monster mashup

A caped Mayor Robert Garcia conducts John Williams' suite from "Superman" at the Long Beach Symphony POPS concert.

Suppose they gave a concert and a party broke out?

That’s what it felt like at the Arena Saturday night, when the Long Beach Symphony opened its POPS! season with “Monster Mash Up!”

It was a wild evening, fast and loud and loads of fun. Orchestra and audience were in costume; Jason from “Friday the 13th” played fourth horn, for example, and concertmaster Roger Willkie’s antennae were adorable.

Those looking for musical substance should look elsewhere, that wasn’t what this evening was about. The program consisted of TV and movie themes, medleys, and pop songs.

And if the orchestra was largely underutilized, except for some dynamic brass and saxophone solos, what made the show work, other than the rampant silliness, was the sheer talent onstage. Presiding over it all was Matt Catingub, now a familiar figure on our POPS! podium, who not only conducted but sang, played the piano and saxophone, and did all the arrangements, including a very interesting take on the national anthem. Impressive.

Equally impressive were Steve Moretti, a drummer of consummate skill, who also sang. There was also a terrific guitarist, Andrew Synowiec (no wonder I didn’t catch the name when the conductor announced it), featured on a number of songs, and singer Colby Benson made a welcome return, singing both solo and in duet with the omnipresent Catingub.

But wait, as they say, there was more.

Monsters from the Queen Mary Dark Harbor showed up, as did the Ghostbusters. We did the “Time Warp” with guest vocalists Everjohn Feliciano, Susan Huckle and Laurnae Yue Wilkerson. Jamieson Price spookily intoned the Vincent Price narration from “Thriller” as Benson vocalized. Spiderman, Batman, The Addams Family, The Munsters, you name it, all in Catingub’s vibrant arrangements.

There was a guest guest conductor, one Robert Garcia, who donned a cape to conduct John Williams’ iconic suite from “Superman,” which may have been the most substantial thing on the program. I’m not so sure about Garcia’s conducting technique, but he showed definite leadership ability.

This Catingub is a find. He presides with an easy affability that is immediately engaging, and contributes mightily to the evening’s enjoyment. Immensely talented, he also knows his stuff, exhibiting a wide range of musical knowledge and conducting with stylish authority. He’s been on our POPS! podium for a number of years now, and all of his concerts have been energetic, fun and audience-friendly.

The LBSO hasn’t had a Principal POPS! Conductor since Steven Reineke left, and at times it has shown. Musical leadership is a good thing, and Matt Catingub would seem to be a prime candidate.

If he’s not available, there’s always that Garcia fellow.

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