer a mentor and inspiration.

How did you meet Marvin Hamlisch?
The first time we met was in 2002 when I was working on the show A Class Act about A Chorus Line’s lyrist Ed Kleban. Marvin was going to write the opening number. I went to his home and he was like the Tasmanian Devil! He seemed to be in a constant rush and his mind worked faster than anybody else’s. He almost came off as brusque and I thought, as I left with song in hand, “Well, I met Marvin once and that’s great.”

But, you did meet again. How did you reconnect?
In 2009, Marvin was doing a version of The Nutty Professor with the brilliant lyricist Rupert Holmes (known for “The Piña Colada Song”) along with then-84-year-old Jerry Lewis directing. Marvin needed someone like me to help pull it all together.

How did things go this time?
Marvin and Rupert wrote a really good score with clever songs, witty lyrics, and catchy melodies.

Within my first hour there, he was teaching the company a song and told me to take over teaching the parts, but there was no piano part, just a melody with chords which I’d only heard him play for a few minutes! But, I found my way through it and it turns out, he was in the back, watching, the whole time. It was a big test!

He excitedly announced to everybody: “This guy is ME, 40 years ago. I’m so glad you’re here!” Then, he wanted me on all of his projects.

What came next?
A musical version of the movie Queen of the Stardust Ballroom. Ultimately, the writers had it shelved, so we took The Nutty Professor to Nashville in 2012 for pre-Broadway tryout. That summer, Marvin passed away.

What are some of your favorite memories of Marvin?
We had a lot of good times. We’d go to lunch and he’d tell fascinating stories. He was the youngest student ever admitted to Juilliard at age six. His best friend in high school was Liza Minnelli, which helped propel him into the showbiz world. The first night he spent away from home was in a guest room at Judy Garland’s house. He had an unbelievable life.

His memorial service at Julliard was like the greatest ‘70s variety show you’d ever seen. Everyone he’d ever worked with was there… Barbra Streisand, Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Aretha Franklin, Chris Botti, Liza, Lang Lang.  He worked across generations. It was the end of an era.

What are some highlights of the music in today’s show?
This is special: we have two songs that have never been heard by this large of an audience – one from The Nutty Professor and one from Ballroom.

We’re lucky to have four Temple University students singing “At the Ballet” from A Chorus Line and a medley of early Lesley Gore pop hits. Marvin loved new talent.

We have a movie sequence, including music from Sophie’s Choice, his last movie The Informant!, and The Way We Were (with a twist).

Marvin brought ragtime craze back into fashion, so I’ve also put together an arrangement of Scott Joplin rags and I’ll be playing the piano with orchestra.

This is a show of my favorite pieces of music that he wrote, not just the big hits, but those which show off his range and his talent.

What’s your favorite song of Marvin’s?
“What I Did for Love” from A Chorus Line because it sums up his life. Everything he did was for music.

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Music can make a difference. There is a global nature to music, which has the potential to bring all people together. Music is truly an international language.
— Marvin Hamlisch