From July 7-10, the 7th edition of the Movie Score Malaga – MOSMA festival was held in Malaga, Spain, offering 4 concerts and multiple meetings, with international guests Marc Shaiman, Harold Faltermeyer, Zach Robinson, and Leo Birenberg (read more).
The entire SoundTrackFest team (or almost the entire team), attended the festival (Gori, Rafa, Luis, Sergio, Asier, Coque, Tony, Reme, Gorka …) and after four days of great concerts, we got down to work to bring you a summary of what was experienced there.
Such was the quantity and quality of content offered by this first post-pandemic MOSMA, that it has been impossible for us to summarize the festival in a single article, so we have decided to divide our story into 4 articles, which we will publish one every day, starting today.
We begin with the article dedicated to “An Evening with Marc Shaiman”, held on Thursday, July 7 at the Sala Unicaja de Conciertos María Cristina, written by the expert pen of Coque Cano, admirer and big connoisseur of Shaiman’s work.
When writing an article or review of a concert you must maintain a critical view, always respectful of course. But if there is something that you think has failed or can be improved (with the utmost respect to the organizers, performers…), then you have to say so.
Let this preamble serve to warn that in this article there will be no bad criticism, because there was no fault whatsoever. There will be nothing that, in the humble opinion of this reporter, should be improved, because what happened was simply a miracle; something that will remain forever in the memory and therefore was unbeatable. And this is neither exaggeration nor flattery, but simply recognition of an evening that turned out to be perfect.
The Movie Score Málaga (MOSMA) festival of this year 2022, presented in mid-June its guest of honor, being the chosen one Marc Shaiman, one of the most versatile, brilliant, and underrated composers (even by many fans), who have worked for the cinema.
With such a short time frame it seemed a daring, not to say an enormous risk, to program, prepare, and offer a concert that would do justice to his work. Well, not only was this achieved with the closing concert of the festival, but the stakes were doubled with a second concert in which the maestro Shaiman would play piano to perform, along with an ensemble of soloists, a selection of songs from his Broadway musicals (with some exceptions, as we will see).
I don’t know if it was Shaiman himself who asked for it or if the organization had already thought of this possibility, but either way, it was a major success, since the composer has this double facet (film composer and composer of musicals), and it would not have been fair to overlook a genre in which he has left an indisputable mark and that has been the great passion of his life.
The New Jersey musician’s career was marked from the beginning by his talent when it came to arranging and composing songs, being a close collaborator of true showmen such as Billy Crystal, Martin Short, or Bette Midler. It was precisely Crystal who introduced him to the world of cinema without this being his first interest as a musician, and coincidentally it was his work in cinema (especially his role as arranger in Sister Act and his numerous songs -some of them nominated for Oscars-, especially those of the amazing musical “South Park, bigger, longer & uncut”), which finally opened the doors of Broadway for him.
Already in musical theater he has composed works as perfect as “Hairspray” (which is the top of plot twists, being based on the film of the same name by John Waters, and later the film remake being made with the score and songs of the Broadway musical composed by Shaiman), “Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me”, “Catch Me If You Can”, or “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”. Also, within the genre, but in television series format, he left his mark on another great hit as “Smash”.
And it is this section of his work to which the first concert of the festival was dedicated, which in turn was the first of the two destined to his figure. It took place on Thursday, July 7 at 19:30h at the Sala Unicaja de Conciertos María Cristina in Malaga, Spain, entitled “AN EVENING WITH MARC SHAIMAN”. And what an evening it was!
As I have already mentioned, Shaiman was at the piano throughout the concert, the only instrument played, and although he also occasionally performed some songs vocally, he was surrounded by a series of wonderful singers, chosen from the cast of “Company” (Stephen Sondheim‘s show directed by Antonio Banderas that has been performed at the Soho Theater in Malaga), whose enormous quality surprised even the honoree himself.
Lorena Calero, Albert Bolea, and María Adamuz as soloists impressed, as did the “Gospel Choir It” and its soloist Sonia Villar, who appeared in some of the songs.
The Sala María Cristina – Maria Cristina Hall, of reduced dimensions, was perfect for an intimate and personal event like this one, which therefore also had to be attended by less public than the rest of the concerts programmed in the festival. It helped the fact that it was a Thursday and that the grand finale would not take place until Sunday with the Orquesta Sinfónica de Málaga, again the Gospel It Choir and The MOSMA Broadway Band, with the great Arturo Diez Boscovich at the baton, giving a good account of the maestro’s film career.
In any case, what happened on Thursday was clearly different and much more special, because of the format and because we had the composer himself from the first song to the last, spicing up the show with funny and exciting anecdotes. That first day we could already see the human quality, beyond the artistic virtues, of Marc Shaiman, capable of making us laugh with a hilarious sense of humor, or to shrink our hearts with moments in which he could not contain the emotion. No wonder his music manages to transmit so much.
He started the concert with the anthem “Good morning Baltimore”, the opening song of the musical “Hairspray” (both in its Broadway and movie versions), with lyrics by Marc Shaiman and his usual collaborator Scott Wittman. Maria Adamuz sang with just the right tone of candor required for the character of the lovely Tracy Turnbald and her desire to dance and achieve glory in her hometown, despite her obvious overweight problem. A joyful and beautiful way to start the evening.
Regarding this masterpiece, we cannot fail to remember that it won a total of 8 of the 13 nominations it had to the 2003 Tony Awards (the equivalent of the Oscars of the US theater), among which were the Best Musical of the year, Best Lyrics for Shaiman and Wittman, and Best Musician again for Shaiman. A smash hit that led Hollywood to release four years later (quite fortunately) the remake with the Broadway score.
