Get your picnic baskets ready to celebrate summer with everyone from Abba to Ziggy Marley at America’s most iconic concert venue.

Hollywood-Bowl-Shell Courtesy of Los Angeles Philharmonic Association

The iconic Hollywood Bowl  – again named “America’s Best Concert Venue” in the annual Pollstar Awards — has announced its upcoming 20125 summer season, and it’s one of its most diverse ever, ranging from classical and jazz, and Abba to Ziggy Marley.  Highlights include an All-Star Frank Sinatra tribute, the Playboy Jazz Festival,  a 50th anniversary sing-along for “The Sound of Music,” the Los Angeles Philharmonic performing John Williams’ “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” score live-to-picture, and a staging of Monty Python’s “Spamalot.”

The mainstay of the summer Hollywood Bowl season is the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra performing classical Tuesdays with a program of superstar soloists and fiery conducting by Music Director Gustavo Dudamel and Bramwell Tovey, plus special guests.  As always, the Bowl honors Hollywood film composers, this year with a 50th anniversary “Sound of Music” sing-along, a “Back to the Future” screening conducted by David Newman for the film’s 30th anniversary,  and “E.T.” the Extra-Terrestrial” with the L.A. Phil and an intro by long-time Hollywood Bowl friend John Williams.

The Sunday Sunset Concerts series will feature Cirque Musica, Verdi’s grand opera “La Traviata,” and the Bowl’s annual fully-staged Broadway musical – this year it’s the irresistible “Spamalot” with a too-be-announced cast and director. (Note to Neil Patrick Harris: Tonys schmonies. Please come back!)

The jazz programs kick off with the Playboy Jazz Festival, hosted by George Lopez, plus shows starring with Trombone Shorty, Jamie Cullum, Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club, an all-star tribute to Jaco Pastorius, and the annual Pink Martini evening.  This season’s KCRW World Festival will feature electronic icons Underworld, Basement Jaxx, reggae stars Ziggy and Stephen Marley, and androgynous icon Grace Jones.

Courtesy of Los Angeles Philharmonic Association

Courtesy of Los Angeles Philharmonic Association

Saturdays are for superstars under the stars. Popular weekend spectaculars pair the house orchestra with star performers including Ed Sheeran June 24 & 25, Smokey Robinson and the Los Angeles Philharmonic and fireworks on July 2-4, Death Cab for Cutie on July 12, David Gray and Amos Lee on July 18, Heart on August 22, Dave Koz and smooth jazz friends on August 23, Diana Krall on August 29, and what’s being billed as the “world’s best” ABBA tribute band (AKA the best night out ever). Opening night artists for the big June 20 gala haven’t been announced, but a sell-out is guaranteed since previous years have featured Aerosmith, The Go Gos, Kristen Chenoweth, John Legend, Stevie Wonder, Roger Daltrey, Reba McEntire, Chaka Kahn, and Julie Andrews.

The piece de resistance is the September 13 fireworks finale with The B-52s and The Psychedelic Furs accompanied by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.  Is there any sunnier way to end the summer than a Hollywood Bowl concert pairing “Rock Lobster” and “Pretty in Pink” with a world-class orchestra?  No, there is not.

Vicki Arkoff

About Vicki Arkoff

Vicki Arkoff’s magazine work includes MAD, Daily Variety and Entertainment Weekly. She is the author of authorised biographies on Paul McCartney and Frank Sinatra.