You will not be the least surprised that the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has a hit on its hand with "Sci-Fi Spectacular," a pops program this weekend featuring the inimitable George Takei. If you don't have tickets for the remaining performances, beam them up.
If, like me, you have extremely little interest in science fiction in any guise, you'll still have a cool time. After all, some of the most colorful and ear-grabbing soundtrack music of the past 60 years or so has been for sci-fi movies and TV. BSO principal pops conductor Jack Everly put together a great sampling for this program, which gives the players lots of opportunities to shine.
Shine they did Friday night at Meyerhoff Symphpony Hall, especially in the many John Williams selections, which Everly shaped masterfully. Having played some of this fare with Williams himself conducting in an unfogettable performance last year, the orchestra sounded extra connected to the notes.
It was great to get excerpts from Bernard Herrmann's brilliant score to "The Day The Earth Stood Still," which also provided a great moment for Takei to deliver the anti-war speech by the wise alien Klaatu. Needless to say, the enormously popular "Star Trek" veteran made every word count.
(In his introductory remarks about Herrmann and the significance of this film score, Everly misspoke a bit, apparently forgetting the composer's indelible contributions to "Citizen Kane" and several other major films years before "The Day The Earth Stood Still." Perhaps all the laser beams that were part of the fun special effects during the concert caused the super-savvy conductor's momentary slip.)
Other concert highlights included a lovely passage from John Barry's score for "Somewhere in Time" and two surprise additions to the program. I won't spoil those surprises, but will just say that the dash of Disney was as appropriate as it was delectable.
In addition to all the polished, vivid work by the BSO, there were fine contributions by soprano Kristin Plumley and a vocal ensemble tagged the Sci-Fi-Ettes.
Takei's star power gave the whole evening an extra jolt. The guy is a natural, as everyone knows, and he can work a crowd effortlessly. His extensive account of landing the role of Mr. Sulu was so entertaining that, like Schubert's Ninth Symphony, it qualified as having a "heavenly length."
Even Takei's opening monologue about the weather was fun. This guy could have read the stock market reports and still held the large, vociferous crowd in the palm of his Vulcan salute.