The photo may be a bit melodramatic, I admit, but for the first time in a very long while I’ve experienced what it feels like to be truly excited about something again. While I adore Danny Elfman’s earlier work with Oingo Boingo with a fervor most would say borders on insanity, said passion is only rivaled by my love for his symphonic masterpieces. Since the very instant the bounding rhythms and vivacious strings of Beetlejuice first bounced across my eardrums I was hooked. Tonight, thanks to a gift from my younger brother and his ladyfriend Liz, I was given the opportunity to experience Elfman’s music brought to life by a full orchestra at The Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles. The tickets were originally purchased for me and a gentleman-friend of mine. Unfortunately, he was called away to collar big-horn sheep in the wilds of Anza Borrego (a future entry awaits no doubt.) That being the case, my brother graciously offered to fill the empty seat beside me.
It was Halloween night, and costumes were abound. Most attendees were dressed as one character or another from Tim Burton and Danny Elfman’s many collaborations. My brother and I had neglected to adhere to this unspoken dress code, and agreed if asked, we would try to pass ourselves off as Delia and Otho…after the life altering events of Beetlejuice.
It would be up to the viewer to determine which was which.
As we were shuffled through the metal detectors, swiped with magnetic wands and ushered into our seats, the screen before us beckoned. The minimalist, German expressionist type sketch-work of Tim Burton stood as a threshold between our world and the far richer dimension awaiting beyond. Soon, the house lights dimmed and the orchestra readied their instruments, the show was about to begin.
John Mauceri took his spot as conductor, and brought his baton into the air.
Then sounded the easily recognizable notes of Batman, lights dimming to a midnight blue. This was revealed to be no more than a tease, as the audience was launched into the score from Pee-Wees Big Adventure. The lighting too flit into a multicolored flourish, and the screen behind was enlivened by the preliminary sketch-work of Tim Burton, followed by the correseponding scenes from the film. I really appreciated this touch, as it shows the level of planning and attention that goes into nurturing each film into being. It’s something we easily forget when spreading virulent disease about actors, or panning the latest cinematic releases in an attempt to heighten our own mediocrity without putting our own pride on the line.
The musicians explored everything from Edward Scissorhand’s Ice Dance to the hauntingly somber songs of Sleepy Hallow. I was pleased to see that Frankenweenie made it into the cut, as I profoundly enjoyed the score from that film (though it makes me sob uncontrollably during a certain pivital scene…if you’ve seen the film, I’m sure you can guess.)
Danny Elfman himself took the stage to sing a few numbers from Nightmare Before Christmas. The crowd exploded into convulsions of glee at the sight of his ginger top crossing the stage. This was truly monumental in that Danny Elfman has not performed live since The Oingo Boingo Farewell Tour in 1995, 18 years ago. One of my major regrets in life was that I was unable to attend that show. I own a VHS of the performance, but it’s just not the same as really being there and living it.
After having watched his brother Richard Elfman’s cult classic, The Forbidden Zone, a version of The Mystical Knights of The Oingo Boingo’s original cabaret show, I came to rue the day of that forsaken concert even more. There’s just so much theatre and magic that goes into his presentations, bizarre as sometimes it may be.
In interviews Elfman has admitted that he finds live performance taxing, but not so much the singing, as really the talking that goes on in between. I can certainly relate. When you’re singing or performing, you have a task, something to drive you through. The trouble with chit chat is that it’s unstructured, all over the place, with no clear end or objective in site.
While I’d love one day to actually share words with Mr Elfman, I treasure the experience of having heard him sing in person. His face just lit up as he allowed the characters of both Jack Skellington and Oogey Boogie to possess him. He even launched into a merry little jig. It was pure and simple delirium!
The stunning Catherine O’Hara, who I’ve been in love with since SCTV, reprized her role as Sally. Her voice was every bit as soulful, and watching her expression on screen as she sang those words again was truly a powerful experience. You could tell that the sentiment had in no way dulled for her, despite the march of years.
At long last Tim Burton himself took the stage, sharing a few words about what an amazing collaboration he’s enjoyed with Danny Elfman and lauding him with praise. I had wondered if Burton would be in attendance. It seems only natural, and yet you never know what demands his schedule might present. It was the thrill of a lifetime for me to see them together, as I can say in earnest that their work has been one of the strongest sources of inspiration in my life and art. In my youth, I aped Burton in my art, and as I developed more confidence, began to recognize the sources that he drew influence from (watch The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The Cameraman’s Revenge, or any of the films featuring Ray Harryhausen’s stop motion technique “Dynavision”.) Burton’s work was inevitably a springboard for me to discover new and different techniques and develop a style of my own…though now and again I can’t resist an homage!
This was an invitation I recently drew up, can you spot the sandworm?
All in all I’d have to say that this was one of the best Halloween’s I’ve had by far, a hearty thank you to my baby brother and his special lady Liz for making it possible!