Beverly Hills pulled out all the stops to celebrate its 100th anniversary as a city Tuesday night, an easy feat given the abundant material created by dozens of notable composers and lyricists who have called the gilt-edged community home.
A capacity crowd of about 1,500 attended the centennial concert and sing-along at the historic Saban Theater, where selections covered the melodic spectrum — from Igor Stravinsky's "Firebird" to George and Ira Gershwin's "Strike Up the Band" to David Rose's "The Stripper."
Actress June Lockhart performed "The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise," written by her late father, Gene Lockhart. Florence Henderson, star of the 1970s TV series "The Brady Bunch," sang Irving Berlin's "God Bless America." And Pat Boone, a 53-year resident, professed his love for the city then crooned Neil Diamond's "The Story of My Life."
The tone in the Art Deco venue was more than a little self-congratulatory, with emcee Shadoe Stevens, among others, calling Beverly Hills the land "of the greatest people on Earth." A slick birthday video featured residents extolling the town's virtues and, occasionally, poking fun, with one referring to the city as "Mayberry with Botox and lip gloss."
Historic film clips and photos displayed on a big screen above the stage reflected a rural, pre-highrise community where residents rode horses along now traffic-clogged streets. Footage from "It's a Wonderful Life" singled out the scene where George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart, a longtime resident) courts Mary (Donna Reed) at a school dance, shot at Beverly Hills High School's unusual "swim gym."
TV veteran Betty White, 92, kicked off the evening by leading a spirited rendition, complete with fist-pumping, of the fight song for Beverly High, her alma mater.
The audience trilled along as maestro Gary S. Greene led his L.A. Lawyers Philharmonic in performing standards including "Moon River" (Henry Mancini), "Ol' Man River" (Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II) and "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" (Burt Bacharach and Hal David), the last with Beverly Hills Mayor John Mirisch accompanying on his ukulele.
Richard Sherman — whose musical work on "Mary Poppins" was featured in the movie "Saving Mr. Banks" — led the orchestra in a medley of his and his late brother Robert's tunes, including "A Spoonful of Sugar" and "It's a Small World." Charles Fox, best known for composing the Grammy-winning "Killing Me Softly With His Song," also took a turn on the podium to conduct a group of his TV themes.
Monty Hall posed Beverly Hills trivia questions to several former mayors. One was stumped by: Was the city seal designed by a famous artist or a high school student? Answer: a student.
Representing the much younger set was 14-year-old resident Golda Berkman, a promising opera singer who performed "Summertime."
The Beverly High band helped cap the night by marching down the aisles toward the stage playing a full-throttle rendition of Meredith Willson's "76 Trombones."
After snacking on cupcakes in the lobby, exiting audience members were handed a favor: a 6-ounce bag of Beverly Hills Centennial Blend coffee beans.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun