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Marvin Hamlisch conducts the Richmond Symphony.

Nobody Does It Better

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Fresh off of his New Year's Eve gig with Barbra Streisand, Marvin Hamlisch will conduct the Richmond Symphony Orchestra in two pops concerts Jan. 8-9. The award-winning composer is most famous for his Pulitzer Prize-winning "A Chorus Line." He has also penned more than 40 film scores, including "Sophie's Choice," "The Sting," and Oscar-winning music for "The Way We Were."

Recently appointed principal pops conductor of both the Pittsburgh Symphony and the Baltimore Symphony, Hamlisch will assume the post of pops conductor of the National Symphony in September. His pops concerts are a frothy, unpredictable blend of Hamlisch's own music and nods to other tunesmiths such as George Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim. Moving fluidly between the podium and the keyboard, Hamlisch has been known to inject audience participation into his performances with a segment called "rent-a-composer" where the former child prodigy demonstrates his audacious talent by creating songs on the spot using titles shouted out by members of the audience.

Hamlisch's songwriting sometimes verges on treacle, but more often than not, this Julliard graduate can spin out genuinely touching, even haunting melodies that make the typical pop song we are forced to endure seem like a child's drawing. If the theme from "Ice Castles" doesn't conjure up memories of the senior prom ("Please don't let this feeling end"), then recall the downright sexiest James Bond theme ever written, "The Spy Who Loved Me."

Although Hamlisch's enormous success might seem to have been concentrated in the '70s and early '80s, he is still active. He has completed a new musical, "Sweet Smell of Success," that is currently in workshop and slated for a Broadway run this year. He will also compose the score to "Standing Room Only," a flick starring John Travolta.

Marvin Hamlisch appears with the Richmond Symphony at the Carpenter Center at 8 p.m. Jan. 8 and 3 p.m. Jan. 9. Tickets are $19-$59. Call 262-8100 for

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