After this sensational first number came the song “Just keep moving the line”, from the series “Smash”, performed by Lorena Calero. The staging was practically the same as the one seen in the episode where the song appears, entitled “the fallout”. The power of the singer was overwhelming, as a song with an air of “Cabaret” was crying out for, in a completely different register to that of her partner María Adamuz. The quality of Shaiman’s work in this magnificent series produced by Steven Spielberg (about the preparation of a Broadway musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe) would be confirmed once again in the middle of the concert.
The third song is probably the best-known song composed by the musician in his career. Nominated at the 1994 Oscars (losing to Bruce Springsteen‘s unbeatable “Streets of Philadelphia”), this elegant and very “crooner” tune composed for the romantic comedy “Sleepless in Seattle” was one of the highlights of the evening, with a plethoric Marc Shaiman giving us his mastery at the piano, and this time also a superb vocal performance. Personally, it reminded me of a concert that another great maestro like Randy Newman offered at the piano & singing at the Teatre Zorrilla in Badalona in 2010.
Although it may seem contradictory, it was very funny how the composer commented on his continuous disappointments with the Oscar awards, with a very strong sense of humor.
Then it was the turn of another of his musicals, the adaptation he made of Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, with lyrics by Marc Shaiman and his inseparable Scott Wittman. Premiered in 2013 in London’s West End under the direction of none other than Sam Mendes, it did not reach Broadway until 2017. The song chosen was the final ballad “The view from here” (written to illustrate the emotional handover of the factory by Willy Wonka to Charlie) which, except for an error, was not in the English staging, which was interpreted in a heartfelt way by Albert Bolea, great discovery of the night.
As I mentioned, “Smash” had a double presence, and the second song selected was “Let me be your star”, which Shaiman composed for the moment in the show when the two candidates for the main role of the play are heading (in a wonderful parallel montage) towards the decisive audition, joining their voices at the end of the song showing that common dream despite being two antagonistic characters. It was sung by Lorena Calero and María Adamuz with a wonderful chemistry.
Within a program full of songs and with an eminent musical tone, the inclusion of a piano solo (obviously by Shaiman himself) was a pleasant surprise, interpreting what, IMHO, is his best film score (deservedly nominated for an Oscar): “The American president”. The piano version of the main theme after an emotional introduction by the musician appealing to the American values that inspired him, and that unfortunately are being lost, justifies by itself every effort to bring this fabulous composer to Malaga.
And then… someone from the audience broke the applause to shout “Your music is the heart of America!!!“. It was not just anyone, but Antonio Banderas himself, who attended as a spectator and who could not help but express his admiration for Shaiman, and for a music that had transported him to the land that welcomed him, and where he has lived for 20 years (as he explained at the symphonic concert on Sunday, where he was in charge of presenting the MOSMA Maestros award to the composer).
This great gesture by the actor from Malaga, who surprised the entire room, including Shaiman, gave way to a part of the program dedicated exclusively to what is probably the best musical Shaiman has written for Broadway, the adaptation of Spielberg’s classic “Catch me if you can” which in turn adapted the autobiography of con man Frank Abagnale Jr.
Three songs were performed, the first of which entitled “Butter out of cream” is the one that has a more relaxed and jazzy air, being the moment in which Frank tries to help his father financially, whom he visits dressed as a “successful” pilot. The role of Frank Jr. was played by Albert Bolea, while Shaiman himself played the role of Frank Sr. in another magical and charming number.
The singer from Barcelona, now solo, performed the next song, and it was, in my opinion, the best performance of the night. “Goodbye” is a very demanding song on a vocal level that corresponds to the final part of the show, when Frank discovers that his father has died, and he finds with no way out. The singer’s technical resources went hand in hand with strength and feeling in his interpretation which gave us goosebumps. Even Shaiman made a comment about it, impressed by the level of the singers that the organization had hired, who had nothing to envy to the best in the USA.
The third song from “Catch me if you can” is one of the gems of his career. It is titled “Fly, fly away” and is a stunning ballad sung by the character of Brenda, Frank Jr.’s fiancée, whom he loves desperately despite already knowing about his escapades and having left his side to flee from Justice. Lorena Calero made the song her own from the beginning, growing in intensity until the end in which she returned the melody to intimate territory. Another wonderful song & performance!
Before starting what would be the penultimate song of the evening, the maestro took the floor again to talk about the obsession he had as a child with the film Mary Poppins and its soundtrack composed by the brothers Robert and Richard Sherman, which he listened to practically on a loop.
No wonder that, when he was asked to compose the score and songs for the late sequel, it was a dream come true for him and the result was one of the greatest masterpieces of recent years, once again forgotten by the Hollywood Academy despite its two nominations (one for best song and one for the score).
The emotion almost left Shaiman speechless when he introduced the fabulous “The place where the lost things go”, which he was able to sing immediately afterwards with a partially broken voice, in what was the most touching and full of truth moment that I remember in a concert. Tears were inevitable in an overwhelmed hall, and also a well-deserved and resounding ovation.
Already recovered from this great moment, the last great number of the night came, which Shaiman reserved for the song “I know where I’ve been” from “Hairspray” (musical that opened and closed the concert), a spectacular end of party with the Gospel it choir and its soloist Sonia Villar, who embroidered it with a continuous dialogue between the two while the maestro vibrated (and almost jumped) at the piano.
It could not end higher an event that will remain in the memory of those who attended and that hopefully someday may see the light with a proper edition. It would be difficult to repeat something like this with another composer (perhaps only the aforementioned Randy Newman or Alan Menken can come close to what Marc Shaiman achieved), but what is clear is that this format, including a more intimate concert and with soloists of this level, once again manages to highlight MOSMA as the best and most daring film music festival in the world. We can only thank and recognize this achievement and wish that many more nights like this will come.
Article by Coque Cano
Pictures by Gorka Oteiza