November 8, 2016 Danny Elfman Brings The Nightmare Before Christmas To Life Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, CA 10-28-16
Released twenty-three years ago, in 1993, Tim Burton’s stop-motion musical film The Nightmare Before Christmas has become a Halloween-time favorite among children and adults alike. A film that has developed a cult-like following, through the years, extensive marketing campaigns have found The Nightmare Before Christmas merchandise anywhere and everywhere. Known for its off-the-wall style and morbid comedy, one of the key components to the film’s magic is the soundtrack. Composed entirely by former Oingo Boingo Frontman Danny Elfman, the work was nominated for the 1993 Golden Globe for Best Original Score. In addition, it inspired a generation, and in 2006, a reissued edition was put out with Elfman’s compositions covered by the likes of Marilyn Manson, Fiona Apple, Fall Out Boy, Panic! at the Disco, and She Wants Revenge.
Among Elfman’s endless resume of Soundtrack contributions including 1990’s Edward Scissorhands, the theme to The Simpsons, the theme to HBO’s Tales from the Crypt, among others, Elfman is well-aware of how much fans adore the songs that make up The Nightmare Before Christmas score. So much so, that in October of 2013, he returned to the stage to sing along with a concert titled Danny Elfman’s Music from the Films of Tim Burton. Well-received, this morphed into a yearly tradition of Elfman spending each Halloween season thereafter bringing the music of The Nightmare Before Christmas to live audiences. Accompanied by a live orchestra, in 2016, the show hit Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, California for three nights, October 28th through October 30th. Provoking genuine excitement, this is evident in the massive turnout for the first night of three live orchestra performances of the soundtrack on Friday, October 28th. Throngs of eager show-goers paraded towards the bowl from all directions, dressed as their favorite characters from The Nightmare Before Christmas and other films of the genre.
For those who have not been to the Hollywood Bowl, it is an outdoor stadium that can hold around 17,000 people. Based on what the crowd looked like, the bowl was nearly at capacity. People flew in from other states to attend. When the lights dimmed at 8:20 PM, the audience quieted and looked toward the stage. The three giant screens mounted on the dome above the stage displayed A Skeleton Dance, the 1929 Silly Symphony short cartoon film produced and directed by Walt Disney. The audio was taken out of the clip, and the orchestra supplied both the score and the other sound effects. Right off the bat, the music sounds so flawless that everyone almost forgot that it was live. Everything was perfectly on time, on tune, and performed by musicians who are masters of their instruments.
When The Nightmare Before Christmas extended overture began, sounding so big and timeless, the audience cheered and then gazed on in rapture. The orchestra played highlights from each song from the movie, while images of the early stages of the character development appeared on the big screens. The soundtrack of The Nightmare Before Christmas is so timeless and multi-faceted that it never gets boring or outdated no matter how many times one watches the movie or listens to the music. It is chill-inducing to those to appreciate music, and this live rendition was about to bring that to life before everyone’s eyes.
After the overture, the original cast ensemble walked out onto the stage and was greeted by a round of applause and cheers. Jumping right into the first song in the film, and arguably the most well-known, “This Is Halloween,” the performers set the tone for the rest of the performance: fun. Everyone on stage was clearly enjoying themselves, which in turn made the experience more enjoyable for those watching.
When Elfman came out onto the stage to reprise his role as Jack Skellington, the charismatic, yet bored ruler of Halloween Town, the crowd went wild. For the rest of the show, Elfman was Jack, not just playing him, but singing each verse with perfected technique. Elfman’s signature voice boomed over the speakers, forcing rapt attention from everyone in attendance. Elfman’s enthusiasm was notable – he mimicked his character’s movements with perfect timing, walking around the stage to get up close and personal with those in the front rows.
With so much to feast one’s eyes and ears on, the highlight for many attendees was the performance of “Kidnap the Sandy Claws” by the original Lock, Shock, and Barrel – otherwise known as Paul Reubens (Pee-Wee Herman), Catherine O’Hara, and Danny Elfman. It was almost unbelievable that Shock’s whiney, childlike voice comes out of O’Hara, who has such a sweet, melodic voice of her own, but it is true. She proved her versatility again at this show by perfectly replicating the voice she created for the character of Shock in 1993. O’Hara again stunned the audience with her eerily beautiful performance of “Sally’s Song.” Returning to the stage after the intermission with newly painted stitches mimicking her other character, the adventure-seeking lab creation, Sally, she thoroughly embodied the sadness and feelings of loss that the song is about. The air at the Bowl was thick with emotion, as the always melancholy tune was even more heart-wrenching live.
Spirits were lifted back up quickly, though, as the next song was Jack’s acceptance and embrace of who he is: the Pumpkin King! Sounding much like a call to arms, Elfman once again got the crowd excited and engaged. Upon Jack’s return home to Halloween Town and the rescue of his friends, Jack and the rest of the cast returned to the stage to perform the final song of the show. A reprisal of some of the songs in the movie such as “This Is Halloween” and a happier version of “Sally’s Song,” it was the perfect way to wrap up the show.
Those who stuck around until after the credits rolled were gifted a special treat: Danny Elfman returned to the stage and performed “Dead Man’s Party” with his former Oingo Boingo partner Steve Barte for the first time in twenty years. A delightful surprise for Oingo Boingo fans, one can only hope that Oingo Boingo will finally reunite for more live shows, and perhaps even a new album. All in all, the second year of this A Nightmare Before Christmas concert was a success. It was stimulating to the senses in the most extraordinary way and is a concert experience not to be missed.Photo credit: Randall Michelson Photography