The music was so good that even the Klingons were respectful.
Original Star Trek cast member George Takei joined the Fort Worth Symphony at Bass Hall on Saturday night for A Sci-Fi Spectacular, an evening of music from futuristic films and television shows ranging from 2001: A Space Odyssey to The Jetsons.
As might be expected, John Williams made out like a bandit on this show, which offered a program featuring selections from his scores for multiple Star Wars films , Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Superman and E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial. But other composers also made the cut, including Bernard Herrmann and his score for The Day the Earth Stood Still and (one of the real surprises on the bill) John Barry’s Somewhere in Time.
And, of course, Star Trek.
There was not much music from that classic TV series, but the concert offered something more enduring from the show — Sulu himself. The highly formal and dignified Takei (wearing a tux; not his Starfleet uniform), provided some remarks before a medley of tunes from various incarnations of Star Trek was performed. Among the memories he shared was how the series’ creator, Gene Rodenberry, came up with Sulu’s name (I’ll tell you it had to do with geography, but you will have to ask a Trekkie about the rest).
Takei returned near the end of the concert for a recitation of the moving, and all too prophetic, closing speech from the sci-fi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still.
Providing moral support for Takei was the orchestra under the baton of guest maestro Jack Everly, creator of this show and one of America’s foremost pops conductors, a near-sellout crowd of about 2,000 and at least one row of Klingons and other out-of-this-world types. It was not a night that looked like any other symphony performance.
But it did sound a lot like others. Beefed up to such an exceptional size that some of the violins and basses were playing from the wings, the orchestra displayed a large, glistening sound that was further bolstered by a chorus of approximately 30 voices and some amplification. Most of the selections went over well, but among the best was a portion of Michael Giacchino’s score for the recent Star Trek feature film. It was a genuine treat to hear that music apart from its source.
Everly also proved to be an exceptionally genial and humorous host, providing interesting tidbits about the films and scores involved, and poking fun at the opaque plot of 2001.
Also on the program was vocalist Kristen Plumley, who appeared in a Star Trek uniform and in a Princess Leia outfit and sang just two numbers — an “ah, ah”-ing accompaniment to the Star Trek theme and a vibrato-heavy rendition of When You Wish Upon a Star that really stretched the concert’s concept to the breaking point. She featured a lovely voice, but she needed to be doing something more to really justify her involvement.
Everly’s reading of Richard Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra did not seem as electrifying as it should be. And Herrmann’s music, surprisingly, needed some visual accompaniment. Indeed, the entire concert would have benefited greatly from some film clips or even some projected stills.
But, everything from Takei’s warm and charming presence to Everly’s lighthearted (but highly accomplished) approach to the music worked well. The pleasant cruising speed of this concert was so comfortable that it never needed to consider resorting to a warp drive escape.