By SANDY COHEN
LOS ANGELES — The Oscars are all about movies, of course, but on this night only music filled the golden guy's hallowed hall. Beyonce, Celine Dion, James Taylor, Randy Newman and Melissa Etheridge were among those who stepped onto the Kodak Theatre stage on Friday evening to rehearse for Sunday's 79th Academy Awards ceremony. ...
Taylor and Newman performed "Our Town" from the movie "Cars," which earned Newman his 17th Oscar nomination.
Sitting on a stool in front of Newman's grand piano, Taylor chewed gum as he sang and played acoustic guitar. Both were accompanied by the Oscar orchestra. After several rehearsals, though, Newman still wasn't satisfied.
"I guess we can lower our standards and take a risk," he said to conductor Bill Ross.
They ran through the tune one more time.
The "Dreamgirls" — Beyonce, Chicago's Jennifer Hudson and Anika Noni Rose — reunited to rehearse the film's three nominated songs. "Dreamgirls" director Bill Condon was on hand to oversee their performances.
Beyonce didn't bring an entourage, but she still sparkled like a superstar in towering stilettos, tight blue jeans and a bedazzled jacket. Rose also sported high heels. Hudson, considered the favorite for the supporting-actress Oscar, dressed down, pairing ballet flats with her casual miniskirt, leggings and T-shirt combo. Halfway through the rehearsal, she slipped into heels.
Dion practiced her new song, "I Knew I Loved You" — part of a tribute to Italian composer Ennio Morricone, who orchestrated the music for the 1984 film "Once Upon a Time in America." Dion's new song was written to that score.
Etheridge, accompanied by a three-piece band, filled the mostly empty theater with her big voice, singing the nominated song "I Need to Wake Up" from the Al Gore documentary "An Inconvenient Truth."
"Just rock 'n' roll," she told the band, "because I'll be nervous up here looking at Meryl Streep."
While the stars took the stage, the musical backbone of the show — the orchestra — remained ensconced beneath it.
"It would be fun to be seen," said harpist Gayle Levant, who is playing her 13th Academy Awards this year. "It would be fun to have a camera come around here so we could wave and say, 'We're here, it's live, we're doing it.' "
The Hollywood native typically plays on movie and television scores. She called the Oscar gig "the biggest honor in the world."
Principal cellist Stephen Erdody, who's on his fourth Oscar show this year, agreed.
"It's a prestigious thing," he said. "It's fun to do this. I just wish they could see us."