The National Indoor Arena, Birmingham. Crowds of gothic-esque fans, some in elaborate fancy dress, some exhibiting subtle touches of admiration for the films of Tim Burton that are being celebrated by the BBC Concert Orchestra and Danny Elfman himself. A live orchestra complete with choir, young soprano boy and a Theremin (an electronic musical instrument controlled by the player’s hands without any physical contact) assemble on stage. An extravaganza begins.
Music from all 15 of the films these two geniuses have collaborated on over the years was played by the orchestra, having been adapted into Medley’s by their original composer. A big screen accompanied the music, showing clips and montages from the films and a selection of incredibly powerful pieces of Burton’s concept artwork, although rather cleverly it did go blank for part of each film’s section to allow the focus to switch to the musicians and the energy on stage.
The highlight has got to be Danny Elfman’s live performance of Jack Skellington’s songs from The Nightmare Before Christmas, and an encore of the fabulous Oogie Boogie’s song where he threw himself completely into the character. He danced, sang and acted all with great gusto, and I had to remind myself that he was also the composer – a highly talented man all round.
Yes, so he missed his cue for What’s This?, but that just made the whole show feel more personal and reminded us that he is human after all. The song was re-started efficiently and he gave an incredible performance, singing in time with the film clip of the song. Bonus points must also go to the conductor, John Mauceri, who in the encore juggled a microphone to sing the part of Sandy Claws, danced, and put on a Santa hat, all while keeping the orchestra in time with one hand. Memorable moments.
The Nightmare Before Christmas aside, we were reminded how many excellent soundtracks have been produced that perfectly complement the films they represent. Hearing the Batman/Batman Returns music whilst looking at Burton’s evocative Batman sketches was out of this world. His visions of The Joker are possibly the creepiest and most captivating I’ve seen.
The musical highlight for me was Edward Scissorhands, a film that I become too emotionally involved with at the best of times, but seeing and hearing the music performed just a few metres in front of me with Edward ice sculpting on the screen gave me chills and brought the tears to my eyes more so than ever before.
I came away from the show knowing I had witnessed something very special, something that I wished I could watch again and something I know I will remember forever. Every time I see one of the films that were represented I know I will be transported straight back to last night, straight back to the show and remember all the excellent details and unique touches that made it one of the year’s highlights.
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